Let’s imagine a certain scenario. You have been gifted a 500 piece jigsaw puzzle. You would take a look at the pieces, put every piece in the right place and form the final image.
However, this wasn’t how it was supposed to be done in the education system of which I was a part. According to the system, every student was supposed to know the dimensions of each piece by heart. They had to know the ‘angle of indention’ of each piece, with and without considering the parallax error. With this knowledge, the students were supposed to write an entrance exam. It would often contain questions out of the context, like, “What is a puzzle supposed to denote?” It would scare the students out of their wits. Around one-fourth of the intelligent children would get selected for their commendable performance. Even if you ask them the dimension of each puzzle even in the middle of the night, they would give you the answer in a jiffy but would maintain their silence if questioned what exactly they learnt from the process.
Most of you might be wondering why is there a test in the first place. Well, it is to select kids who get to finally solve the puzzle. What could’ve been done in a matter of days has been unnecessarily elaborated into a futile and exhaustive process. This, my friends, sums up the Indian education system for you.
I have passed out from class 12 from the Bio-Maths stream. After learning the science subjects day in and day out, I gave my exams and got pretty decent marks. In the end, when I finally contemplated on what I’d learned, it finally dawned on me that all I had learned was the art of plagiarism. When asked to define an atom I would blindly say “the smallest particle of a chemical element that can exist.” I never took the time to sit down and analyse what the statement actually meant.
Let’s take a look at the intellectuals in ancient Greece like Plato and Aristotle. They never had to crack entrances like JEE by studying monotonously for 16 to 17 hours a day and pass out of IIT for ‘prestige’ and be branded a genius. They spent their days observing things and formulating their own ideas , instead of plagiarising an already existing one. If you ask a student who has studied the books written by either of the intellectuals to come up with a new idea, you may realise the very inability of our education system to produce geniuses. If you ask the same person what is the value of π² he may give you the answer in a jiffy.
Take a look at the different political systems of the world. Almost all of them came to existence before the 20th century. We still rely on such systems in a world where the conflicts are ever emerging without even attempting to draw up a new political system suited for the present intolerant generation. We criticise our leaders for their folly when it comes to making decisions. But, we never consider alternate, foolproof mechanisms which may prove to be the ultimate solution.
So, now comes the question; “Where have we gone wrong?” The answer to it is very simple. We failed to take a look at life from a broader perspective. For Aristotle and Plato, knowledge was something they acquired due to the curiosity they had about the world. For us, education is something we acquire for getting a job that pays well. They acquired knowledge as they had the urge to do so, through observing and understanding the drawbacks of the different things they came across. We, on the other hand, study in institutions designed long back to produce workers for the industries. We practically re-live each day and follow the same monotonous cycle of eating, studying, sleeping (only if it is highly necessary) and to repeat the entire process on a daily process. This goes on until one day we forget our role as an actor on the stage, i.e., the world. This is that period when our parents, uncles, aunties and even the tea-seller down the street can be classified as Facebook and Instagram addicts and blame the present day technology for aiding in ruining our lives. We become specimens being compared to that one lucky boy/girl who by some stroke of luck was very well suited for this ‘system of ours’ and made it big in life. In the end, we become somewhat like the fish who was mocked for eternity due to his inability to climb a tree. We are classified as geniuses on the basis of how efficiently we plagiarise. Apart from the art of plagiarising, we are taught pretty much nothing. We aren’t taught how to respect a woman or the art of tolerance towards people who have different beliefs and mannerisms from us. Shashi Tharoor says, Get our kids not just to have their heads filled full of facts and textbook materials and teacher’s lectures … that gives you a well filled mind … what you need is a well formed mind.” A mind, which was never supposed to be restricted to the books that were being studied when it came to making decisions.
I’d like to conclude by reminding all of you to not limit the vision of your life and rather take a look at it from a different and broader perspective. A perspective, that doesn’t limit learning to school alone but expands it to every walk in life. A perspective, in which we aren’t driven by social stigma or money, but our inner compassion and our thirst for knowledge. A perspective, where we finally realise our role as the group of people who are finally able to understand their very purpose in life and pave way for millions of children for doing so as well. I’d like to give a standing ovation to the ones who have succeeded in doing so and are on their path to create and be a part of history. I’m talking about you. Yes, you are the only ones capable of finally changing our education system and in making the world a better place. Cheers!