Those who say we need to expand, please think again. Definitely we are expanding and expanding like anything in respect of anything apart from intellectual growth. That is headed by China. Universities, colleges are proliferating like shops. There are so many engineering and medical colleges that almost anybody who can pay a hefty sum of money can become an engineer or a doctor. In spite of studying from a college, I am looked down upon with disgrace in the community, as if I am just another engineer born in just another corner. Who is at fault? Definitely not the people who consider me a product of another roadside single room college. It’s the people in power who give them affiliations.
Greed for money and nepotism has blinded our system to such an extent, that it is ready to fall for anything. Tomorrow we will be a hub of engineering education and have a market like Chandani Chowk or Crawford market, where we will not sell goods, but will produce engineers and doctors in shops. Have I gone too far in my predictions? But why do I feel like if something is wrong with these procrastinations? Is this the expansion that we aspire for? Someone must have misunderstood the word ‘quality’ for ‘quantity’ and started this expansion project. But now the spellings have been rectified and time has come to rethink and reconsider what we are doing.
Expansion in quality is need of an hour. So while our government sits and drafts bills like Central University bill 2008, for opening up of more central universities, they should stop and think for a moment. They should stop and look at the reality, the reality of existing institutes. I can’t quote any statistics, but my personal experience combined with the experience of people in my network shows that our education standards are degrading rapidly. We are facing shortage of teachers in the college. Those who are already there find it difficult to make the two ends meet, leave alone their concentration and dedication for excellence in research. Teachers, which are souls of a country’s education system are paid paltry sum of money. The meager salary that exists in this field is the biggest motivation for the students to not go for this career. We are exporting our best minds and leaving the task of teaching to those who are least qualified for that. My intentions are not to heart the community of teachers. Exceptions are always there, and I believe it is these exceptions that have supported this rickety structure of our education system so far and prevented its demolition. If we continue second grade stuff in our teaching field, tomorrow we will not be able to generate quality researchers. The situation has already started degrading. The argument is simple. The students with more than average intelligence quotient can’t find the guidance to match his intellectual level, because those more than average, never entered this field. And we get caught in the vicious circle. After infecting our system with faulty genes, are we hopeful of being healthy? Same is the case with our system. We just can’t generate quality when the very distributors of knowledge are at fault. To create quality future generation we do need the best minds in teaching field.
So, yes expansion is a challenge of our education system, but lets not get into the business of expanding just anything. We need to expand, not the quantity but the quality of teaching staff and their salaries packages. Money will definitely attract the best minds in this fields. And we need to expand, not the quantity of our colleges but the quality of the existing ones. So next time our government thinks of opening new universities, they should consider diverting those funds in improving quality.
Excellence? Do we actually need it? Right from the day a child takes birth in Indian family, he is forced to be excellent. His brilliance is judged by number of excellent and stars he gets in his tests. Nothing less than 99.99% is acceptable in exams. So aren’t our students just more than excellent? But wait. We have missed something. In our quest to make our children excellent, what do we train them for? Your guess is probably right. We train them to pass exams with excellence. Knowledge always takes a backseat. Why should we worry about whether our child has actually seen Taj Mahal, unless he scores good enough in history. This is what the scenario is at our school levels. Recent movie Taare Zameen Par has effectively addressed the same issue, but as of now, as I look at my neighbors, the voice has fallen on deaf ears.
This was about excellence in our schools. What about the higher education? They are obviously not lagging behind. I remember all the two and half year (after that I dropped out) of my college, right from the day 1. It was my practical class of electrical engineering in first semester when I was supposed to perform a practical with squirrel cage motor. I wrote the practical, got the file checked and passed with an A grade. But to this date I haven’t seen a squirrel cage motor and I often wonder where I am heading towards? This is the harsh reality that I had to face in my college, the reality of studying for exams, and just for exams, to pass it, to score marks and to get grades. Knowledge? That probably won’t get me good grades. So, we are already excellent, but in passing exams. Knowledge, exploration, creativity, research and interest are elements missing from our definition of excellence. In terms of psychology, we are loosing our ability and confidence to learn by exploring. Once we loose this ability, we cannot discover things. We loose a scientist in us, and country looses thousands every year.
The crux is, yes we need excellence, not in just passing exams but in gaining knowledge and practically applying that knowledge. We need to be excellent in creativity and research. Our R&D sector is in its infancy and to revive that we definitely need to rethink the domains of excellence. Where are all those Aryabhattas or Boses? Why is our creativity smothered? The answers are clearly visible in our system.
The most important thing that we need to include in our education system is the student who needs educations. Sounds funny? Even the act of saying such a thing makes it sound so absurd, imagine the state of students who is actually in such a system.
How many people actually choose a career out of interest? Do we actually have a system which helps a student to know about opportunities in his field of interest? Counseling, career guidance are things almost non-existent in our country. We act like robots, pass class XII, sit for some competitive exam, pass or fail, get into which ever best college we get a seat in and they study what ever comes our way.
Where was the time to look at personal interest, or if it was there, where were the resources? It is a harsh reality to face, but it’s true. We just don’t have enough fields to choose from, or guidance to pursue one, that exist in some corner. And this combined with our social structure, where educational excellence is the only mean to survive runs havoc on one’s career. If we don’t catch a talent young, there are possibilities of him pursuing a career totally different from its interest. And before he knows it’s too late to turn back and start again.
The second most important thing to be included is again students, the one who resides in rural areas. The fact has been spoken about too often, but that doesn’t necessarily demeans its significance. The rural and urban gap in level of education exists and students living in rural areas do not get enough opportunities and guidance to move forward. In India, where there is cut throat competition in every field such a disparity in resources creates a huge difference in career of a rural student. And this calls for the need of inclusion of technology to bridge this gap. A major initiative of providing satellite based tele-educational facilities to various engineering colleges in the country that was launched on January 1 by ISRO and IIT Mumbai, can be a possible model to bridge this gap.
The bottom line fact is, we need to include talent in remote locations, give more opportunities to existing talent and include the interest in choosing a career path.
But why are these problems a challenge?
Because there is more to be done to eradicate them, than what appears to be on the surface. The education system is a deep-rooted part of our social system, and history reveals the bitter truth that changing social mindset is never an easy task. Only a well guided reform can change it, and it may take a while to create a generation with reformed mindset. Secondly as discussed above, we need to break some vicious circles, that exist in the system, and last but not the least we need the valor to define new standards and rules, that were never defined before, considering the fact that, education system forms the base of development of any nation.We just can’t afford this base to be faulty. So what are we waiting for. Let’s start somewhere.
And yes, at last, let me tell you something, we don’t have 40% scientist in NASA, they have been appointed as a cheap labor.
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