By Tadrash Shah:
Enough has been articulated with eloquence and registered with exasperation against our education system. Our students are experimented upon as if they happen to be guinea pigs in a lab; but that, apparently, has not helped much. Hence this is one more effort to reiterate the same, but this time around with a quantified testament from a victim – The Wikimedia Foundation.
By now, it has almost been mundane to curse our education system. Let me do that again, but this time, with evidence. Recently, I read an advertisement of a university, which had the tagline that said — “Nurturing Science, Knowledge and Innovation”. How lame and unjustifiable is that? We can’t tolerate originality in our education system, pun intended. We made a big fuss when Narayana Murthy made the statement “The IITs have lost their sheen”. Now, here let me share with you a testimony to the statement of Mr. Murthy. By altering the education system frequently, what have we given to the next generation? Indecisiveness? Are we even clear as to what we want?
You may get numb at this revelation I found in a report, and mind you it comes from the prestigious Wikimedia Foundation, and not just any other survey organization. The details follow. They ran a project in the US, and overwhelmed by the results decided to adopt the same model in India too to expose the Indian students to Wikipedia’s inner workings with the eventual goal of finding content contributors. Startling facts surfaced. The plight of our education system was so awfully learnt that they, ultimately, decided to terminate the project.
What happened? The project kicked off. It was made mandatory for students of participating universities to develop content for Wikipedia and they were to be graded on that. Authorities in San Francisco discovered that students copied content from other sources to Wikipedia, without due credits, conveniently violating the copyrights. Hardly had they recovered from such unanticipated results, when they were forced to hire more staff to delete the illegal content and had to block the IP addresses of the universities to contain this deleterious act. What dismayed the professors more than anything else was, now that the project was shelved, how would they grade the students? As per the statistics, only 40% students of the lot could survive the cleanup mess as they researched and posted some original and reliable content. Others were still bewildered as to why their content was “surprisingly” deleted from the portal.
Now isn’t this amazing? By far we all used to copy content from Wikipedia and now we see people copy TO it. For students of our country, plagiarism is a habit, piracy a normal thing, and intellectual property a mockery. Irony. Not to mention the fact that they hardly know the Creative Commons license these days.
Some other facts and inferences that were learnt of the Indian education system were – Professors are hardly participative in education, and indifferent to cross-disciplinary development of their students. I myself have heard teachers say — “Do what you want. I am not going to teach you. I will get my salary anyway”. How cheap is that! We are at fault if we expect research to come out such teachers, institution and system. Teaching is the last career option we look at. Thanks to our teachers, institutions and the system.
The learning has stopped; cramming earns you a grade. If textbook bears a typo or conceptual mistake, you are nobody; absolutely nobody; to amend that. If you do, you are over smart and disregarding. Markets flood with ‘Expected Questions’, commercial books, a sure shot way to earn. We have also started publishing so called, ‘International Journals’ for making money. We are charging few thousand rupees to publish a paper. The content and originality of the paper hardly matters. You can pay and get published! These are journals that hardly deserve an impact factor, forget about zeroes. And we talk of research and innovation! People publish these journals, because they know that the real international standards will rip their paper apart. Let me not name them, but there are publications that ‘shorten’ the contents of voluminous textbooks, official textbooks accepted across world, and they make a good sale. And what is more preposterous is, these professors draw the exam paper out of them. Days are not far, when if you ask a doctor about a disease, he may say- “it seems like cholera, but I left cholera as an option in my exam”. A student said — “Before the Wikipedia assignment, copy-pasting from the Internet was standard practice for all of us. First time in our lives we were being cross checked.”
This does not mean that we are all fools. We have so much talent but everything seems to come from Indians who are settled abroad and not from India. Why is that? A question we must ask ourselves, a question to be asked to our education system, to our research organizations, to the universities who sell on keywords of innovation and research.
Attitude indeed languishes aptitude.