Posted by AIF Staff

The present educational system in Indian cities is crumbling under its own weight. Far from helping the best to grow from within, children right from the beginning are crushed under the weight of information and given false values. All originality, independent thinking is almost completely forced out by the time school is finished. And then begins the round of college admissions. In Delhi alone, hundreds and thousands of students seek admission to colleges and only a small percentage gets into a decent college. The remaining, a few hundred thousand, are disappointed and frustrated and are ashamed of themselves for not getting the “right percentage of marks” for getting college admission. Then, masking their frustration and inferiority complex, they go around various “teaching shops” that provide them with computer courses and help them obtain degrees such as Bachelor of Computer Applications or Bachelor of Administration etc. from the so-called “Open Universities’ (since the real universities are ‘closed’ for them). So the deception goes on. The parents (many of whom use their lifetime savings to shell-out thousands of rupees in fees for such courses)hope that the child is learning “useful” skills that will get him/her a high-paying job. Some of these students do manage to get jobs in call centers that provide cheap labor to the Americans and Europeans who can sleep comfortably at night. Others continue to drift along not knowing what courses to do next. As a result, an average Indian young person is not educated even in elementary courses of languages, art or social sciences. What a colossal waste of energies of millions of young people in India!

Is this what education is supposed to be about? This is not what is happening even in the West (which we think we are copying). Unlike in India, a very small percentage of school pass-outs go for college education in USA. This is partly because college education is quite expensive and an average American parent does not provide financial support for his/her children’s college education. The result is that the universities are not overwhelmed by large numbers and most students find a college that they deserve. Education generally is more comprehensive and includes some courses on languages/literature and art/psychology/sociology/economics. However, even in the US universities the focus of education is to prepare students for a career that provides a position and money.

What is it that can be done to save millions of young people caught in an educational trap? The answer will depend on our understanding of the ills of the present system. It should be understood that the present crisis in higher education in Indian cities is a crisis of values. Modern-day parents are more concerned about the careers and money-making potential of their children than about their acquiring any knowledge or values. The emphasis is on which course of study will give “maximum” returns in terms of income for the ward and not on what the child will learn. For parents and students alike, the “objective” of life is to acquire as much of “welfare” from goods and services as is possible. Happiness is supposed to come from success in life. Success is considered synonymous with having good life which includes cars, disco, cinema and girl/boy friends.

For the last hundred years or so mankind has been suffering from a disease which seems to be spreading more and more and which has reached a climax in our times; it is what we may call “utilitarianism”. People and things, circumstances and activities seem to be viewed and appreciated exclusively from this angle. Nothing has any value unless it is useful.

Of course it goes without saying that what is useful is better than what is not – but useful for what. Usefulness is generally considered that which brings more material prosperity rather than that which brings real happiness. The values of caring and sharing have given way to a thinking of “me first”. The current Mantra, perhaps borrowed from the West, seems to be “What is in it for me?”. If we continue like this, a day will come when we will all have fast life, cars, houses but no real happiness. We will all be running after material goods and services that can never provide true happiness or contentment. No cosmetic changes will improve the education system. What is required is a total transformation of the education system.

Parents in India, as elsewhere, have a tremendous responsibility for cultivating and encouraging the right values of life among their children. …

To be Continued…

Republished from Resurgent India - with permissions. Some content has been edited

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