Sunday, June 3, 2012

Day 155/366

Since I was a kid, I've always had a passion for learning; I am easily fascinated by things I don't know and I try and gather as much knowledge on a subject as I can if I'm even remotely interested. This was something that I picked up from my father, who was the one who got into the habit of reading newspapers every morning from a very early age. Even if I didn't know what a chief minister's official job was, I would know what he/she was upto by reading the same name in all the headlines in Telegraph and browsing through the articles. I'm not bragging but school was never really 'difficult' for me because I actually enjoyed the process of attending classes, taking notes and writing tests; this alongside sports and extra-curricular activities that I also took pleasure in participating in.

Today, our education system has changed beyond my recognition and I'm still trying to figure out why. There are children killing themselves in anticipation of bad results, there are parents booking a place for their kids in preschools as soon as they're born and there is this unnecessary pressure on everyone's head to be a topper. I'm not saying that it's okay to be mediocre but we are robbing generations of children of a carefree childhood thanks to today's system of learning. (And let's not forget the new trend of every ten-year-old wanting a Playstation or an iPhone or other such gizmo to show off to their friends.) Playing the blame game really isn't an option here because everyone will deny any accusation: parents just want 'the best for their son/daughter' without bothering to ask the kid if he/she even aspires to be an engineer or a doctor; kids are trying so hard to keep their parents happy that they forget to dream and speak up; the government lives off our money and fails to provide good education to those who need and deserve it a.k.a everybody!

Sure, you have the occasional changemaker like Teach For India which comes up and takes the nation by surprise. It is noble to give up 3 years of your life for the cause of education for all. But how many 'fellows' are there who are actually doing this for the right reasons? In my friends circle, I know people who are going to be taking part in the program. Some have a genuine interest in this. But that's a hasty generalization to make for the rest considering I also know of people who applied just because no other career option was working out and teaching seemed an 'easy enough' way of making Rs 16,000 a month.

The most obvious culprit for this level of competition being brought into a student's life is capitalism and globalization, which has allowed the privatization of the education sector. A parent is apparently rendered helpless to the changing times and has to urge their offspring to be the best because the child does not realize the implications for the future. Somewhere, there is truth in this. When I was studying in Rishi Valley, I was not really concerned about colleges and careers. (But it's not like I gave my mother a reason to complain since my studies went on well because I enjoyed the subjects.)I was blissfully oblivious of the tensions of the outside world and spent my evenings playing volleyball or secretly cooking Maggi or going and sitting on some hill and writing. But this post is being written because I know that it isn't the right ideology to blame and I'm not sure what is. In my sheltered education in boarding school, I lost out on feeling the pressure, which I probably would have had I continued in Calcutta. As a friend pointed out, 'policy paralysis is the issue with education in our country, not capitalism.' Quite true.

In Symbiosis, I had no chance but to start thinking about it. I know I paid more than was required for my college education. Other universities in India could have given me the same amount of knowledge. But my college overworked me! And forced me to use each of my vacations to do an internship. In other words, it prepared me for an industry (media) that is not kind. I got a firsthand experience of it before I joined it and it gave me the option of quitting before I can start. A lot of my colleagues have changed their career path because of this. I'm not one of them.

As of now, my stint with formal education is over unless I find a course that intrigues me and makes me want to take it up. In print journalism, there is only so much that one can study in theory. I can't wait to start working and learn on the job. If there is stress in my life, I know that I won't end my life over it. (Or at least I hope I don't) If I get killed for reporting the truth about some politician/don/corporate honcho, so be it. It's a pity to sit idle and not work if you've been well educated. My parents have invested in my education till now and it's time I return the favor. I hope others in my generation do too.


  1. I can totally relate to your angst against the dysfunctional education system in our country. But I disagree with your contention about capitalism being the cause for the dysfunction. The truth IMO, is exactly the opposite. Our socialist structures are anathemic to true capitalism & the version of capitalism we see in today's India is the worst form of crony-capitalism one can come across. Barun Mitra has done a great job of analysing the root causes of the decay in this article...

    Here's a concise policy note on how a liberalised education sector can bring about a sea change in education in India.

  2. May the print jounalism sow seeds of content for you.. It is all about returning the favour of our parents.. Changing career paths are part of a journey..Had not been for 'em , I guess we would have been alienated at soem weird place(just an opinion)...
    If it appeals yu so much, then come what may, give yur best and it shall take care of yu :)