Education down the drain

Education isn’t what it used to be. There was a time Indian students were considered brilliant across countries and cultures. Our education system, under whatever prevailing economic conditions, produced scholars that people around the world looked up to. Especially since everyone admired the struggle our students underwent through hardships of culture, language, and economics in direct contrast and at odds with known ambiance conducive for western education. Despite poverty, over-population and lack of infrastructure, our students excelled in every field.
diyas set up for diwaliIt wasn’t because we were smarter or genetically predisposed to absorb greater amounts of knowledge (as some westerners would like to believe); we excelled because we pushed our children to the limits of their brain. Our system largely ascribed to learning by rote and while western psychologists harped on about a fictional overall development of human psyche, we churned out student after student leaving the discoverers trailing behind languishing in dust. In a culture where respect for elders, especially teachers, is paramount, the total recall vs. corporal punishment system worked wonders for more than two generations.
Then a decade ago some of our politicians visited the west with intent to study western educational system in hopes of duplicating their economic success. And these very politicians whose only claim to education was the riots they incited in schools and colleges across India to further their careers in politics, suddenly became self-professed experts. And, as is often the case with politicians, they returned jubilant and confident that superior intellect had allowed them to absorb, in their two week excursion, the secret of western prosperity and advances in the last three hundred years.
happy plants at the approaching winterThey saw the laid-back and informal attitude between western teachers and students but conveniently turned a blind eye to values of integrity and honesty deeply ingrained in western mind-sets. They didn’t see the lengths western teachers go to instill curiosity and wonder in the minds of their charges. The single defining quality of a western teacher is that he takes his responsibility very seriously. Many teachers here don’t attend a single class for years because there is no accountability. Once you manage to bribe and get a government job, you will draw a full salary for life whether you show up for work or not. Its much easier to hire someone to proxy your teaching for one-fourth of your salary. You keep the three-fourths and relax at home. Or do something else.
They saw the downplay of memorization skills and lack of book-based learning but they didn’t see investments on vocational applications enabling skilled workforce at a much early age. Our people didn’t see because that would mean that the public funds they so easily siphon off for personal projects would actually have to be utilized for developing practical infrastructure in schools and colleges.
I could go on with the differences but I’d run out of my word limit. The bottom line is that our politicians returned and implemented what they saw without thinking. The changes they implemented years ago have permeated through the current generation of India’s work-force, destroying them for all practical purposes. The students today know next to nothing, think literally nothing and expect the world to be handed to them on a silver platter. And in keeping with the Indian psyche – the politicians generally have the same mind-set as the people they represent – parents are willing to use any means necessary, by hook or crook, to get their children what ever they want at any price. No responsibility, no accountability and no liability.
That is what is destroying the coming generation.

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