Meet the Indian Education System

What is education?
1. the act or process of imparting or acquiring general knowledge, developing the powers of reasoning and judgment, and generally of preparing oneself or others intellectually for mature life.

2. the act or process of imparting or acquiring particular knowledge or skills, as for a profession.
3. a degree, level, or kind of schooling: a university education.
4. the result produced by instruction, training, or study: to show one’s education.
5. the science or art of teaching; pedagogics.
When I was younger, naive and unaware of things, I believed that education was about the first two items. About answering questions, the most basic ones, like why the sky is blue, or how computers work. My father always gave me the best answer: find out yourself. I sometimes did that, and learnt a lot.

I moved to India in 2000, after living in the U.S. for 5 years. I don’t remember much of my schooling in the U.S. apart from recess and nap time (not the most educational parts of the day). I stayed in Hyderabad for four years after that and I vaguely remember bits and pieces of it, bits that give me the memory of it being a fun place. When I moved from Hyderabad to Chennai, however, I clearly remember my schooling in vivid detail, for the last 8 years.

Meet the Indian Education System. But how can you meet something without knowing what it looks like? Well then, imagine a huge machine. Remember the huge network of machinery you saw in The Matrix, when Neo enters the real world like a baby in a womb? Imagine that network of machinery to be the IES, and the wombs as the students within the system. That sounds like a fairly accurate description of the IES. Meet it.

The IES is a machine that grabs hold of the young early on, snatches them from the Land of Innocence and Curiosity and thrusts them into the Maze of Ignorance and Sloth. It’s a dangerous vice that strangles imagination out of fertile minds. I was lucky to have got through this maze, escaped this machine, dodged this vice. Many of my friends however, are not so lucky. They do not dare to dream anymore, they are limited by themselves.

It starts pretty early. Teachers do not teach anything, they use the textbook as a way of telling students how to do well in their exams. That’s all that matters in the IES: marks and grades and statistics. Quantitative information, nothing qualitative. If you ask any Indian high school graduate anything about what they’ve learnt, chances are they won’t be able to answer correctly. The mind turns into a sieve, holding information temporarily until the exam is over. I myself have asked my teachers why we study a certain lesson, and they say it’s for the exam.

Why do we have exams? I used to think it was to test one’s knowledge, but that ideology has devolved into something much more harmful: exams kill one’s curiosity and make one permanently ignorant. You might ask why this is a bad thing. What if Einstein or Edison was a part of the IES? They wouldn’t have had any original thought. They wouldn’t have understood that the world is infinite and that imagination breaks all boundaries. When we grow up and have careers, will we contribute to original thought, to creating something, to inventing something? I don’t think so, because we have not been nurtured in that way. When you worry about your marks, you can’t focus on expanding your knowledge.

And this becomes a cycle. If one’s parents were part of the IES, one would not have been encouraged to discover new things. And one would do the same to one’s children. And so on.

Books are a huge source of information, but so many of my friends don’t read. They say that they can’t concentrate, that it’s too boring. That’s what happens when you’re in the IES. You might think not reading books is nothing important, that you’ll be the same as someone who does read. The truth is that you’re not, no matter how much you try to be. I think that books are a HUGE source of information and imagination. There’s only so much you can imagine on your own. Books are avenues into the unknown, into making discoveries in a variety of subjects: the philosophical, the scientific and the artistic. Through the stories they tell, they also teach you many things.

The media that is available to people today provides data at alarmingly fast speeds: television, movies, and games offer entertainment at the cost of reducing our attention spans. This is why we feel restless when we spend time with our families at dinner or try to read something educational, or for that matter, watch Animal Planet. Slowly, maybe at a genetic level, we are living our lives at a fast pace and we’ve lost the brakes.

What’s the solution to changing the IES? Make the teachers love what they’re doing, make them expand the scope of the syllabus. Ban all textbooks and move the medium of learning to electronic devices like smartphones and tablets because those are the devices that children start learning to use from an early age. Remove the whole notion that exams are everything because they are not.

But what is most important is that children should know that the world is an exciting place filled with amazing things and that life is merely gathering knowledge until you die.

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