A few days ago, I was having a casual conversation with one of my colleagues. That day, she said something that seemed funny (to me) but was also worth pondering over.
She said, “My brother wants to be an IAS officer so that he can have dowry.” I had mixed emotions on hearing this. So I asked her: “Why?” She said, “My brother wants dowry so that he can recover that eight-figure amount that my family will be giving away as dowry during my marriage.”
I was curious and asked her that why she, an well-educated and independent woman and a doctor by profession, would be thinking of dowry. Once again, I was puzzled by her answer. She said that she would be married off only to a doctor, and that the boy’s family must receive dowry, as a rule.
Well, it is true that I have grown up listening to stories of families giving dowry during marriages – where the dulha is offered cash, cars and many other things. But here, I do not want to malign any profession or speak of dowry.
Rather, I want to highlight how we have reduced the value of education by making it a ‘pseudo-supermarket’. Yes, by ‘price-tagging’ and ‘branding’ the youth of our country on the basis of their education and profession, we have created a mockery of several things.
The making of a ‘commodity’ (the student) begins at a very early age, especially when one performs well at school. Your ‘potential’ to become a ‘brand’ is assesed and polished in the numerous tuition and coaching institutes.
While appearing for my pre-medical exams, I overheard one parent say to another: “Arrey isne to IIT aur AIIMS dono hi clear kiya hai. Ab dekhte hai isko kisme admission karwaya jaye. (That one has already cleared the IIT and AIIMS. Now let’s see where we can have this one admitted.)”
The irony here is that the misguided youth of India are not the ones devoid of dreams and aspirations. For the parents, their brilliant kids can ace the toughest exams and gain admission to India’s premier institutions. However, the parents are the ones who decide what ‘brand’ would be apt for their kids.
The brutal truth here is that may be the kid may have been forced into an IIT or a medical college, irrespective of his or her wishes. It is no wonder that we keep hearing of student suicides in various educational institutions, every other day!
However, the value of the ‘brands’ or the ‘commodities’ don’t dip in this ‘supermarket’, due to the failure of one or two ‘products’ among the thousands that are produced. Once the ‘objectification’ and ‘branding’ have been done, the ‘products’ are ready to be sold.
The most evil is the society which selectively advertises these ‘brands’. While a doctor, lawyer, engineer or a chartered accountant is held in high value, society belittles a science, arts or a commerce graduate. This gives rise to differences in social status and also creates social hierarchies.
Even after all this, we question why India suffers from brain-drain – when the fact is that we as a society are the ones who are responsible for this!
The problem with our education system our students is that we train our students to score well in exams and secure well-paying jobs, but we never educate them on how to gain knowledge, properly. This is the common picture in most Indian schools. On the other hand, in homes, parents are constantly comparing the performances of their kids with those of kids in other families. This ruthless competitiveness forces many kids to abandon their own dreams.
Ultimately, isn’t it funny and also sad that while we recognise and respect a doctor, we fail to do the same for the person who may have inculcated the love for the subject in the doctor, in the first place – just because he/she is a ‘school teacher’?