In India, once we pass the 10th standard in schools, things turn out to be a lot easier. For most of us, our course for the next seven or eight years are decided by our parents.
However, during this journey we often develop inclinations towards particular topics such as economics, law or political science. It is here that we become confused, because this is generally the first time that we have to decide our own career path. At this crossroad, we strive to achieve a balance between our interests, money, time and social lives.
So, why we are we not able to figure out our preferences till the 12th standard or even graduation? I think there are quite a number of reasons – our limited exposure during our upbringing, our conforming nature, dismissive attitudes towards certain forms of education (especially arts and the humanities) and lack of role models (though lately, we have had people like Raghuram Rajan and Manmohan Singh).
This is quite unacceptable, especially when one considers the fact that the heroes of independent India have been people like Nehru, Gandhi and Ambedkar. Most of them had a significant educational background in the arts and the humanities. Ambedkar was an economist, lawyer and political scientist, all rolled in one. This is also the reason why our democratic structure is in shambles. Moreover, people are no longer opting for education in the arts or the humanities.
Nonetheless, the only things that are highlighted in Indian media are placement reports and salary packages. Moreover, there is also this mind-boggling competition for jobs and seats in premier educational institutions. With such overwhelming media reports and competition, it is no wonder that people cannot focus or learning or think about others.
Some do escape this competition by sitting for GMAT or GRE. However, this comes at the great cost of brain-drain to the country. Moreover, this also perpetuates the problem of educational inequality in India.
Even after spending lots of effort, many civil engineers from the IITs start working in IT companies or sit for IIM and civil service exams. Some have even added all the three I’s (IIT, IIM and IAS) to their names. However, if you look at their achievements or qualifications, the only one they have is that of clearing examinations. The rest of them are all cooked up according to the needs of application forms. Additionally, many people who get jobs in multi-national companies feel like they are ‘cogs in the wheels of capitalistic production’, as Marx had once said.
Consequently, these also affect interpersonal relationships. With so much pressure, we are forced to become insular. Subsequently, this results in a lack of ’emotional intelligence’ (in the words of Daniel Goleman). We are afraid to call for help when we need it. We are unsure about how to trust other people, or how to repair our emotions.
You can’t survive with just one person on your side, as Sadhguru says. The essential nature of life is ‘inclusive’. When sun rises in the morning, it lights up everybody. Harbouring an ‘exclusive’ nature will lead to strained relationships. The development of a self-serving nature in people, right from their childhood, can lead to an abrasive, non-cohesive and even unethical society. At the same time, we need to see things as they are rather than adopting fashionable doctrines on the practice of thinking positively.
Nevertheless, we have also developed some positive attributes such as handling competitive pressure, confidence, a readiness to chase our dreams, or venture into uncharted territories. Yet, some sort of ‘balance’ always seems to be absent from our lives.
We need to learn the art of self-management and self-education as shown by Benjamin Franklin in his extraordinary autobiography. After all, only lifelong learners will be able to keep up with the enormous pace at which the world is changing.
Eventually these should be the aims of education – to inculcate enthusiasm towards learning (as you learn more, you realise how less you know), taking care for each other, questioning what you are doing and why you are doing it, and finding your own ‘balance’.