By Rahul Singh:
Last month, a 13 year old student from Long Island, USA used the Fibonacci sequence to devise a more efficient way to collect solar energy, earning himself a provisional U.S. patent. The sequence — for those of you unfamiliar with the term- is a series of numbers where each number is equal to the sum of its two predecessors, and is bizarrely manifested widely in nature in the form of patterns.
Back to the main issue, are we sure our school levels are capable of such level of thinking processes never mind actually doing something like this? The answer would inadvertently be a “NO”. But do not think from this short prelude that this is another article heavily criticizing the Indian education system. It is not. Actually I feel we have a very good school level education system. It focuses very heavily on being good at mathematics (which easily makes us superior to our US counterparts in this field), science, basic grammar of languages and to an extent history and geography. The competitive nature of our whole education prepares us for the cut-throat life ahead and internationally Indians are lauded for our work ethic. But there are negatives of the system and pretty big ones at that.
- Lack of innovative ability and prevalent rote culture — Though well versed in mathematics and laws of science, we often are limited by the practice of solving numericals following strict model solutions, often ending up memorizing methods. Very few schools (those only the elite can afford) have regular projects, on science as well as humanities, to bring out the creativity and rational thinking in students. We need to develop a system where young minds are encouraged to develop a thought process aimed at nascent thinking, for solving problems or creating alternate methods based on their understanding. We do have science fairs but only the most studious of students participate in them. By complementing theory with practical examples school should be made more fun. That way we can ensure that most students are interested in class and no one has to suffer being called a “weak” student
- No leadership traits instilled — I feel that school is the time that we build our confidence and that is very crucial to our future prospects. Schools should look to make the students interactive and encourage public speaking. For example, they could have a system where students speak on their theories on how a certain historical discovery would have been made and discuss it with classmates on the same. It has been found that Indian students, in spite of being very intelligent, struggle to get their point across and fall behind in professional life. Opportunities of exhibiting leadership qualities should be given in extra-curricular activities like sports, social work, cultural participation or even managing a small event at school. For a developing country like us it is very important that we breed a generation that can lead India ahead by initiatives in Entrepreneurship, governance and other fields.
- Plight of students faring poorly in exams and peer pressure — While the current examination systems are fair to an extent, they give a lot of emphasis on mugging for exams. The evaluation should be spread all over a academic year not just on some 3 hour exam. Also, not all students will show aptitude in doing well at studies alone. Every person has a talent. It could be at sports, acting, painting, managerial or any other field. Herein exists the bane of peer pressure. There is a prevalent view that only engineering, medicine and management are the significant fields for taking up a career in. People, especially parents, need to realise that commerce, arts, etc. are not necessarily only for students who did not qualify for the science stream cut-offs. They are equally rewarding fields and on-par in national importance. The students’ higher studies must be based on their interests only and not on pay packages in job. The significance of point 1 is amplified by this notion as only when students will be given exposure to various fields at school level they will identify their interests and make fulfilling careers in them and not careers dictated by cut-off marks.
- The need for teachers — A student is as good as his teacher. This is a dialogue from the cult movie “The Karate Kid” and it holds good in actual life as well. Recently in Gujarat it has been discovered that teachers in most schools are not qualified for their jobs and are minting money from parents by promoting their own tuitions. We need motivated teachers who will seek joy in the success and intellectual progress of their students. But again, for that to happen, the teachers need to be well paid to enjoy their work. A public private partnership could be crucial for this as then we might develop an eco-system where teacher and student and education can complement each other.
- Rural education and education for the poor — All the above points discussed above can be implemented with ease only in cities but to realize the dream of education for all, there has to be significant development in the poorer section of society as well. India has work towards establishing an infrastructure of state funded school in rural areas. For starters, there has to be patronisation for families to send their children to school. This can be done by promoting awareness campaigns and also by giving financial assistance to bright students.
Hopefully, soon India will have leaders in the field of research and development along with the corporate pioneers we already have and we will truly be on a path to becoming a world superpower.