Random Thoughts

Pointless Education

I recently had the opportunity to assist my manager in running a training course for some of our colleagues from India in London 's Canary Wharf. The skyscrapers around the place should have been awe inspiring for most of the students as this was there first time in Britain. I certainly was gob smacked when I saw Canary Wharf for the first time a few years ago. But times have changed, and this group was surprisingly nonchalant.

Indians have many peculiar traits that two kinds of people tend to notice- foreigners, as they have never quite experienced anything similar before, and people who have lived in a foreign country for many years.

One of them includes noting down every single word uttered by the teacher in class, however trivial and unnecessary that may be. Often I have seen some people predicting what the teacher is about to say, and actually speaking in chorus with the teacher as he completes his sentence. For instance, if the sentence is 'that is a cat', the word cat ends up being uttered in chorus by the entire group.

I never quite figured out why someone would do that- perhaps as a self-congratulatory gesture for being able to read the teacher's mind and therefore attaining another level of sophistication that his peers could not?

The other is to interrupt the teacher when he is trying to respond to a question and ask another- sometimes unrelated- question. Interrupting while someone else is speaking is considered rude in many Western countries including Britain , but Indians who have recently arrived here are usually oblivious to this fact.

I also noticed an underlying streak of unhealthy competition. We had divided the group into teams to tackle a case study. At the lunch break I noticed people asking others where they were at with their task and lying about their own position. Since I was helping all the groups with their work, I knew what they had done and what they hadn't. But it seemed incomprehensible that they admit to their peers that they had fallen behind.

When one of the students struggled with a certain aspect of the work, I decided to help her out. Instead of being grateful, she was embarrassed that her peers might think less of her, and quickly jotted down what I was saying without actually understanding the core concept. She got the entire exercise wrong in her final test, so I noted that she didn't actually grasp what I had said.

Each of them got above 80% in their final test, bar one who got 79%. I shudder to think what looks she must gave gotten from people supposed to be her colleagues- she probably had people bickering behind her back the entire flight home, castigating her as inferior. She got a whole 1% less than the others- how shockingly incompetent of her!

What I took away from this experience was the firm belief that I had made the right choice in leaving India . I remembered the days when I wasn't quite so clever as some of my classmates in understanding those complex theorems and equations of Class IX. I felt a sense of acute fear building up in me as I remembered how each class I fell behind little by little, when I was too scared to ask the teacher in case I was ridiculed, and when disliking the culture of going to 100 tuitions to make sure I had 100 notes to compare made me a pariah.

What good did that period of terror do for these students? In the end they had to take lessons from this much younger deserter who ran away in fear to the rainy borders of England .

And I can proudly say today, I still don't know anything about those 50 theorems that we were meant to know by heart to solve all that geometric gibberish. And I don't need to.


More by :  Aruni Mukherjee

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Views: 3325      Comments: 1

Comment It is better late than never. I would like to congratulate you for such an analysis of desi behavior. This kind of constructive commentary on how we conduct ourselves abroad and in public is healthy.

P. Rao
23-Apr-2016 21:05 PM

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