Education, a nine letter word that can change a nation

How to start and where to start? It’s a really tough task to ask and answer as I have also come through the same educational system even it’s better to call it as economically backward education system. The irony is every time I was being asked to follow what is being taught, not to ask question on what is being taught.

In 14 years of school, here’s what I was NOT taught:

  • Independent thought and how to articulate my own opinion in speech and writing.
  • How to be patience and hold yourself during some tough situations in life.
  • How to do self-guided research and review.

Everything is about rote memorization, leading to behavior which encourages cramming and forgetting rather than lifelong learning.

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Progress has been dismal in education!!

Government spends only 3.85 per cent of the GDP on education. Around 8 million children are still to see picture of a school, though gross enrollment ratio has improved but not enough. There were people like Mahatma Gandhi and Rabindranath Tagore, who have a vision of having an indigenization education system rejecting modem learning of foreign origin. In the quest for indigenization, Gandhi suggested a basic education model that will make education more relevant to Indian conditions and impart to it a nationalist flavor. The good examples are Finland and Japan where they have their own native curriculum. Also they have a specific age bar since when grading starts at school. Like in Japan they start grading students in school when children reach the age of eight. To what extent we have made progress in the direction of indigenization of education? Free India has received a phenomenal growth in education at all levels—primary, senior secondary, and college/university levels, but it cannot be concluded perceiving that the quality of education has also increased simultaneously. The pattern of education, by and large, remained the same, i.e., colonial, leaving aside a few peripheral changes here and there. On the whole, the tendency was to maintain the status quo.

Educational inequity in our education system!!

Education sector is closed to for-profit organizations. Prosperity seems increasingly unreachable for many, because a good education, which seems to be today’s passport to riches, is unaffordable for many in the middle class. Quality higher educational institutions are dominated by the children of the rich, not because they have unfairly bought their way in, but because they simply have been taught and supported better by expensive schools and private tutors. Because middle class parents do not have the ability to give their children similar capabilities, they do not see the system as fair. Unlike education systems in our South East Asian counterparts Malaysia, Singapore where the education system is centralized and almost all children go to public schools. This again is a ramification of the decentralized education system that we are aware of – 2 National Boards, 29 State boards. Unfortunately here where a child comes from goes on to dictate what he/she can become.

Top performing countries in education across the globe recruit their teachers from the top 5-10% of their best universities (Singapore, Finland), whereas in India, if you can’t make anything out of your life, you become a teacher leaving aside few exceptions. And finally, there is no incentive system anywhere across India to motivate teachers to perform better. Teacher’s professional growth/incentive should be a single function of student achievement data.

The society wants students to do some jobs but not become someone like Jobs!!

Failure is a crime in current society. When someone fails to reach the expectation level of the society, people alienate him/her without even knowing whether the expectation of the society is worthy to be reached. The quote “Failure is the stepping stone of success.” has absolutely no meaning in the Indian society. Societal pressure to get into the “right schools” is not only for the education aspect but to ensure good job/ marriage prospects. Our pseudo-competitive education system stress us so much unnecessarily at an early stages of life putting us in a situation where you have to fight for ‘success’ without knowing what exactly mean to be a successful human being. In this process we get an illusion of success, after working hard in the wrong direction for sometime in life and tend to relax after that, taking away the whole prospect of success. It is a high time for the current society to understand that “Success is not a destination, it’s a journey.”

Saying that marks don’t matter is a lie. Believing that marks are everything and will decide your career, your growth, your life is a lie too. The truth lies somewhere in between. There’s good news and bad news. The bad news is that you didn’t score up to your expectations but the good news is that there are more important battles ahead. Someone who hasn’t failed in some tiny battles early on in their life will never know how to win the war later.

For the parents and educators, they must ask themselves:

How many of our of kids lose themselves at school expected to excel in things they have no interest in pursuing and punished them when they fall short in something called marking scale?
How many of our students hate books because they were thrown at their faces for a spelling mistake or an incomplete answer?
How many children fear speaking up because every time they opened their mouths they were told they are wrong since it isn’t in the text books?
How many children know algebraic equations by heart but they creep in front of real life problems?
How many children’s innate curiosity and imagination is snuffed out everyday under the pressure to score more than the neighbour’s kids?
How’s many potential writers, painters, social workers and entrepreneurs were sacrificed to amass engineering and medical degrees?
How many children sacrifice every waking hour to realize their parents’ dream of a professional degree?
How many children are made to believe that a 9-5 desk job is the ultimate success they can achieve in life?
And last but not the least,
How many more children’s spirits will we sacrifice at the altar of “education”?

A child is not a vessel to be filled, but a lamp to be lit.”

 –Hebrew proverb

Satisfaction at an early age and lack of having patience!!

What if Satya Nadella was way too happy after getting a job in Microsoft as an employee and didn’t work any more than he was supposed to? Somebody else, probably Steve Ballmer, would have been the CEO of the company. What if Marissa Mayer was overwhelmingly happy of her success for being the first female employee of Google and did nothing to get better? Scott Thompson would still be the CEO of Yahoo! What if Albert Einstein was happy of the success of Special Theory of Relativity and thought of relaxing for the rest of his life? The technology would have been what it was, half a century ago (since Tesla was an electrical engineer, with probably no interest in theory of relativity).
Our most overwhelming failure is quality of education – 6 million out of 125 million kids make it. Except very few islands of excellence, this is true across primary, secondary and tertiary education and across disciplinesAccess to education is improving but access to quality education is minimal. Here is a flowchart (rough calculations):

  • Out of the current cohort of 125 million primary school age (6-10 years) kids, 95% are enrolled (118 mn).
  • Enrollment rate drops to 55% for secondary school (68 mn)
  • Enrollment rate is touching 20% for tertiary education/colleges(25mn). We should pause to think about it. Of the 125 million 6-10 year old kids, 100 million kids do not see the face of college on current trend.
  • Of those who graduate, 75% do not have employable skills.This is true overall for engineering and IT graduates. So we are saying that the out of 25 million lucky kids who will go to college, on current trends, 19 million will not be employable in decent jobs in industry.
  • So this is our performance –6 mn out of 125 mn kids have employable skills for decent jobs in India Inc (this is rough estimate and all numbers are based on current ratios – obviously and hopefully the future ratios will be much better)

What is Education?

Education doesn’t mean teaching people to know what they do not know: it means teaching them to behave as they do not behave.

-Mark Tawin

An educated individual is one who has the ability to differentiate between right and wrong, good and evil. There are two types of education- one that helps make a life and the other, a living. Individuals are not born good or evil, but their choices make them so.

Education is not a matter of handling medical books and a stethoscope to a child and expecting him/her to be a doctor. Education is not just a degree. A degree tells us that a person has a lot of information in one area, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that person has abilities and capabilities to live righteously. A person does need information to get educated, but having information doesn’t necessarily mean that a person is educated.

Why is it good Education important?

  • Educated people are easy to lead but hard to enslave.
  • In a democracy where the quantity of votes rather than quality determines the future of nations, the more enlightened citizens are, the better choices will they make.
  • A good education will produce a good citizen who cannot only make a good living but a good life.

Need to stop the blame game!!

A politician made a major shift from a stand that he took in the past. A fellow politician congratulated him and said, “I am glad that you saw the light.” The politician replied, “No, I just felt the heat.”

Since our politicians refuse to see the light, citizens ought to make them feel the heat. That can only happen if our citizens are enlightened. Churning out responsible citizens is the true purpose of education.

Educating the mind without morals creates a maniac in a society. Education is reflected in people’s participation in community affairs. The true test of a civilization lies in the kind of citizens it produces. Character building does not start when a child is born. It actually starts a hundred years before.

At last I would conclude saying that “It is better to be uneducated than ill-educated”.

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