I recently stumbled upon an article entitled: India’s education system is broken beyond fixing; we need to reimagine it entirely. It caught my attention as this is something close to my heart. The author refers to education as being a ‘terror outfit!’. It kills an average of 20 teenagers everyday due to academic pressure. For her the indian education system is nothing short of calamitous.
She retraces the origin of the education as we know it today and quotes an interesting excerpt of a TED talk that sums it all: “The schooling system as it is today goes back to 400 years of an empire’s colonisation and this empire needed three kinds of people: Soldiers to protect their land interest, clerks to run their offices and, after the industrial revolution, assembly line workers to make things. So for 400 years we produced millions and millions of people like them and what are the properties of those people? They should be able to understand instructions, follow them and most importantly, they should not ask questions and they should not be creative. Imagine if an assembly line worker started being creative! o produce millions of such people, what the empire basically needed was a system that kind of worked like a factory. You take raw materials, subject all of them to exactly the same processes and conditions and finally test them. The finished products that clear the test are ready to be sold and the remaining products are simply passed off as defects. The empire managed to build such a system and a very efficient one that: The schooling system.
And we have been nurturing this system for four centuries. This system is obsolete and cannot be fixed. It has to be re-imagined. In tomorrow’s world where AI will reign and robots proliferate, such products will be jobless. In India the number is staggering: 600 million in a scenario where 68% of the jobs will be sacrificed at the alter of automation.
Who will bell the cat, or will anyone bell the cat. Without sounding alarmist, it is imperative someone look at this in time.
The question remains as to whether we can ‘fix’ the system as we know it. First and foremost ne can of course try and ensure that the system as we know it works as in many ways it does not. Over the years the rot has set in and a system that once worked is now hijacked by the absurd race for marks. Maybe that is the first thing that should be addressed as it is also the cause of the many suicides we see. A couple of decades ago 60% was considered to be top of the scale. Today it is close to failure. I felt extremely disturbed when I heard a topper question why she did not get 100% in a particular subject as she has mugged the entire book by heart.
That is what we have let our education become: the art of rote learning. A child has to give up everything to mug books by heart. Our education system has hijacked everything that is the prerogative of a child: playing, singing, dancing, running, laughing, giggling, day-dreaming, having fun, being creative and above all being a person. It is time all this was reinstated.
Learning by rote is useless. Once you have regurgitated what you learnt at the given exam, you forget it all. Learning is about understanding, interpreting, reacting, giving your opinion and it is possible but is needs commitment and motivation from the teachers. I remember the question I had to answer way back in the sixties at my History exam for my Baccalauréat. It was an oral exam without any choice. The syllabus was World History from 1914 to present days. The question I got was the following: Had the Allies lost the war, what in your opinion would have been the economic situation today! There was no correct answer, you simply has to analyse what you hd learnt and give your opinion and defend it. Rote learning in this case would have got you nowhere.
This happened over half a century ago and I still remember the question and my answer. That is because we were made to comprehend what we were taught. Maybe the first step to take is to teach our children to understand what they are being taught. That would challenge every child’s independent thinking.
School curricula are being reviewed the world over. Finland seems to have got it right. Please watch this Michael Moore’s film!