Article by Arunabh Mitter
I am no educationist and I hardly have the credentials to deliberate on a topic relating to our education system, but a chance meeting with a person yesterday, who was critical of Indians and their “Insipid Entrepreneurial” streak and also the end of a laborious month of school for my son, who has just started his proverbial Rat Race, forced me into unchartered territory, i.e. trying to find at least a reason or two for the present state of affairs of our education system.
In ancient times, India was a powerhouse of scientific and technological developments and along with China and the Mesopotamian civilization was a beacon of hope for the rest of the world.
When the west was in the “Dark Ages”, Indians had already conceptualized Atom bombs (Brahmastras), Aeroplanes (Pushpak Vimans), Drones (Sudarshan Chakra) and TV (Doordarshan, example being Sanjay’s live coverage of the battle of Kurukshetra to Dhritarashtra), to name a few. Though these may have been mythological, the crux of the matter is that ancient Indians were much ahead of their times.
Astrologers and Mathematicians like Aryabhatta and Bhaskara gave the world concepts of Zero and Pi and also proposed the theory that the Earth rotates on its axis, when it was believed otherwise. India in fact is credited to have been the cradle of the rise of the “Scientific temper”.
The architecture and town planning of the Indus Valley civilization can give the architects and town planners a run for their money even today. If such was the prowess and excellence of ancient India, then what are the reasons that today in India you find only islands of excellence in a sea of mediocrity or worse??
The main reason that immediately crops up in the mind is maybe the present education system has outlived its utility.
It needs to be understood that the present education system is a legacy of the British Raj and was put in place so that requirements of that era were taken care of. The British to rule India did not require people with a scientific temper and entrepreneurial streak.
What they required were people who could administer their conquered lands. Thus the foundations were laid for the culture of “Cramming” to secure good marks and Learning became more important rather than Education.
Through this education system the British had a legion of Civil Servants, who were no doubt efficient but were their master’s voice, who did not have their own thinking or opinion.
This is not to say that India did not boast of any world class scientist or entrepreneur during the British Raj, but if you follow their journey of life you will come to appreciate them more because they became world class not because of the Indian education system but that despite the Indian education system (most did their education/research abroad).
But repercussions of the same on common Indians have been devastating to say the least and India continued to churn out “Babus” by the dozen year after year. The entrepreneur and the scientific streak died a natural death as the prime aim of the parents of a child and the education system gradually became a Government job and those who aspired for more left India for greener pastures.
The LPG phenomenon (Liberalization, Privatization and Globalization) of the Indian economy was a boon in disguise for the re-ignition of the entrepreneurial spark. But alas, the education system failed to keep pace with requirements of the changing scenario.
The pseudo educationists, instead of looking at this opportunity as a means to change the learning process into a wholesome education experience for the students looked upon the students as a means to fill up their coffers. Education, which for long was thought to be a selfless and noble profession, transformed into an industry, a cash rich industry at that.
Today, schools and colleges have mushroomed in a way that even puts the frogs to shame. With a huge deficit of competent teachers, the educational institutions (or should I call them business houses) take the students for a ride, an expensive ride at that, with a run of the mill pedagogy with a focus on only to cover up the syllabus.
How many of the educationists have their own wards studying in their own institution, I wonder?? With haggling taking place on the admission fees, payment seats being available galore and degrees being sold, you can well imagine the state of affairs in our current education system.
With the focus only on passing of examinations and practical onsite training/projects being just a farce, most of the end products churned out by our education system are unemployable and many out of them become wannabe entrepreneurs in the absence of any viable opportunities in fashionable fad areas of Event Management or Real Estate. The fate of most of these wannabes is for us to see.
As I have already pointed out in the very beginning I am not an educationist and I don’t even have the credentials to deliberate on this subject, hence I do not even have a concrete solution for this malice.
The only thing I can think of is a very utopian one, where in the educational institutions realize that by playing with the students’ present they are spoiling not only their future but also tarnishing the reputation of the country as a whole.
On the other hand, the students and especially their parents should also realize that there is more to life than just learning, cramming and securing good marks in exams. Many vocations and hobbies have now transformed into great money spinners and though proper Education is necessary and should not be compromised, let the child also have a say in deciding his own destiny.
India has a long way to travel to recapture the glory of an era gone by and by selling education as a commodity and cramming for passing examinations we seem to be making the way longer and with it tougher!