By Arun Krishnadas
Edited by Liz Maria Kuriakose, Associate Editor, The Indian Economist
“The building blocks of a nation are the citizens of its tomorrow. The way these seeds will sprout, will always depend on the way you choose to water them..”
The educational system of a nation is perhaps that which has the greatest say in its past, present and future. Our forefathers fought hard for our freedom, and ever since our nation-builders have focussed on helping the nation develop good infrastructure, a primary concern in this aspect being a solid educational system. Sixty years down the line, it is high time we ask ourselves whether the shots are in the right direction, or if the post itself is a distant target…
An analysis is always better presented when it is done from the inside rather than from outside. In this case, you get to present a picture of what has formed an important part of your life, in all its true colours. And such a picture sketched today looks like this:
The walls looming in front of your eyes are those of one of the most esteemed colleges in India. The ambience is perfect, the facilities good and the setting all sound for education. The walk thus far is satisfactory. Moving on into a class room, we have the traditional methods of teaching, with students seated obediently and disciplined, listening to the professor. Surely, a part of our heritage which we are proud of and haven’t been corrupted by western influences. The labs, student-run centres of action and such are all at par with those of any in the world. You have the sketch of a highly technical institute of education, working well within its own scope. Point intended?
The success of a dish is as much in its recipe as in the nature of its ingredients. Being a part of the system, you get to analyse the sketch in depth. Then you see class rooms with empty front benches, sleeping last quarters, indifferent or uninterested professors, taking classes for the sake of it. Walk into the labs, and you have catchy equipments, but the fact of the matter is that many are not in perfect working conditions, and further more one sees students given minimalistic exposure to the lab outfit, carrying out tasks mechanically. Taken aback and walking along those scenic back-grounds, one can’t fall blind to the large number of students idling time away, even as solace appears in the form of a few who truly belong to where they are…
Two contrasting sketches of a scenario are presented here. One from the outside, sufficient to convince the lay-man, that the politician has full-filled what he promised in his manifesto, but not sufficient, if the goal remains to help us move on the path to progress. The bug lies not in the bricks and stones, but in the residents. Eighteen year-olds who were led at every step of their life till yesterday, being forced to make for themselves a most crucial decision of their life in the blink of an eye, and before they know it, they are embarking on a flight to a destination they aren’t sure of, and by the time they would be sure of it, there would be no turning back…
The true story is highlighted clearly in the fact that students graduating from technical institutes like IITs and NITs don’t all end up as engineers. That is fair enough. But the astonishing element is that not even 50% of them end up doing engineering jobs. This is bizarre; for no one learns brain surgery for the fun of it, and ends up never operating; a fundamental bug that needs correction indeed.
The problem is in front of your eyes, the answer is even clearer. Yet we have no way of reversing the scenario and solving the crisis. For we can’t solve a crisis until and unless we figure out that it is a crisis, in the first place. And our policy makers are yet to do so in this case. After all what does it matter that an IITian does MBA and works as a HR in a company? It may not matter if one or two does that. But if a majority of your population are working differently from their education, then your education system loses its efficiency. You will not be able to end up with specialists in any field and you can’t excel fully anywhere, if it remains so. Where is the wonder in our lack of Nobel prizes?
Look around, and may be once more to those we like to adore, the Westerners, and we get to see that a difference lies in that the West have been able to give equal priority to every aspect of work, be it medicine, or engineering or arts while we continue to hold just the former two in elitism. It is the difference in this water we supply, that presents itself in the form of two different shoots that sprout up, one where people follow their interest no matter what it is and are thus able to excel in their passion, and another where people are forced to follow a particular field early on in life, and later on move to a different field, by the time they are too late to follow their dreams.
One might get the feeling that the outlook is too pessimistic here. But the harsh truth is that the results are there for us to read in front of us. We have the talents, the infrastructure, the capabilities and the opportunities to reach the top of the world, but we continue to remain behind. If only our children were not restricted, if only they could follow their dreams from early on, if only there were no prejudices, if only there were better policies for education, if only…..
The picture has been painted, but there is never one which can’t be changed by the artist. Hence the hope for brighter days remains, the hope for true freedom remains, and the hope for that day when we realize our potentials remains….
Arun is a reserved individual, who places his interests at par with those of others around him. He is determined when he sets onto something, but still spends long amounts of time introspecting on his decisions, whatever be the results. He likes to spend time with friends, reading books, watching sports and films, writing his heart out and setting time tables for a better tomorrow. He believes that for some things, there’s today, and for others there’s tomorrow, be it the one that comes or the one that doesn’t.