Friday April 19, 2019

The real goal of education is man-making, not rat-race

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By Nithin Sridhar

Rajasthan’s promising city of Kota, which has emerged in the past decade as one of the most prominent destination for education and for coaching children who are preparing for competitive examinations, may shortly end up being tagged as ‘city of suicides’.

With the suicide of a 14-year old boy who was in Kota studying in class IX and enrolled for science coaching classes, the number of students in the city who chose to take their lives this year reached 30. Most of these suicides are due to a combination of stress, pressure from parents and teachers, separation anxiety, and depression. The increasing number of suicides, though scary, is merely an outer manifestation of the deeper problem.

Education, as it has become manifest in the present times, is merely a tool to gain a sound and financially secure future. Though financial security is a necessity of life, it cannot be an end goal of education. The end goal of education is man-making i.e. material, intellectual, and spiritual development of an individual. Mahatma Gandhi had written (in Harijan, 22-6-1940): Man is neither mere intellect, nor the gross animal body, nor the heart or soul alone. A proper and harmonious combination of all the three is required for making of the whole man and constitutes the true economics of education.

The Gurukula system of ancient India was designed such that each student was allowed to transform himself into a man of learning, discrimination (between right and wrong), courage, and rooted in ethics, in addition to learning the knowledge and skills required to lead a prosperous life.

On the other hand, the modern education system, which traces its roots to the secularized education system of the British, successfully uprooted education from all its elements of man-making and has reduced education to a mere exercise in gaining ‘literacy.’ As a result, though children are learning math and science, they are not being trained in ethical and spiritual values that would equip them to tackle the challenges of the outer world, including handling pressure, anxiety, depressions, etc.

The system of education has more or less turned into a rat race for securing seats in the best colleges so that they may become placed in the best companies when they pass out of their graduate courses. This is demonstrated by the fact that for around 10,000 IIT seats, over 13 lakhs people compete with each other. This is not to suggest that children should not strive to get into the best colleges, nor that the simple opening of more quality engineering colleges will solve the problem. This heavy competition, which has more or less has turned into a rat race, has placed children under tremendous pressure to deliver. This pressure from teachers, parents, and peers in turn results in enormous stress and depression. The ideal goal of education is to make students blossom and never to force them into a do or die situation. Thus, Swami Vivekananda defines education as the manifestation of the perfection already in man.”

The blame for turning education into a rat-race and putting children under intense pressure lies not only with the secularized system but also with the parents and teachers who often impress upon their children that landing up at particularly high paying job is the end of education. The issue is further complicated by the fact that streams like arts and pure sciences do not hold an attraction for the students due to the fact there is not much scope for employment.

Just a hundred years back, the arts stream had immense respect among the public. But today, especially in South India, the arts have come to be perceived as an option only for those who fail to secure engineering, medicine, or pure science streams. This is in contrast to countries like the US where the arts and pure science departments are flourishing.

It is high time that the central and state governments took notice of the condition of science and arts streams and take steps to make them attractive, employable and respectable options for children. More importantly, there should be long-term efforts to slowly drive education towards man-making, so that this rat-race put to an end. The spiritual and ethical elements must be reintroduced into the education system and the parents, teachers, as well as children should all be sensitized towards the real goals of education.

  • Rakesh Manchanda

    Good sketch of this Rat Race industry hub in Kota where the stressful selection and training is to become a high figure EARNER and not a good team player in holistic growth of all stakeholders.

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  • Rakesh Manchanda

    Good sketch of this Rat Race industry hub in Kota where the stressful selection and training is to become a high figure EARNER and not a good team player in holistic growth of all stakeholders.

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Reducing Gender Inequalities in Education Sector Would Better Outcomes in Future

As for improvements on other fronts, the water and sanitation sector, for instance, faces a significant shortage of qualified professionals. While the importance of involving both men and women in management of water and sanitation facilities has for long been recognised globally, mostly men are still seen as the primary decision makers.

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Another sector where the share of professionals possessing AI skills is high is education, accounting for about 19 per cent of the total workforce - of which women account for just one-third of the male talent pool. However, education is also one of the few sectors where the number of women working are greater than the men. Pixabay

The benefits of diversity in the workforce are known to give companies a competitive edge and this, in turn, enables higher growth. A 2018 McKinsey & Company Report, “Delivering through Diversity”, found out that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on their executive teams were 21 per cent more likely to experience financial returns above their national industry means than the companies in the fourth quartile.

While the research findings point towards positive correlation between financial performance and greater inclusion of women in leadership roles, it is essential to address the issue of gender disparity in education as this sector helps in developing professional capacities in both men and women.

As the world moves closer to covering the gender gap in education, with only 5 per cent of the gap remaining, one of the issues which mask under gender parity in education is the lower participation of both men and women which is preventing the world from fully utilising the human capital.

The Global Gender Gap Report, 2018 (WEF, 2018) points out that globally, there were on average 65 per cent girls and 66 per cent boys who were enrolled in secondary education and only about 39 per cent girls and 34 per cent boys who were participating in tertiary education. Thus, the gender gaps cannot be completely closed until the participation increases in education at all levels.

Further, to the issue of the lower overall participation, particularly in the tertiary sector, is the fact that although there are more females graduating than males globally, when it comes to the skills for the lucrative jobs, women tend to lag behind men.

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While the research findings point towards positive correlation between financial performance and greater inclusion of women in leadership roles, it is essential to address the issue of gender disparity in education as this sector helps in developing professional capacities in both men and women. Pixabay

According to the Global Education Monitoring Report Gender Review (UNESCO, 2018), in countries such as Chile, Ghana and Switzerland, women account for less than one-quarter of all STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) degrees. Among the South Asian countries, India has about 42 per cent tertiary graduate females pursuing a STEM programme, which is much higher than many developed countries. The only few countries where the majority of STEM graduates are females are Algeria, Tunisia and Albania.

In the era of the 4th Industrial Revolution, when the in-demand skills in the job market include Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning, these gender gaps in STEM studies, if left unchecked, will broaden gender disparities across the industries. Currently, there is a significant gender gap among the AI professionals, with only about 22 per cent of them being female and 78 per cent being male. Regional analysis across the globe reveals that the top three countries where AI talent is the most prominent are United States, India and Germany – along with a significant gender gap in AI skills biased against women (WEF, 2018).

Industry-level workforce data for the gender gap indicates that the top three sectors where the proportion of men is much greater than women are manufacturing, energy and mining sector and software and IT services. Out of these, the third sector employs about 40 per cent of the AI professionals in total workforce, with women accounting for just 7.4 per cent of the AI talent pool. The other two sectors have a very low percentage of AI-skilled workforce.

Another sector where the share of professionals possessing AI skills is high is education, accounting for about 19 per cent of the total workforce – of which women account for just one-third of the male talent pool. However, education is also one of the few sectors where the number of women working are greater than the men.

If the current trend of male domination in STEM disciplines at the college level or in acquiring emerging skills at the workplace continues unabated, it can lead to wider gender disparities across industries due to the rising demand for the AI skills, irrespective of being a traditionally male or a traditionally female oriented sector.

Efforts towards achieving gender parity in education beyond enrolments, to take account of equality in choosing skills which are a gateway to employment opportunities, will help in creating a gender-equal workforce in the future and greater financial gains.

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Wider gender disparities across industries due to the rising demand for the AI skills, irrespective of being a traditionally male or a traditionally female oriented sector. Pixabay

Addressing the gender disparity issue in education not just results in financial improvements for businesses, and greater growth, but also helps in achieving better development outcomes.

For instance, in the health sector, there is a global shortage of 17.4 million healthcare workers, including 2.6 million doctors, 9 million nurses and midwives (WHO, 2016). While women form the majority of the sector’s workforce, they are primarily clustered in the lower-level positions, with senior positions being held by men.

Efforts to attract more males to nursing courses and elevating the status of care related work can help to break the feminisation of the nursing profession and address the shortage of workforce to some extent. For women to move up to senior positions amidst the rapidly digitising technology, efforts towards reskilling them can close the gender gaps in senior positions.

Also Read: To Provide Internet Connectivity in Areas With Inadequate Infrastructure, Facebook Project Uses Drones

As for improvements on other fronts, the water and sanitation sector, for instance, faces a significant shortage of qualified professionals. While the importance of involving both men and women in management of water and sanitation facilities has for long been recognised globally, mostly men are still seen as the primary decision makers.

Thus, alleviating gender inequalities in education can bring out more qualified female professionals in the decision-making roles. (IANS)