By Geet Rathi:
This is funny. Everyone agrees that education is important, except kids of course (as a kid I had a hard time understanding why studies were more important than waiting to be given a chance to play by the bigger-taller-bhaiyas in the playground), but no one seems to have given education the attention it deserves. Now, before you go all eye-rolling and think, “Doesn’t he know about all the increased awareness and multiplied efforts people are putting in the field of education?” Oh! I do. But my contention – not to mistake motion as action. We are surely seeing a flurry of motion in this sector, with torrents of ideas and efforts pouring in from eclectic sources, but are we really looking at the direction in which these ideas are being pushed forth? Like high school physics had taught us all, velocity and direction, both are important.
Back in 1947, the intake capacity for postgraduate education in engineering in India was the same as that of the number of Great Indian Bustards probably left alive in west-India today, which by the way is a critically endangered species – 30. The government spurred into action and immediately we saw the birth of IITs and we have indeed embarked on a spectacular journey from then. Commendation should be handed out where it is deserved. Today, we have lakhs of students pursuing their post graduation.
At first glance, this does look like a pretty picture, but like the iceberg that sealed the fate of Rose and Jack, there’s a lot below the surface. Today the biggest problem isn’t the dearth of degrees, it is the readiness of the finished product coming out of the universities. Our workforce is technically competent, is full of intellectual acuity but they lack the ‘soft skills’ that everyone has been talking about lately. All the colleges and universities have then got into this mode of giving our soon-to-be graduates a crash course on soft skills which the real world actually needs. But we fail to recognise, unlike Maggi Noodles, this actually needs time and needs to be applied rather than being taught. The panacea lies in recognising that our schools and primary education need a major overhaul. Here’s one that I think might help.
Take a trip down the memory lane and recollect how you were graded in your school days. Every single activity that actually mattered was focused on you performing as an individual. Our education system rewarded people who performed best individually, in silos. Of course, there were ample opportunities where we could learn skills like team playing and team leading, but frankly, they didn’t matter, did they? At the end of the day, all that we could compare with Sharmaji’s son were the marks we had scored, which was an individual feat. In fact, collaboration in this department was punishable, as teachers called it ‘cheating’!
So, Jack performs well all throughout his early and middle education, confident he is ready to take on the world. He is going up the hill and then comes the fall, where he realises that unlike what he was made to believe, in the real world he cannot succeed by working alone, he needs to collaborate. He is confused. All his life he was not rewarded for collaborating, he was judged and rewarded for performing the best he can alone. Why the disparity? Isn’t education supposed to prepare us for the real world? Our current education model has been working just fine until now, but the world has changed. A system which is supposed to prepare you for this new transformed world needs to transform too. The factors that drive the world around us today like globalisation are primarily fancy terms for increased collaboration. So why shouldn’t our kids be trained for what the world needs right now? We cannot have a stagnant model of education. It’s time for a change. We need a model that can effectively judge academics as well as skills like collaboration. The world is changing so rapidly that we cannot predict what the world will look like in five years. Education is supposed to prepare the kids for the future they can’t see or even predict. It’s time for a change.
So how about you let us collaborate in exams, eh?
Featured image for representation only. Credit: Arijit Sen/Hindustan Times via Getty Images.