- There seem to be two broad ways of discussing expectations from the present Indian education system. One way would be to talk about the expectations that one is LIKELY TO WITNESS given the principal structure and aspects of the present Indian education system and the other would be the expectations that one would LIKE TO WITNESS while working within the broad contours of the present Indian education system.
- (a) We all know the structure, by and large, of the Indian education system. It’s mostly a 10+2+3 system. After class X, one does +2 and then a graduation course of three years. Sometimes the graduation course can be of four years as introduced recently by Delhi University. After graduation, one can do Masters course of two years.
(b) What’s the chief characteristic of this Indian education system?
The chief characteristic, if you ask me, is the competitive examination system and the habits and personality it tends to generate and foster among the students concerned.
If a student wants to get admission in a good +2 course; then he or she is required to score as high as he or she possibly can in the final examination class X. Again, if the Indian student after +2 desires to get admission in good colleges; then again he or she has to strive for as high marks as possible in the final +2 examination. Or, if after +2; the student is striving to get admission in some recognised engineering or medical course; the student has to delve deep into the tricks of mastering competitive examinations.
(c) The Indian student therefore is compelled to be thoroughly exam oriented. Now, as we all know; examinations are of limited time durations – 2 to 3 hours – in which we have to answer a certain given number of questions. So time is limited and of critical importance. You can’t afford to spend too much time “thinking” in the examination hall. The pen is to be working most of the time if all the questions are to be completed. So the trick is to be adequately prepared with the types of questions or problems that one would face in the examination hall. This would mean “mugging up” a broad range of questions or problems expected to be faced in the examination; enabling thereby the speed and the success required to score as high as possible in a limited period of time.
(d) The successful students, therefore, in the Indian #education system are those who are good at “mugging up”. Of course, “mugging up” requires intelligence too. Intelligence helps the students select the better range of questions, study material, problems to mug up and helps the quickness of the very process of mugging up. But you can’t do without mugging up if you seek to achieve success in the competitive examinations at different levels of Indian education system. Study by rote, therefore, is the chief characteristic of the Indian education system.
(e) Students deriving from the present Indian education system therefore would tend to lack the ability to be original thinkers; because thinking is something which doesn’t pay, generally speaking, in the structure and merits of the present Indian education system. The thinking student tends to go through multiple textbooks on any subject matter that he or she finds interesting or puzzling and would tend to get deep, in the process or otherwise, in the subject matter; all of which is highly time-consuming. The competitive examination system which gives a limited span of time to prepare is therefore against the thinking student. On the other hand, the successful Indian student is one who has done well in the various competitive examinations that are present at different levels of our education system.
(f) So while we can expect the Indian education system to produce a large number of doctors, engineers, chartered accountants, business managers et cetera; a good number of these products of Indian education system shall have difficulty in doing original creative thinking or handling unexpected situations inasmuch as their education system has trained them – by way of skills required to achieve success in various competitive examinations – to rely on prior preparation of the range of expected situations/problems and to avoid in-depth or intense analysis of the subject matter.
No wonder the most respected textbooks in nearly all disciplines – whether it be the discipline of law or physics – are generally by foreign authors and not by those coming out of the Indian education system. Respected textbooks in any subject matter; besides providing information is also required to be analytic with original thoughts; – something in which the products of the Indian education system, as discussed, would generally find difficulty given as they are to habits – for the purposes of achieving success in competitive examinations – of learning by rote and general avoidance of in-depth, intense study.
Narayan Murthy of Infosys echoed somewhat similar thoughts when he said, about a couple of years back, that pass outs from Indian IITs generally do not do all that well at jobs or at institutions of higher learning abroad.
(g) So while we are LIKELY TO WITNESS, insofar as expectations from our present education system are concerned, a large number of doctors, engineers et cetera on one hand and disappointing numbers of original, creative thinkers on the other hand; we would definitely LIKE TO WITNESS larger numbers of creative, original thinkers or more individualistic personalities to emerge while working within the broad contours of the present education system. Our education system has to give encouragement to the thinking, research oriented student.
How can we do this on a practically feasible scale?
Personally, I would tend to think that a few changes within the present education system can help suitably encourage the research oriented, in-depth study minded student. The most important thing here would be to have the graduation courses structured towards the same. The graduation course, it would follow then, should be a single discipline course – preferably spread over four years – and structured in a way as to encourage projects, original writings, thinking and research, wherever possible. Higher education as such should be such as to be structured in favour of those who intend to go in for in-depth study and probe of the discipline of their choice.
At school level, extra-curricular activities, projects and like which are structured towards encouraging original efforts and thinking have to be given far greater importance both by way of time devoted to same as also in computing the final marks obtained by any student.
A critical area – if we have to have more of originally thinking or creative type of student – is the quality of the teachers themselves. A good teacher can make interesting a seemingly
dry subject whereas a bad teacher would render sterile subject matters which otherwise stand to be fertile. What we need to do here is to pay greater attention to the medium and the manner in which teachers are appointed or selected.
B.Ed. courses have to become one of the most important courses. Payment, emoluments and other facilities of teachers have to be made as attractive, if not the most attractive, as that of any other profession. Teachers at college level should not be appointed merely on the basis of academic qualifications or achievements. Group discussions and like, personality evaluations through latest scientific techniques should be a key feature of selection of teachers at all levels. A thinking teacher would tend to produce thinking students, as we have all experienced and known as students. Selection of teachers at all levels, therefore, necessarily should include techniques of evaluation of original thinking ability besides willingness and skill to share or communicate the same and teachers should be appointed only when reasonable proficiency is displayed and found in such evaluation.
- (a) Another aspect of the present Indian education system which is quickly becoming a matter of concern is the increasing commercialization of education in India.
The field of education has become an industry; with players coming in to reap profits as their primary aim. Overwhelming percentage of the expansion in the education network is by way of private players. Private schools generally speaking, charge heavily. But then, an increasingly large number of the relatively better systems of education at various levels, in India today, are private institutions. The result is that relatively better centres of education are increasingly getting out of reach of the common man.
So while we are LIKELY to expect the present Indian education system to become increasingly costly and the relatively better centres of Indian education to be increasingly out of reach of the common man; our expectations would LIKE the Indian education system to be such as to be in a position to provide quality education to Indian masses at large. If that is to be achieved; the Indian State has to play a very important DIRECT role in undertaking and providing education; something which is unfortunately being increasingly negated or ignored by the Indian governments.
- (a) Another aspect of the Indian education system that we are LIKELY TO WITNESS, insofar as expectations from the same are concerned, is the “wastage” it creates or produces.
(b) Though the overwhelming aim of most of the entrants, participants or products of Indian education system is to be able to achieve a worthwhile or respected career at the end of their education; a lot many, as is well-known, fail to do so. In that sense, the years spent, the money put in are largely wasted insofar as the primary aim, in overwhelming number of cases, to achieve a worthwhile career as a result of their education is concerned. The Indian education system has to deal with this issue.
(b) We would LIKE the Indian education system – insofar as our expectations from the same are concerned – to be such as to be as largely rewarding in terms of providing careers as possible. This can be achieved if vocational education, after class X or class XII level, is given the importance that is called for. After class X or class XII, many would prefer to branch off to vocational centres of training and learning provided the same are well-equipped and well-managed. An increasingly complex and diverse economy requires increasingly larger numbers of field specialists, technicians et cetera. Large numbers therefore instead of mechanically opting for graduation courses can now – deriving out of the increasing complexity and demand in the fields of commerce, service and industry – hope to have reasonably rewarding means of employment at the end of suitable vocational courses.
A strengthening of vocational education would also help lessen the weight on the mainstream education, especially higher education; preserving it largely thereby to those seeking in-depth study and research of disciplines of their choice.
- To the extent that the education system of a nation determines the quality of its human resources; the nature and manner of the education system is of greatest importance in so far as the development and progress of a nation is concerned. If India is to achieve greatness as a nation; it shall have to give foremost importance to its education system.