Every time I encroach upon the private spheres of the students which they let me willingly do I end up gleaning many stories of a discordant note sandwiched between the natural proclivities and chosen or forced pursuing. And every time I can't help but cringe at the sheer number of students evincing zilch keenness in what they perceive to be a launch pad for their careers. Before I delve much deeper I would want to clear at the very outset that the prevalent classification of students as to who is intelligent and who is duffer has nothing to do with what I have to say. Even so called good students sporting a great percentage on their resumes did not shy away from manifesting the compulsions they had had to undergo in choosing what they did. In most cases it may be an excuse for under performance but under performance in any field in itself is an insinuation of a picture hung slant on the wall.
Though I could take respite in the fact that I did encounter few nods which alluded to their being in the field they intended to be in but this was just a dim silver line in an otherwise dark cloud. I can't use statistical percentage figures to back my case for I am neither a qualified statistician nor in possession of any experience of a recce but a conscious observation and continual interactions with students over last three years make me ponder over the state of our education system. We may be on the remotely right path but for sure the right track eludes us.
My appraisal regarding my being skeptical towards our education system springs from my quotidian observation of the bitter fact that sees me teaching something about engineering to most of those students whose psyche is far removed from what it takes to be an engineer in the widest and truest sense of the word. I guess and admit this rot may be more deep seated in the plenitudes of engineering colleges cum dukaans that have sprouted across the country in the last few years. But what we see in colleges now is just an offshoot of something that had long been in existence, so where does the problem begin? What prevent students from being at the right place? I suspect many of the answers if not every lies buried in the coffin of our flawed and now rotten primary and secondary education system.
Over the years we have seen few erudite and learned academics censuring the half duplex examination system for reducing the sacred idea of Education to a mathematical entity called Result. What actually ought to have been a spirit lifting impetus finds itself creating unnecessary and fatal terror in the minds of students. The current framework of our education system has failed completely in inspiring students to seek knowledge irrespective of the sources of which book is the only one medium. On the contrary we bear witness to students either gluing themselves to their subject books or escaping all what they associate with a school including their teachers. That leads to students cramming absurdly what is 'more important' and condoning what is 'less important' from the examination point of view. This scenario sometimes leads to some amusing situations like when a student knows everything about a plant but never gets to see it first hand. And sometimes it leads to rather tragic situations resulting in to the extents of suicides. We never chance upon a rather achievable but from our standards now, a chimerical moment helping forge a relationship between what is being told by book and doled out by nature. The fall out conjures up in a highly impious society shorn of toleration and ethics.
A major portion of this epithet 'flawed and rotten' that precedes the term 'education system' can be ascribed to the role, teachers play either by their presence or absence. If we go by the state recruitment drives of primary school teachers it seems the lowest common denominator has become the order of the day. To add insult to the injury the very profession of teaching especially in primary schools is not only looked down upon but also has been reduced to a job which one goes to out of compulsion and carry out perfunctorily. Unfortunately some of it applies to some engineering colleges also.
This situation plays a crucial role in mitigating the quality of the teachers and hence teaching. Lo behold when we see the students of elite schools suffering from anxiety of performance what hopes and assurances will keep us from not worrying about the state of primary and secondary education in far flung areas in the hinterland enduring orthodoxy and fuddy-duddy practices in the name of customs where even education itself does find it tough to preserve its dignity inside the walls of a dilapidated school building.
We all presume primary school to be the bedrock of the society from which emerges those who will cater to the betterment of the society tomorrow. But if those who are responsible for running these schools don't set up good precedence before their pupils what sort of citizens would they grow up as? Is it arguable that acts like witnessing one's teacher smoking, using expletive ridden language, ordering errands and inflicting unabashed corporeal punishments can have only negative implication on the personality and psyche of the child which is waiting to be carved out? Unfortunately the reality is sometimes far worse.
A child at the age of five or six or even beyond that is like that of soil of which either a pitcher could be made or a stone to hit someone with. And a teacher at a primary school is nothing short of a potter where everything depends upon the finesse he possesses. But at the end of the day who gets to serve in a school at what salary using what infrastructure is something decided by government. Unfortunately governments don't seem to be caring much for what is clamoring for urgent attention and needs immediate overhauling and absolute mending.
Another aspect which can't be glossed over and plays a crucial role in having students acquiesce to a flawed notion of career is the societal attitude which is more prevalent in mofussils. Our teachers have this strong tendency to categorize students under different categories say intelligent, mediocre and duffer. Once dubbed duffer, it becomes tad difficult for a child to lift his dampened spirit up and set about a path, new or existing. I can relate to this factor on account of my once being labeled a duffer in a subject even when I was doing well in others. My first reaction as a child to this nonsensical classification was to avoid that teacher and his class, a grossly dangerous habit that could have had me become an acquiescent and reticent person.
It is quite sad that most parents endorse this absurd classification blindly. Our vision of looking at students is so narrow and provincial that any student outside that range is also outside our accepted standards of performance. This parochial attitude has led us to declare certain subjects as worthy of being studied and most often those who were fortunate enough to have been under the intelligent label are advised these subjects. Rest of the subjects are low brow enough only to be studied or muddled though by a mediocre or a duffer. Visit any town in the hinterland and see for yourself the inflated chest of parents whose children are steady 80% in PCM.
The talk of any such student being a prospective IIT entrant begins to do round and it becomes incumbent upon the student to crackdown IIT entrance exam at any cost. However much able, student finds himself smothered under the dual burden of peer and parents pressure. The word 'talent' is an anathema that all parents who think of themselves as rational, sane, realist and middle class would want to keep at a safe distance. It is assumed that the inclinations of students are just plain indulgences and decisions of the parents which sometimes abut the reflections of their own unfulfilled desires are best suited for their wards.
I can't afford to discount the solicitude parents possess for their children but dismissing a child absolutely, they are genuinely concerned about, is self defeating. Sending a child to read subjects he doesn't have a natural acumen and inner urge for is like a forced marriage. At worst (or at best!) either it would lead to a divorce or a (unequivocally worst only) lifelong asphyxiation under the guise of painted walls.
How long will it take for us to free students of the noose of unappetizing competitive excellence and devise new and pragmatic ways to help their curiosity quotient develop and flourish. It is time that we shed our inhibitions wiz-a-wiz in-demand and peripheral or out of demand subjects and reckon the crucial fact that no discipline is tenuous enough to deserve a secondary treatment. Every subject and field has its own place and importance and is worthy of becoming a trusted soul mate along the path of life. It would be a huge service to the child and hence nation if we can allow ourselves to let go of all all pervasive and well entrenched anachronistic notions and let the talent and leanings of the child chisel a career for him.
We have ample reasoned assessments yelping to do something to put an end to this compulsive, bland and insipid relationship of subjects and students and set up an ambiance where passionate love affair between the student and his creative leanings give rise to a cerebral spark and hence the optimum growth of student and his ideas. Deeming the diversity and vast expanses of lands our country is spread in, I know, it may sound a utopian concept but why should we let the behemothian size deter us from taking the first step? Why do we let status quo to keep us from nurturing in our students the possessors of creativity and the crusaders of humanity instead of just blind muggers of facts and formulas trapped in a fatal catatonia? Revered American academic Robert Goheen had remarked once, 'if you feel that you have both feet planted on level ground, then university has failed you.' We can't afford to wait any longer for crutches to be replaced by resuscitated legs and healthy wings.