Wikipedia defines education as “the process of facilitating learning, or the acquisition of knowledge, skills, values, beliefs, and habits.”
The Indian education system limits the definition of ‘acquisition of knowledge’ within a straitjacket. What is our idea of knowledge? Is it acquiring wisdom, honing skills, learning values and building a personality or just the ability to score good marks and secure a job? I’m sure we all concede to the former defining knowledge the best. But, unfortunate as it may be, the latter guarantees more credibility and holds more importance in contemporary times. And, somewhere down the line, we all end up conforming to the latter, that’s what matters in this world. When was the last time someone cared about what we actually learnt?
The current education system traces its roots back to the industrial era. The need for labourers and workers, who were good at following instructions, set this practice in motion. The agenda of education was limited to this, with zilch scope for innovation and creativity. There were people who broke this norm back then as well and, were highly successful in their respective field, but the majority was limited to the former only. The need for such labourers justified the practice.
But, in this present era of information, the environment and needs of the system have undergone a drastic change. And, we are still stuck with a 100-year-old baseless system which may as well be creating robots customized to follow instructions.
Right from kindergarten to college, we’ve been following a fixed set of rules; and at the end of each year there’s a test which ranks our ability to follow those rules. That’s how trivial our education has been marked out as. For a redo, change needs to begin at the ground level, but how will we do that if we don’t have mental access to think beyond the box!
From the very beginning, we’re told “This is a race. Run fast or you won’t matter to society.” And so, we run. Our credibility is judged on the basis of our ability to memorise text, whether or not we understand it. Should the rampant unemployment even surprise us, then?
Let’s talk about the most widely accessed course in India, engineering, as I graduated in the same. After school, I got admission at NIT, Bhopal for my B.Tech degree. Unlike others, I wasn’t forced to take PCM (Physics, Chemistry and Maths) in school; it was my choice. It had always been my passion and I was very excited for my course. But, it didn’t take me long to realize that this college, this ‘Institute of National Importance’ was no different. Nobody cared about learning, innovation, personality development. Everything revolved around the monopoly of scores.
That’s how we’re ‘manufacturing’ engineers in this country. We’re highly likely to forget most of this stuff; so there is no difference between a person before and after joining college. Our brains remain at the same level. Our studying, improvement, research skills, our education lies in our hands. What is the point of joining a technical institution then? I was promised guidance, overall development, competent mentors of highest ability for direction, but, I was on my own, and it sucked.
Soon, I realised my way around this. I realised who managed to get past this system and who really succeeded. I realised how a good rapport with the faculty was the way to good marks. The sooner you understood that, the better it would be for you. Raising unnecessary doubts, going to professors’ cabins for unnecessary discussions (trust me, there was hardly any meaningful output), predicting the top performers in class had become an easy thing. Everybody in my batch was busy learning like this, and it was frustrating because I couldn’t. Simply put, it was not like me to do so.
So, being bookish and building a good rapport with the faculty are the two things you’re going to need for good marks, especially in a technical institution, which is upsetting and difficult to get used to. A place that encourages innovation, celebrates science, values passion suddenly becomes a place you start hating, unless you succumb to its cliché and outdated culture.
I was the most excited to study engineering, but at the end of final year, I was not even sure if I wanted to pursue this field anymore, because they suck the passion out of you, leaving no scope for excitement.
Despite my inability to succumb to these practices, I managed an average pointer. But, there are numerous students who fail, get backlogs, with no jobs. Here’s my question: did they fail the system or did the system fail their expectations?
We’re not educating our children. All we’re doing is training them to read, write and rote learn. Add to this, the absolute absence of practicality and personality development – both of which, would only add to the value of what they contribute in their jobs. All we teach them is the history of what has happened, that too in the most conventional and boring form, and then present them with a test – a test of validation from the system and society!
We’re paying a price. Unemployment is on a rampant increase. According to statistics, around 31 million people (7%) are unemployed. But this statistic includes the illiteracy problem. The literacy rate in India is only 74.04%. There’s a massive difference in making our children literate and making our children educated. We are failing, disgracefully, in the latter.
But, here’s what’s more haunting. According to a survey with several MNCs, 6% engineering graduates are employable. 95% of CS (Computer Software) graduates can’t code. More than 60% of engineering graduates are actually unemployed. And, this is just engineering graduates’ data. The situation is far worse in other courses. More than 90% of Indian graduates do not contribute to the Indian economy!
These statistics and our method of imparting education in schools and colleges, is massively distorted. Let us, for a minute, pause and analyse where we are standing and what we are building for our future. In our attempts to achieve an ‘end’ (an improved social and economic future), we need to hone our ‘means’ (the students, who will shape the future) well.