“Indian students fare badly”, “Indian students second to last”, “Indian students fail the test”. These were some of the recent headlines on the performance of 15-year-olds from Himachal Pradesh and Tamil Nadu in an international “test.” This was sufficient for a lot of buzz on the internet along with many thoughtful and insightful comments.
There are numerous things that have to be addressed when talking about the educational system before we even start condemning the ability of our students. It all starts from the first step into kindergarten, which means a garden of flowers in German. We all know how much it lives up to its meaning. Forget job interviews, 4-year-old kids are nowadays being interviewed to get admissions to school, even their parents are not spared.
Excessive homework, pressure to excel, and less time to play take a toll on the children. We are made to learn by heart facts which are easily available at our finger tips, thanks to the growth of information technology.
Even ways to solve a math problem is memorised. Yes, for a student who will go on to do a doctorate in literature, it is important to know whether Shakespeare wrote before or after Dickens and Wodehouse. But this knowledge is only relevant in rare circumstances and does not speak to any kind of skill. Till our schools keep following the method of rote-learning instead of problem-solving, the vast potential of students will remain untapped.
Winston Churchill had a dig at his teachers and exams. He said: “They are more interested in knowing what I do not know than what I do know. While I would have willingly displayed my knowledge, they sought to fathom my ignorance.” But the future is not as bleak as it seems. Our schools have made sure that even if the short-lived knowledge given to the students has no significance in their lives, the bags which carry these books of knowledge will at least get them a weight-lifter’s job for their survival.
But why should we entirely blame the system? A system exists because there was a need for it. Yes, our system is rigid but more than that there is rigidity in the minds of people. This is where we need to have flexibility. Parents today are overzealous in shaping the future of their children. I remember a particular incident when I went to collect my brother’s L-KG report card. A mother was shouting at her small kid for coming second by one marks. Such is the conditioning we get throughout our school life. Since the start of school days we have been presented with a pre-laid plan before us and we are expected to follow it without questioning. In my place we had three options- engineering, medical or law. Going for any other stream meant that you did not have the ability to compete in the abovementioned areas. Imagine what would have happened if Sachin Tendulkar’s dad had forced him to quit playing cricket and pursue higher studies or Lata Mangeshkar’s parents forced her to take up something other than singing. We would have lost some of the brightest stars in Indian history. The whole point of education is to gain knowledge, values and skill sets that can aid our future lives in whatever way it may be attained.
How many of us would rather be somewhere else if given a choice to follow our dreams? Don’t we get to choose our own paths? The only way to achieve our dream is to stop following the herd and make our own path. Only when we start listening to our heart and follow our dreams will success follow us.