Perils of Indian Education System

I was reading The Man Who Knew Infinity and I came across this interesting line on the status of education system devised by British when they were ruling India.

It was designed, after all, to churn out bright, well-rounded young men who could help their British masters run the country, not the “restless and ambitious spirits”

Think more on it and you would realize the perils of Indian education system.

Like a lot of other things, we have inherited the education system from the British. They enforced a school, college and university system of education on masses of India.

Indian society always had manpower in abundance. Jobs were hard to find. Money rested with a fraction of a fraction of people. For a commoner, education and degree was the fastest way to economic freedom and stability. People made sure they get that coveted degree and get a stable job. A degree became something revered.

Perhaps, no where in the world you have university examinations where you are made to read Psychology, English, History, Geography and others, if you want to become a computer programmer. There are umpteen more examples like that. All the courses are made mandatory and you have to take them in order to get a university degree. You can not choose, mix and match these courses. You cannot decide what you want t o do in life. You have to live is the way others thing you should.

If we had something called the credit system where you could pick courses that you want to read, India would have lot more evolved people (for example schooling and college in USA). With Indian system, the entire focus of students and teachers and parents is on getting maximum grades. It is very likely that a student crams a text book and tops the examination and gets all the accolades. He might not even know how to reach his home from a remote corner of the country. And, on the other hand, a truly smart student has to bear the brunt of not performing in these text-book examinations. He might be the next Ambani, Bose, Gates or Jobs but he will be discouraged to take the road less travelled.

I used to be an academic topper till about 10th standard. I really believed in and wanted to excel at examinations. I would do everything from cramming text books to fill water bottles for teachers to make notes to cheat and to everything imaginable to get good marks in exams. And it was not only me. All my friends and their friends and their friends wanted to excel. By hook or by crook. If i came second, parents would not congratulate me. They would ask why I wasn’t first. If I got 97, they asked me what happened to other three marks.

This made my knowledge and understanding of the world bookish. I would always go by the book and would never think of an alternate way to do things. My creativity was constrained in a box. Every time I thought of a novel way of doing things, I was stopped by teachers. I was told to adhere to what teacher thinks is the best solution. I could not innovate or improvise. We should take cues from other education systems that are more hands on. Where students are required to innovate and improvise if they have to get grades.

Coming back to the text, this kind of a bookish education is good for developing people who can serve. This system would produce copy-cats. Not innovators. Followers. Not Leaders.

Someone has to change the education system. The onus can come from the industry. Currently if you are to recruit someone, you look for credentials in terms of education and pedigree of the institution. If you start recruiting someone who is good with logic and has no formal degree and encourage that, a lot of fresh ideas can be brewed. Except for my employer, I have never come across a company that prides itself in hiring dropouts. In fact in my case, for recruiting me, they made an exception. They hired me even though I am a MBA from one of the best institutes in the country and had never flunked or dropped out.

With more and more people taking the alternate route now, I am very hopeful that we would break away from the mandatory courses and llot less lives would be wasted because of our education system.

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