This article is an edited version of a speech I delivered in 2014. The full speech can be found here:
Every time I think of my school days, it reminds me of a forwarded SMS I received a few years ago. It was regarding the hierarchy persistent in the Indian professions.
At the bottommost are the least valued, above them a little more valued, above them a little more value, and finally at the top, the most valued. The least valued was engineering, above them lies the doctors, then comes the management graduates, then the politicians, then the underworld dons, and ultimately above all, measuring the pulse of the entire nation lies the Swamiji’s and the gurujis. Now the irony is that as you go up the hierarchy, the amount of time they have spent in school reduces, drastically.
It makes me wonder, is education all about schooling? There is something beyond schooling in education, right? We have plenty of engineers, doctors, business schools, teachers training institutes, institutions of national importance, but still we are ruled by politicians and spiritual gurus.
So why does education not help us in reaching the topmost tier? I believe this is because we have three significant culprits in education:
They know exactly what they love doing, but they will never do that for a living. Tell me some books that you love – Sherlock Holmes? Nicholas Sparks? Enid Blyton? But then have you ever wondered why you never loved your textbooks? You love literature, don’t you? But will you ever try being a writer? No. Why? Because it is not a well-paying job, your parents won’t agree, and it doesn’t possess the required value in the matrimony field.
We choose by elimination; we always follow the rule of elimination. After standard eight, we eliminate our regional language, after the tenth, we eliminate arts and social science, after schooling, we eliminate chemistry, and after engineering our girlfriend eliminates us.
Not all, but a good majority. The first thing that comes to my mind when I think of teachers is – gold medals, toppers, the best outgoing student – my teachers who taught me all this. Either be an outstanding student or stand outside.
I very clearly remember visiting my relative’s house for birthday parties during my childhood days. Now and then some uncle or aunty would come up to you and introduce their child – this is my son, Rank 2, Class 8th – this is my daughter, topper UKG. And I always used to wonder where is the rest of their class?
They have completed one full cycle, know the entire mess, know the futility of exams, but still create a fuss. I come from a state wherein even if you are a PhD holder; you will never be respected – Kerala – supersaturated with literacy. If you want to be respected, you should be either working in the Gulf or Bangalore.
Once it so happened that parents of a friend of mine who was turning 27 decided that he should start looking for marriage proposals. A profile was created on a matrimonial website. The girl’s father liked the profile, and began inquiring to the guy’s father “Where is your son working?” The guy’s father replied, “Chennai” (score – minus one). The next question was “Ooh… in which company?” and “Amazon” came the proud reply. The girl’s father asked, “Didn’t get in Infosys, huh?”
Saddened by this low profile, the girl’s father went home and told his wife “I don’t think this will work. How can we send our daughter with a guy who is not in Gulf/Bangalore? He is working for a courier company. Which is not even DTDC?’’
Well, the real purpose of education is to make minds and not careers. It is not about eliminating; it is about exploring; figuring things you love. It is not about always standing on the podium; it is about being yourself. It is not about working at a place where people will respect you; it is about having a job which you will appreciate every day.
Be yourself and not a culprit. That is why the legendary boxer Mohd. Ali said, “Yes, I am going to be the peoples’ champ, but not the way they want me to be, but the way I want me to be!”
Note: The author has originally published this story here.