About Education

These days, plenty is being written about the education system in India, its inefficiencies, flaws, and how the education system is designed to produce rote learning, rather than real learning, leave aside actual understanding. Though i think this is not the first time this subject is being approached in a creative way. This subject has been approached around four decades ago in a way which is still remembered, a way which is still uttered by students the world over, not just in India. A way which has become sort of an anthem for college students (if not school students too) the world over. If you ask me, i havent seen too many college-goers who dont identify with the song. Even if you havent heard the song before, the words are something which would leave you enthralled. Or at least among my generation they have. Along with the leads, that is. So what am i talking about? Click here to find out.

Well, this preamble was just to build up the idea of the topic. I dont think you would have needed to have been given an introduction to this song. Pink Floyd are a rock icon, and The Wall (especially Part 2) is a youth anthem the world over. If you look at this closely, you will find that the song is about the way the education system is designed to create clones of an assumed perfect archetype of a student, children being able to replicate the tasks that the education systems decides for them in a manner and in terminology that is envisaged by the education system. The role of originality, creativity in the process of learning is totally ignored in this model of education. And this is something which recent films like Taare Zameen Par or 3 Idiots highlight as well. The intolerance of the education system to children who are different, or children who dare to think different. Or those who believe there are other ways to learning than prescribed ones.

But one important thing you would see if you compare the way the idea is presented by Pink Floyd, and by Mr. Aamir Khan is stark. While one is depressing, almost to the point of being deranged, the other is filled with hope, of a day which is tomorrow which is going to be better than it is today. While this could be the general affliction of Bollywood, this could also be an indication of changing times. I would like to assume the latter. The difference between the times when Floyd sang, and Mr. Khan made the movie is simple … the latter is a new world, very different from the former. A world which looks at the future with the eyes of hope, and this hope comes from the past, because the past has seen so many changes, that change is a reasonable assumption from the future. Question then is, how did the past, the last four decades since Pink Floyd see such change? The answer, i think, is simple … this has been because of the contributions of the likes of Pink Floyd, the flower-power folks who tried to think of a world very different from the world of the day, a world where the interactions of people were very different from their own, where people looked at the world around them, both in terms of space and time in ways which were very removed from those before them. And this is how one wave of change builds on another … As Sir Isaac Newton said:

If I have seen further than others, its by standing on the shoulders of giants.

The other day, Hindustan Times carried an article by Sagarika Ghosh about the flaws with the philosophy of 3 Idiots. You can read the article here. I think i disagree with some aspects of the article, but only where she is interpreting the meaning of a movie like 3 Idiots, and not so much in the basic intent of the article. While i agree to an extent that:

It lampoons and trivializes our higher education system as an unrelieved arena of bad teachers, suicidally pressurized students, manic success-oriented parents and evil money seekers who care nothing for learning but only want grades so they can get big jobs and Lamborghinis. Such a caricature is, as we all know, far from the truth.

While i agree that the caricature, any caricature is far from the truth (thats what caricatures are meant for, after all, arent they), there is another aspect which i think gets overlooked in the general discussion that happens. And this is something i like to point out whenever there is a discussion about the way engineering is taught in India. A few years back, i was reading an article (cant find the link, if you can find it, please post it) about a bridge over a river built in China, where everything from designing to procurement to process management, and everything about the bridge was done by students of an engineering college. I dont know whether we in India can claim to have achieved something like this. A point where students learn not just how to apply some formulae to solve a numerical in an exam, but where they can apply concepts to build value. And this is where i think the issue is.

Coming back to the difference between Pink Floyd and Aamir Khan, another aspect which i think has a role to play is the way technology has brought people across the world, across all kinds of faultlines together. And this has been a massive difference in the lives of many.


2 Comments on “About Education”

  1. Manu says:

    Actually it doesn’t lampoon or trivialize our higher education. Yes there are and have been suicides in our institutions of higher learning. It is sad but it is the truth. And yes we do love our Lamborghinis but I fail to see how that is a bad thing. Ms Ghose definitely must be riding a non a/c car to work everyday. Just to remind Ms Ghose – this movie is based on a novel written by someone who studied in two of the most prestigious institutes in our country!

  2. thoughtsandme2004 says:

    agree with you, Manu. Only thing, when we were studying, for example, i dont think we really got to understand the concepts which we were supposed to have understood. Maybe because the focus wasnt on learning but on the end-sems? That seems to be a part of the way folks are taught which might need to be changed. I am not even commenting on the Lamborghinis.

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