By Gaurav Sharma
Education is a multi-faceted process that encompasses a wide array of disciplines such as transfer of knowledge, learning values, ideas and other life enhancing skills. While these life-enhancing skills involve an inextricable element of survival, viz-a-viz creation of employable assets, this is not the only purpose that they should serve.
In this regard, Albert Einstein, the Nobel-prize winning physicist known for his intelligence acumen, realized something very profound: imagination is more powerful than knowledge.
Talking about India
Yet, the current education system in India is completely anti-imaginative, thoroughly infused with knowledge prioritizing rote-learning. It rewards memorizing of hard and bulky facts with little or no emphasis on critical analysis of the information that is given to students. The inadequacy of such a short-sighted education system, however, does not take much time to reveal its ugly face.
As the student cum prospective employee steps into the professional arena, he soon realizes how amateur he is and has to undergo the tedious process of ‘job-training’.
So, what is wrong with the Indian education system and the way it is run presently?
First and foremost, the education structure is highly rigid, both in terms of the curriculum and the manner of teaching.
Those possessing an independent, questioning and free-thinking mind are castigated as ‘out-of-touch-with-reality’ lunatics. Such presumptions inhibit the sprouting up of the natural artistic talent that might be embedded deep inside the heart of a sparkling child.
Critical inquiry, which is a crucial fulcrum of education in any field, is also looked down upon. This essentially means that logical and analytical thinking, which are essential aspects in the formation of a well-rounded personality, are entirely missing from the purview of our school set-up.
The consequence of such a warped system of educational ideals is reflected in the high dropout rates at the school level and low attendance record at the undergraduate plank.
Higher education in India
While institutes of higher education, such as IITs, IIMs, JNU etc routinely figure among the top places to study in the world, only a few manage to earn their place in such prestigious universities.
Six decades after gaining independence, barely 6-7 per cent of the Indian citizenry goes to centers for higher education or universities at the right age. The United States, on the other hand, boasts more than 60 per cent participation in the tertiary education segment.
To add to the educational woes, the abysmal shortage of higher education institutes is hardly given its due importance by the government. The lax attitude of our ministers is quite apparent when a miserly 3 per cent of the total budget is allocated towards education by the department under their wing.
School system in India
At the primary and secondary level, the government is the major provider of education with more than 70 per cent of the schools being run under its direction.
The facilities in the state run schools are in a dismal condition; lack of safe drinking water and unhygienic lavatory systems being the defining features of their infrastructural structure.
The shoddy state of affairs in the public schools is not just limited to infrastructure facilities. The teacher-pupil ratio stands at an awful ratio of 1:37. The general practice of citing health concerns to mark their leave of absence further amplifies the apathy with which the school children in public schools are treated.
Of Modi government and education
Prime Minister Narendra Modi with an eye towards capturing a higher growth rate, is working on taking forward the UPA government’s plan of establishing 8 IITs, 7 IIMs and 30 Central Universities.
While such an ambitious target is certainly awe-inspiring, one wonders if such a strategy is an appropriate anodyne for lifting more than a billion poor people from the vicious circle of illiteracy and unemployment.
At a deeper level, the growth measure by Prime Minister Modi involves a basic yet serious flaw.
Advocating more Central Universities and making dramatic changes in the higher echelons of education by overlooking the quality of education at the school level is like building a grand castle on shifting sand. It is only a matter of time before the castle collapses.
First precipitate, now solution
A serious revamp of any system, including educational setup, should start with the foundation. If Modi honestly intends to overhaul the education system in India, he should first and foremost lay down a firm footing for the child, to smoothly and gradually traverse the rungs of higher education.
Equally important is the need to allocate a higher budget for establishing more schools, training teachers, introducing better facilities such as libraries and laboratories, along with the propagation of the benefits of education.
Another problem that needs to be nipped in the bud is the seething number of private unaccredited institutions offering dubious degrees that have arisen due to the slack regulatory environment prevailing within the country. This can be arrested by ensuring transparency through the introduction of strict data disclosure policies for the institutions to adhere to.
It is high time that the HRD ministry under the aegis of the Modi government takes a long, hard look at the pathetic state of affairs in the education sector and initiates concrete and long-lasting steps to reverse the awry trend.