François Resoles, an eight year old kid cries, waiting for the school bus with his mother. Behind the chirping of his classmates, his mother tries to lure him by giving chocolates asking reason for his indifference towards school. He replies naively, “They teach me how to fly kite, how to swim….but they never teach me why kite flies or why we swim. I want to be an explorer mother. I want to learn why of things.” The bus arrives at the bus stop. His mother persuades him to go to school first. He enters the bus with moist yet shining eyes. The shine of those eyes geometrically decline with time.
After few years, the explorer inside Francois dies. His mother is happy though as he doesn’t cry while going to school.
The story of François Resoles raises the very basic question: Is our education system delivering??
The ultimate goal of education is definitely not earning money for sustenance of human life but holistic growth of human mind along with the positive externalities on the society. Education teaches us to apply the mind and come up with rational and humanitarian inferences which can then be put to make this earth a better place to live-in. The rationality is education should provoke us to contemplate and take decisions considering this whole universe a sustainable eco-system. Education is something more than schooling; it is something more than rote-learning. It should craft an explorer inside us just like François Resoles desired.
“I have never let my schooling affect my education” – Mark Twain
Obviously not everyone as a kid would be as mature as Twain. The onus directly rests on the guardians and the democratically elected government to shape the nascent and mouldable minds by showing the pristine path lighted by innovation, morality, truth and more importantly the constitutional principles of liberty, equality and fraternity enshrined by our fore-fathers.
Mahatma Jyotiba Phule and his wife Savitribai Phule realised the importance of education quite early when the nation was crippling economically as well as socially under the British Raj. Even an illiterate yet visionary woman like Savitribai Phule realised the importance of education. She proposed, an educated woman educates the whole family but an educated man generally walls his knowledge due to societal obligations and stressed on women education and hence empowerment. Right from William Bentick’s Education Act, 1835 to Right to Education, 2009, the education in our country has witnessed several paradigm shifts at conflation points mainly due to change in winds of global education and innovative policy making of government. Rajiv Gandhi’s IT revolution attuned India to Global educational world and the GDP of $1.9 trillion majorly rests on services sector today. What is essentially required throughout the history till this present day is immense will, efficacy of efforts, prudent policy making and thoughtful implementation taking into account the crude realities of India. The chronicles of events in the history have reiterated the lack of effective implantation sans innovation as major setback.
The deliverable or efficacy as discussed needs to be checked at various leak points. The much awaited ASER report unequivocally points at the positive aspects of increased spending on education like increase in enrolment, improvised library facilities & appreciation in teacher-pupil ratio. Also the report displays the bitter truths: Less than 50% of 5th standard students are unable to operate 2nd standard maths calculations and write & read with fluency. Apart from improvising the formal education, pragmatic education like financial literacy, social dealings and more importantly gender sensitization should be imbibed in naïve minds of children. For instance, our esteemed PM, Dr. Manmohan Singh stressed on the need of financial literacy for the ‘resilient elephant’ to continue its growth story. Financial literacy spurts in making future-citizens aware of the possible investments options, how-these-investments-work and thus make them finance-friendly. We must ‘catch-them-young’.
The amount of money invested in education is ostensibly not linearly proportional to outcomes as evident from the domestic milieu. The Economic Survey 2013 figures at less than 3% GDP spending on education, one of the most important social infrastructure which paves way for overall development of an individual. The socialist policies need to be efficiently implemented and the loopholes at various administrative execution points should be plugged. As the Keynesian economists point out, spending is not the sufficient condition but necessary condition for translating into social growth via means of health, social security measures and importantly health. Kothari commission report advises 6 % GDP spending on education, the rippling nature of which will bring in quality R&D programmes adding innovation in turn improvising the quality of lives of commoners. J.R.D Tata’s dream was to see a happy India first irrespective of being economic power; Education is that key to the ‘happiness conundrum’!!
The world famous ‘Fraunhoffer model’ of education propounded by the Germans to build the practical disconnects between the industries & education institutes are being mooted by the Indian government. The Apprenticeship Act purportedly fails to connect the apprenticeships with the institutes fearing intertwined laws & regulations. The exposure of a practical world asks for innovation and opens the world of exploring. Education built in with collaborated efforts of Public and private sector along with active role of industries and business houses will prove to potential gem in the present days of Macaulism.
The world class universities tag is not yet associated with Indian education institutes which have one of the toughest entrance examinations, incubating the brightest of Indian minds. The intelligent minds after entering the universities either stagnate due to too theoretical syllabi or bask in their glorious achievements. Firstly, more practical oriented teaching is the need of an hour. An IITian who went for masters in MIT was asked to sum up the difference between teaching methodologies of two elite institutions. He replied, “In India, they made me solve numerous problems on Stress-Strain relationship. But in MIT, they made me feel ‘concept of stress, strain’. I was able to comprehend things better.” Secondly, we need to sensitize the bright minds about the social predicaments India is facing today. The solution should come from within. The intelligentsia shouldn’t shirk their responsibilities lest it would be harmful for nation-building. Finally, adequate freedom must be provided in curriculum to learn various subjects of one’s choice. Most of the graduates from premier institutes like IITs, NITs etc. turn away from core field. We need to incubate this class.
Education should transcend all the porous boundaries of cast, religion, region and nation. An integrated and co-ordinated education would make dream of ‘Vasudaiv Kutumbam’ true. Terrorism, Violence, Regionalism and Communalism are nothing but offshoots of unbalanced development. The linkages could be stopped by empowering people with knowledge, by educating them. Victor Hugo once said, ‘By opening a school you close down a prison’; this adequately underscores the relation between education, knowledge and radicalisation, fundamentalism and more importantly, criminalization. Youth should be proactively engaged in constructive activities oriwise the bigot world would instil negative anti-social elements in the naïve minds. Parochial social thoughts like sex-discrimination, dowry, casteism etc. are liberated through a candle of knowledge.
The education system which isn’t delivering is worse than an education system which is trying to deliver the aspirations of children and hopes of mothers, yet failing. We have to plug in the loopholes, make the system accountable and transparent. An efficient education system is the one which caters to the needs of all the elements of the society considering economical frugality, social responsibility and quality of education. This gradual process has begun and it is time to give the nitrous boost.
In my dream meanwhile comes François Resoles a thirteen year old now. While he cycles down to his school these days, the energy used for pedalling cycle is paralleled with grinding grains which is attached in closed conduit in his back seat. He waves off goodbye to his mother. Her moist eyes made her feel all the more proud as her son gave a speech on ‘Unlearning & Learning’, youngest to do so in United Nations Assembly.
‘Education is not the filling of a pale,
But rather a fire that grows beyond control,
With flames that burn and reach high,
And contribute the pieces of your whole.’