School Education in India: Where Is The Light?

Posted on April 3, 2011 in Education


By Rohit Kapoor:

14 years, approximately 240 days per year and an average of 5 hours per day, that’s an astronomical 16,800 hours that each individual commits to the school premises for the cause of his education. The numbers only allude to the bigger picture that during these 14 years, the child and family’s lives revolve singularly around this theme. Indeed, for many couples, family planning is preceded by financial planning to ensure that they have the requisite resources to provide their kids with the best education.

Waking up at 5:00 am, awakening the little angels, bathing them, feeding them and getting them dressed up to be dropped off to the school with an affectionate kiss. This is the regimen followed cheerfully by mothers in the hope that their child will gain the pearls of wisdom and that education will open up new vistas for him to make a mark in life.

Alas, the life in the hallowed school premises is not so rosy. The child soldiers goes on through the classes, guided by the overtone, “If you study well in school, get good marks then your future is bright”. He revels in the company of friends who are his compatriots through the mental and emotional grind. His innate curiosity occasionally flickers to produce tiny marvels of creative expression until eventually the overtone consumes his mind and he exchanges the cold comfort of treading the elders’ path in favor of reasoned questioning. His voice silenced by a crass remark from the teacher or her indifference.

By standard 8th, his imagination is rekindled with an illusion of career options and available streams such as commerce, engineering, medicine or arts but sadly, the choice has already been made. He is carefully steered into a “safe” career choice which typically means engineering or medicine. What follows are four to six years of brutal competition aided by mushrooming coaching institutes which makes you wonder if these teenagers are undergoing military training. The scars of battle are many and the wounds sometimes so deep that a few recourse to giving up on life, unable to handle the burgeoning pressure of school, coaching and competitive exams.

For the survivor, it hardly matters which institution he lands up with and what course he pursues for it is solace enough that he made it into college. How would it have made a difference when the biggest choice of his life was not of his choosing? Perhaps more pertinently, when he was never equipped with the free thinking required to experiment, to flounder and then discover his passions.

The next task at hand is to land a good job by getting the magic combination of good academics and extra-curricular activities. Hobbies and interests are frantically cultivated to primp up the curriculum vitae. People hoard certificates and participate in a mad rush culminating to the coveted job. A few years down the line, on a lazy Sunday evening he reminisces and asks — “Was it the best education after all?” The question lingers on until it is rendered inaudible by the humdrum of daily life.

“Education is the manifestation of the perfection already in man” – Swami Vivekananda had said.

Let us explore the possibility that one day our education systems shall evolve to help each child discover and actualize his innate potential. That the sparks of curiosity will not be extinguished by the perpetual pressure to succeed. That the prevalent rat race to nowhere shall be superseded by a memorable journey unfolding the wonders of the world. Let us hope!