Posts Tagged ‘Education System’

Education

How many times have you heard that education system in India sucks? If I only had a dollar for every time I hear that, I would be a rich man. To be fair, what the person is really trying to say is that the College education in India sucks. Evidence for a such a hypothesis is often the number of Colleges that rank at international level and the brain drain that often occurs to foreign, more so U.S. universities. Both those points are valid, because as many people have gone abroad to study. I coerced my parents to give up their life in India, move to U.S, for I didn’t think I could, or would, study in the field that I wanted to have a career in. It is a different matter altogether that I probably didn’t know as a 16 year-old what I really wanted to do.

If I were to go back in time, I would probably not change my decision, but I do feel that the future is not bleak. More importantly, India’s education system is not backwards as it is made out to be. And I don’t say this because I’m enamored by ‘The Argumentative Indian’. To qualitatively and quantatively measure the education system, we need to first define what really is India’s education system.

Too often, I feel, that a country’s education system is defined by the college system. The argument usually proposed is, that college graduates are the ones going into workforce, government, research and academia, so it is an appropriate measure of how good or bad the system is. Qualitatively, we segment these colleges and universities into top tier institutes like IIM-A, IIT, BITS and Roorkee, and then there are tier 2 institutes such as Symbiosis. And there is everything else.

I have two problems with how we classify our system and assess the college’s quality to churn out graduates at a record rate. First, the number of graduates that a university or a college churns out graduates is only a measure of how popular it is. Secondly, what makes a university good? IIT is the premier engineering institute in India because it’s the toughest college to get into. Hell, it might have the most toughest entrance exam in the world; A 14 year old acing the exam, not withstanding.

Engineering and Engineering math is complex and hard, so it is useful to have the sharpest minds coming to your campus. So, the M.O. has become, let’s have the toughest bloody exam, and choose the cremé dé la cremé. Nobody stops and asks where are these students coming? Does it matter if they are being taught well at the primary, secondary and high school level? Is the objective just to have a student who scores in 99th percentile in the entrance exam?

That, however, is about to change; for once, and this is usually a very rare situation, I applaud the government’s decision to re-structure how the IIT exam will be held. What this means is if you’re a XIIth standard student studying in any part of India: You first have to do extremely well in the boards, on top of that you have to do well in an aptitude test that among other things measure your communication skills. Only after you achieve distinction, will you be allowed to sit in the JEE.

Will this limit opportunities for talented students who aren’t quite as good at the aptitude test, but perhaps would have aced the JEE. Sure. But, to have an engineer who can do multi-variable calculus, Fourier transformation etc. is of no use if he or she doesn’t have the aptitude to reason or communicate. The entrance exam score should not measure the quality of a student graduating a college, but by how well does he or she display the aptitude. I haven seen many students, older than or same age as me, focus their energies on doing well in entrance examination, and not giving a rat’s ass about XII. What purpose does having a nationwide board examination serve, if your students are least interested in doing well in it? Discussing merits of XII and Xth boards are not germane to the point of this post.

Hopefully, this is one of many initiatives that the government takes to improve the real education system – a combination of college and school system. India’s school system is massively under-funded and under-staffed with good schools rarely present in rural areas. Even in urban areas, there’s a high price premium to pay if you want your son or daughter to attend a good school. And even if you have the money, the school system focuses on doing well in Xth or XIIth or sending most of their students to AIMS or IIT.

At this point not enough attention is paid to the communication skills, reasoning skills or general knowledge awareness of the students. Should most of the students not be aware of the what’s going on in the world, because his or her teacher is more interested in opening a coaching center. The foundation of a world-class education system exists in India. Ask any student in XI grade to calculate standard deviation of a statistical sample, and the calculator won’t come out. Rather, he will derive the solution, and not only that he’ll actually understand what the measurement really means. I hope the people who are responsible for the education system realize it, and give students more opportunities to develop overall. And maybe as that champion of creativity Sir Ken Robinson proposes, the government could even bring back the creativity in education.