What is ailing India’s education system?

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New Delhi | Published: August 6, 2018 2:45:24 AM

School education is supposed to help kids realise their potential; this is just not happening.

Education is a process of learning throughout the life. Education is not only about reading and writing, it is a process of preparing a person for the external world.

Education is a process of learning throughout the life. Education is not only about reading and writing, it is a process of preparing a person for the external world. A person must be educated enough to face all the difficulties that come his/her way. Education does not just stop after school; it is a lifelong process. Education encompasses knowledge of basic skills, technical skills, working under pressure, time management, conflict resolution, leadership, manners, hygiene, etiquette, and being a good citizen. Education isn’t about how much one has memorised, how much one has scored in exams, list of one’s qualifications. Education is the power to think clearly and act responsibly. It enables one to change with the world.

Howard Gardner is an American developmental psychologist and his theory on different types of intelligences is prolific. Each one of us has one or more than one of these intelligences, such as naturalist (it is a human ability to discriminate among living things such as plants and animals, as well as sensitivity to other non-living things), logical/mathematical (good with numbers and validity), musical (understanding of sounds, pitch, rhythm and tone), existential (it is the sensitivity and capacity to tackle deep questions about human existence, such as the meaning of life, why are we here, purpose, etc), interpersonal skills (interacting well with others), body-kinaesthetic (understanding oneself), spatial (mental imagery, image manipulation, graphic and artistic skills, and an active imagination). Sailors, pilots, sculptors, painters and architects all exhibit spatial intelligence and linguistic skills (the ability to think in words and to use language to express and appreciate complex meanings). That is what schools are supposed to prepare students for, but they put into us certain types of intelligence on precedence by ignoring other types. Each one of us is gifted with one or more of these intelligences—our school education is supposed to help us realise our potential, which just does not happen; this is a gross waste of talent.

In our education system, the syllabi needs to usher in an educational revolution and not just an evolution of teaching techniques. The curriculum and pedagogy has to give way to future needs and requirements. Most children find the subjects irrelevant or pointless. It seems like the kids have to learn something, and there is no reason why they need to learn it. The learning method is either not lucid to the child, and often not fitting to the child’s learning style. The child is not supported in discovering the essence of a subject by his teacher, parent, anybody. Therefore, most children get into the rut of monotone schooling and lose out on their real talent.

To top it all, we promote rat race in our educational system—children have to read and mug-up entire textbooks without any understanding of it. It hardly helps develop a child’s personality, which is more important than educational qualifications. Children are not well-exposed to the outside world and the realities of the world. They are not prepared by the schools to critically analyse anything—for example, our history, culture and religion. They take what the teacher and the textbook says as it is. They are simply not able to look at things from their own perspective. The teacher doesn’t appreciate curiosity.

I have seen that most teachers are forced to teach subjects that they themselves don’t like—therefore, they somehow finish topics and get out of the classroom. This scene has been practised for decades. Policy-makers are naive on this. Children must learn to develop their own perspective and challenge the established narratives. Our teachers themselves are not sufficiently trained to teach kids. How can we expect them to impart values in children? In our country, people who don’t get suitable jobs come into teaching. The salaries of teachers are pathetic. Therefore, the right, good people do not enter the teaching profession.

Another big problem is that we are not able to decide on the medium of language of our education system. We have over 22 official languages. And stress is given on English, where a majority of children cannot understand the language. When they go for further studies in colleges, they don’t understand the medium of instruction. Subjects like mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, psychology, sociology, commerce must be taught in English from the point of view of higher education. This is perhaps the most obvious failure of our education system.

We have never prepared our students on skills that are required in a job market. Schools don’t prepare them for entrepreneurship, they all go for jobs, and the job market does not absorb even 30% of them. With two-thirds of its 1.2 billion people under the age of 35, India has the world’s largest youth population—it is both a blessing and a curse for the nation. All that a student is taught in his entire school and college life is almost disused for the job market.

The recent incident of the selection of Jio Institute, along with the five top institutes of India, as an ‘Institution of Eminence’ is a case of the redundant makeover of Indian higher education—the ‘eminence’ tag being given to an institute which is yet to be born. Ironically, the selection committee ignored important criteria such as an Institution of Eminence should offer interdisciplinary courses, conduct research in areas of emerging technology, must have a mix of foreign and Indian students and faculty, and amenities comparable with that of globally-reputed institutions. The Jio Institute has none of these. The HRD ministry has made a sham of the ‘eminence’ tag.

Vidya Hattangadi is Management thinker and blogger

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