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Youth Column - India's Education System

Rithwik Jallepalli

Is the educational system in India catering to the overall development of a student or only the scholastic development? How important is it to bring about this balance in education?

India was once a land where knowledge and wisdom were delivered as a perfect blend of practical expertise and theoretical prudence. This was the era of the ‘Gurukuls’, an era when the future of this land lay secure in the trustworthy hands of its prized education system.

However, today’s India is quite different from what existed a few hundred years ago. From the days of the British raj, our education system, along with almost every aspect of India and Indian life, has been radically modified. Today the system focuses on either getting bread and butter to the table or squeezing out good grades at the cost of virtually anything. The reasons for this drastic change are many: The greater need for economic security of every individual in a country as vast as India, given its large population and thus the obvious competition that this large population faces and the notion that education only means learning of lessons to clear exams and treatment of extra-curricular or non-curricular activities to be a deviation are some of the major reasons that have contributed to this rather undesirable modification.

Thus the major institutions/organizations delivering education to the masses in India have adopted a policy of primarily focusing on the scholastic development of a student and in this process have not only minimized but in many cases have neglected the aspects of overall development. Furthermore, many such institutions portray the concept of overall development as something too superficial and insignificant to be made a part of the education system. However, there are a few schools and institutes where this aspect is given its due importance, but these generally seem to be out of reach of most average people, due to staggering fee structures and the pervasive perception that these schools do not deliver as well as their ‘overall development friendly’ counterpart schools.

Sadly, the major part of the country still remains away from schools. Less than fifteen percent of Indian children attend high school and just seven percent of this group manages to graduate. These figures speak volumes about how exclusive and inaccessible education is to the common man in India. This instills a realization into the minds of all those who are fortunate enough to be blessed with access to education that they must make the best of it. The parents of such students want to see their children excel in every subject of study using grades, ranking, percentages or percentiles. Thus we see that there is an incessant race for greater performance in the scholastic aspect of every student.

There is nothing wrong in working relentlessly towards improving the efficiency of a student in terms of grades, but this has begun to overshadow the basic definition of a good education, an education that enables its students to have an active mind and an innovative perspective towards life, thus allowing them to grow into mentally and physically healthy human beings who can be a positive contributing factor to the society. The primary and secondary levels of schooling can be done as private schooling or government-run schools. However, neither of these systems delivers the required results. The government schools, on one hand, have appalling infrastructure and in recent days have been mired by malpractice and corruption with respect to funds and ill-treatment of students. The private schools, on the other hand, have adopted all sorts of unscrupulous ways to profit from the lucrative education industry. The key to gaining high profits in the education industry is by making a brand name for the institute, and the quickest and most effective way is by dispensing good ranks and grades in the competitive entrance exams as well as the annual exams conducted in the particular state or region. This is achieved by senselessly pressurizing and burdening the students on the academic front and minimizing or completely terminating the extra and non-curricular activities of the student.

When it comes to education in the higher secondary section of schooling in India, the situation can be best described as an educational ‘concentration camp’, in which coaching centers’ sole objective is to prepare the students to clear their way through the grueling and never-ending list of entrance exams. Sadly for most students, it is only once they enter into universities and professional colleges that for the first time ever do they experience the true meaning of ‘overall development’. However, the high quality of overall education is available only at the premier institutes, to which only a handful have the opportunity to access. Disappointingly, even premier institutes such as the IITs haven’t made any significant contribution to the core scientific research or any major innovation, further exposing the students’ inability to practically apply the minute intricacies of the vast theory that they are made to cram during the years of education. India’s education system has been called an ‘examination system and not an education system’ by Mr. C.M.N Rao. The ‘Business Week’ designated the Indian curriculum to be revolving around rote learning and the ‘Express India’ suggests that Indian students focus on cramming. These are the ideas that further reinforce the fact that India’s education system primarily focuses on the scholastic development and not the overall development of a student.

It is noteworthy that the consequences of this kind of an education pattern are potentially hazardous. The need for overall development is two-fold; it is required for the healthy development and living of a man as a responsible and valuable citizen of a society as well as career development. The thinking process of a student is consolidated during his adolescent years; this is also the time the student is either put through rigorous tutorials with little or no deviation or he is expected to be a factotum and manage well at all fronts. In this process he finally finds himself in a position of extreme physical fatigue and mental breakdown of morale and confidence. This impacts the thinking of most students who develop an aversion towards education and lose excitement.

The persistent lack of outdoor activity also changes his perception about almost every aspect of life. The carefree early morning walk, running alongside deserted beaches, aimlessly throwing pebbles into still lakes are the kind of little pleasures that remain unheard of to the teeming millions of such students. Thus, as an individual they may develop an indifferent attitude towards nature and society at large, thus remaining cocooned in their own space. Alternately, there may be individuals who go into overdrive and begin to experiment with anything and everything, which may be damaging to both their career as well as society.  The child’s psychology may also be adversely affected. In the recent past there has been a rapid rise in the number of individuals below the age of 15 taking psychiatric consultations, of which a large portion are overstressed and study-burdened students. The present education system is turning fresh young minds into cramming machines that are overloaded with multitasking.

Although India is highly appreciated for its IITs and IIMs, which provide some of the highest standards of quality education, the vast majority of Indian youth stay unemployed, as very few gain access to this prized education while the remaining people are left to scrape out whatever best possible alternative they possibly can. However, even several degree-holding individuals do not land themselves a job because of the lack of overall development, exposure, real world experience or skill. The main cause of such a pitiable situation is the lack of a substantial number of able vocational training institutes, which can impart actual field knowledge through participation and affectively modify the personality and develop the individual to make him job ready. Arguably, a country of IITs and IIMs may not want to complain about deficiency of technically innovative minds, but as we see today, the larger share of most of these students pass out only to be quickly placed into a multi-national company or to migrate to a more lucrative foreign setting. Thus the contribution of these institutes has been continually diminishing in regard to the technical research and innovation that they provide for India’s growth and development.

Knowledge is a mother that sees no difference with the rich or poor, nourishing equally to all who seek her blessing. It is her invincible strength that we seek through education. Given the inevitable need for quality education along with grooming the overall personality and character of an individual, it is high time we had a look at the prevailing system of education in India and make the necessary modifications in order to encompass both the new age demands and the old world culture to give a holistic outlook to our education system. It is the duty of each and every individual to protect and enhance the education system, as this is truly the guiding beacon of knowledge, through which the economic and social prosperity of the country as a whole can be secured.

- Rithwik Jallepalli.




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