Some mysterious vibrations in neurons of our mind must be behind the arousal of our curiosities. Of these curiosities some linger while some die. We move on in our life accordingly. We read the disciplines best positioned to feed and if possible satiate our curiosity. Though this satiation is never complete. But still we are on the continual and incessant journey in an inexhaustible quest to have our curiosities satiated. Where does this part-satiation come from? Education. Education of any form and kind, from any source or intuition. Even serendipity needs a quest however much forgotten and fragile. From this part-satiation emerge more curiosities and questions and the cycle repeats itself. I believe every sane and educated life cruises through this cycle regardless of professional or behavioral outlines which surround it. In other words we want to learn, we learn and when we learn we get to know what more we ought to learn and we learn more. Being lettered is one aspect of education. Akbar was not lettered but his erudition (passionate learning and understanding) transcended its peripheries and became education and then intellect or say thinking devoid of prejudice. In my understanding one can be illiterate but still ‘educated’ (though most people would like to use the term ‘erudition’ ) or educated but still only literate or lettered. This understanding may not have formed were it not for abysmal education standards our society has come to embrace.
This, curiosity driven education (CuDE) cycle is the only way to achieve some level of dexterity in any competitive field. This dexterity helps us earn money, run our household, feel educated and hence sense our being. When one reaches at the level of being able to sense ‘being’ erudition knocks on the demeanour. Then it doesn’t take much time for erudition to either make way for intellect or coexist. I think it is fairly simple way of living. Every visible successful life that we read or hear about has more or less treaded this path. Of course dexterity alone is not a guarantor for intellect to set in but absolute dexterity is equal identification of self as other proclivities and that is the ideal beginning towards a greater intellect. Aberrations will always be there but living in clothes one feels comfortable in always helps.
Famous peoples like artists, scientists, businesspeople, politicians or sportspersons all wished to learn something stemmed from their curiosity. They sought necessary education whether formal or informal, learned, unlearned, recognized flaws, identified hitherto obscure aspects and went on to find what they set out for though curiosity still remained half fulfilled. This incompleteness or somewhat rawness kept them filled with positive stress, vitalized, active and agile in their quest. Hence education was never complete or too vast to be wrapped in one lifetime. In addition, this attitude to education stokes a fire which further helps one in transcending the immediate concerns. Not to say that veering is the ultimate result but broadening of mind facilitates an approach towards learning which removes the narrowness of immediate needs, educational or materialistic.
But how many of us are able to go by this simple process of trying to satiate our curiosities in best possible way and seek a career from it. There is 1/3rd of population whose curiosities never go beyond the question of devising the ways to spend the whole day so as to be able to make ends meet and cover flesh. Still there is 2/3rd of India which, though with some obstacles, can at least try to use this simple formula. Out of this 2/3rd a minute but still sizable fraction fashions their life around this curiosity spindle and forms the encrusted cream of society. In the rest of population which we further classify as upper middle, middle middle and lower middle class a healthy chunk from upper middle class has, to their good fortunes, guidelines to choose from rather than deadlines to meet and hence they too can facilitate this coordination between education and curiosity.
Now we turn our attention to middle middle class and lower middle class. In middle middle class parents are often educated though not very liberal, able to afford a ‘good’ college though not very rich, supportive to children though often dogmatic and more importantly highly against any ‘risk’ taking preposition. Here the word risk takes on a meaning which is even more frightening than dictionary suggests. A student with high IQ in a field where employment opportunities are few will never be encouraged to pursue that field. Because the word ‘risk’ has spread its tentacles all over the society over the years it has become a sort of ogre no sane and intelligent and responsible parent or student would want to challenge or combat. As entire society is intimidated of this word anything with slightest risk doesn’t form even part of career discussion. This is the first step towards curiosity-education mismatch. Of course risk is not only one reason and nor is it first among others. But In middle middle class there is strong tendency to play safe. Up until now engineering and medicine were the main fields apart from civil services and defense preferred by this class and a substantial populace belonging to this group still favors the status quo. Everything attached to what happens after education matters but not education itself. The whole phenomenon of curiosity driven education simply doesn’t exist though aberrations can’t be ruled out.
In lower middle class, in addition to the ‘risk’ there are myriad factors which belt down curiosity driven education. Primary amongst them are absence of sufficient knowledge, lack of wherewithal and most often even absence of curiosities. This absence of curiosities can’t be attributed to lack of intelligence but to the extreme narrowness within which minds operate. The whole atmosphere with parents wishing (which often remains wistful) their wards to be educated but helpless and poorly run schools pushing children along wrong tracks early in their lives casts such a destructive influence on the psyche of child that more often than not the curiosity to know gets replaced by simple cramming of text books or even local books (kunjis or guides) containing previous papers or summarized text to pass examinations. This ambience not only demolishes the very selfhood of the child but also inflicts a fatal blow on the idea of education. Education becomes a farce. Now we have lettered people squelching in smudgy paths far away from the edifice of education. In this scenario the only aim one has is to collect certificates so as to either become eligible to take various job entrance exams or further their careers to push for promotions or salary hike. Amidst the compulsions of these two classes which constitute a substantial chunk of Indian population the simple and best formula of curiosity driven education seems anachronistic.
Who is at fault? Society or governments. Both. For government education had never been a priority. The goal of rigorous learning of not only a craft but life values too and earning not only money but self esteem too is too high for our system of formal education. The result, everyone could be everything without even wanting to be one. In academics, government primary schools were the main causality but even the higher education couldn’t escape venomous hiss. In every government school there are some teachers who either remain perennially absent or if shows up then put not so best exhibition of their behaviors before their impressionable pupils. Students are left to their fate. Education gets trampled under the feet of such teachers and not to be mentioned administrators. Even for those who are comparatively rational and feel obliged, teaching in primary schools is never more than a job to be hurried through than a work of enormous responsibility and consequences.
Just imagine how many of these students when grown up talk of curiosity and things like true calling. Often they ridicule the very basics of life as ‘bookish’ non sense. All that they want is a job and for that they need a certificate and hence certificate driven education (CeDE) serves their purpose. Exams can be prepared in one night. Unfortunately this is true of all the major streams of education at almost all levels. This very term CeDE should convulse the nerves of those who hold the ideas of education as the vanguard of society but that is the only bitter truth for entire India. Middle middle class students taught in private schools are somewhat better placed to discern the priorities of life but owing to majority being always predatory they too can’t be unscathed. Even their lives eventually come around to be ruled by terminologies like security, risk, safety and money. I intend not to undermine the importance of money but money as aim is the crux of the corruption that has the society corroded and idea of education mutilated. Even in business the money ought to be the spin-off of product or service.
Society too can’t escape the blame. Such is the overweening hold of greed and truancy in all hues that even if given choice good education will be the last ladle amongst all dishes to be had. The orthodox moral and ethical attitude towards education of a population extremely believing in religious sense has exacted its toll on general development of values. To add insult to the injury the association of phrase ‘good education’ to certain walled institution has proved calamitous for the cause of education for two reasons. First, once the association was strong enough these institutions began to exploit the very cause they intended to serve. The horrifying vision of a university or an esteemed college suggesting to its students implicitly or in some cases explicitly that they are the best and hence superior to others injects what is nothing short of hemlock in the nerves of education and hence society. This is defeat of education. Second, those unable to get to these great institutions live with a sense of inferiority and society as a whole furthers these corrugated feelings with an attitude that deserves condemnation. The idea of Education has been tied so closely with idea of humanity and civility that it cannot be made to come apart but we seem to be doing precisely the same and lo using those very tools which meant to educate us. The respect for diversity and wholeness and in turn spirit of true democracy only gets diminished with this definition of education.
Who pays the price? Society and hence nation. A nation needs the right people at right place to have right outcomes. Education makes sure that this is achieved. But if we leave it to ‘certificates’ we are bound to pay price. This situation ensures that skills remain untapped, potential unexplored, work perfunctory and results mediocre. Out of this imbroglio engenders depression and anxiety and hence frustration and crime for an individual and status quo and even anarchy for a society.
Intellectualism which once served as the core of the idea of education has sustained some serious injuries. The distance between education and intellectualism is being dilated with every day and with every ‘degree’. Now you have educated people who at best are literate and intellectual who at best are propagators of existing theories. I don’t equal intellectualism with a brooding visage but to one’s intense love and passion for his or her work and a sense of basic humanity and civility devoid of prejudice he or she exhibits in public life and observes in private. I think entire idea of education revolves around these twin strands intertwined with each other. If strands are not intertwined talent, skill, success all may be there but not intellect. In this sense erudition is more near to intellectualism than the degrees and diplomas our institutions dole out. Unfortunately our failure in this regard looms large.
Intelligence, another mind trait that education is entwined with receives a very cold treatment at the hands of our modern education techniques. We treat intelligence just like our students and corner it or offer it the centre stage after squinty observations. Cognitive abilities are hostage to some deeply seated yardsticks which had never been more than exploitative tools of one group of society for the other.
The education that was meant to enrich minds has been reduced to just a tool to climb up the rungs of career ladder. Worse still the degrees also serve as status symbols. The refinement of personality has been relegated to a subject needed to crack interviews. It is high time we laid necessary emphasis on total revamp of primary education, relationship between intelligence and intellect and need for us to shed some of our cowardice with respect to careers. Lasting curiosities are the gateway to know our self and realize the meaning of education. A least let us embark on a journey to satiate them. Let us hit the ground running. It will take time but things will fall in place, gradually.