When Education Begins To Sound Synonymous With Tomfoolery

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I’m a 19-year-old college-going teenager and I’m not any typical one. I’m at the peak of my educational life; or that’s how I feel. A college student needs a good amount of dedication towards learning and making his education worth the effort. Because, it’s these actions that mostly dictate their future. Of course, college education does not necessarily have to make your life awesome. But since, most of us lack (or don’t bother to wake up) that piece of mind which made Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg what they are today, we’ll have to walk through the same dirty gangway that most of the others amongst us choose; it’s the only option we have, mostly.

I hate the way people think going to school/college makes one smart and respectable. Well, what can I say? Roughly 700,000 students graduate from engineering all over India every year. That’s right, seven lakh engineers with wrong mindsets are produced every year in India and not all are software/computer engineers who work for the IT industry, majority of all kinds of engineering graduates end up working for the IT sector inevitably and eventually. Certainly doesn’t motivate me to respect them for sheep-herding their way with the crowd.

As a matter of fact, I myself aspire to be an engineer, although, I now feel ashamed to call myself a wannabe engineer. I’ll just say I want to be a classy artist who wants to make people’s life easy to live– if you’re not a part of the herd, you’ll understand what I just said.

In India, a typical teenager entering college is allowed to exploreonly a handful of options out of a few tens of others available. The reason for this is usually his/her family forcing them into choosing something or being wrongly motivated by the the trend in the society. Wait, there a trend in education? Apparently, yes, sheep herding hasn’t died yet and it’s unlikely that it will. The current trendy options are #1 Engineering, #2 Medicine, #3 Law and #4 B.Com or BBM. The rest everything else is seen as courses for the less-smarter ones. I mean, in this country students choose/are made to choose their careers based on how capable they are at scoring marks; the hierarchy of education goes something like this, Good marks= science, average marks= commerce/Basic sciences and below average marks= arts. How much more ridiculous can it be? More! Much much more ridiculous! There is no limit to how stupid people can be.

Sometimes, when I think of how wrong our education system is, my rage-finder suggests I drill a hole through every misleading teacher’s, every imposing parent’s head and funnel down some real meaning of education into there half-dead brain coils. And then I calm myself down with the fact that I can’t help obsessed and ignorant minds.

Before I start saying anything more about the system that millions of students rely on to help them make a future, let’s understand what education really means. Dictionary.com says it’s 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.

Although, the above mentioned definition totally contradicts the motives of today’s education system, I don’t rule out the possibility that the existing system can/does impart some knowledge. But, do we get that quality education for all our efforts and investments? I don’t think so. Take me for example, I spent 40,000 INR for 3 years (24 months, to be precise) and set aside approximately 6-8 hours a day, 6 days a week just for college; let alone the time I spend to backup my life from the gutter these colleges push me into. Am I learning enough to make my investment count? Of course, NO! In 8 hours of college, I probably learn 30 mins worth of something that I have to again teach myself at home to understand fully and correctly. Sometimes, I feel so stupid when I think about it; but I can’t help my sorry soul beat this system to a victory that’s going to revolutionize the implementation of education. I don’t know if it’s too late or if I simply choose not to bother about it because I don’t have enough life juice to spare it for correcting other people’s mistakes. I do make an attempt to correct my teachers when they’re wrong and I invite some insults which I don’t deserve; I do it anyway.
It is definitely not simple to clean out the system to get rid of all the life sucking bugs that make it so ineffective and inefficient. You can try and I can try, but, we can make it happen!

I have already mentioned what education means. So now I will try sum up a few common misconceptions and irresponsible actions leading to all this mess. I can’t begin to describe our education system without including words that are synonymous with douchbaggery, idiocy, ignorance, etc. But, I will try.

1) Inclination towards high scores/marks — the little known fact is that most schools/colleges don’t really care if you learn anything at all. I mean, why should they? When all the preferences are given to good marks and when students score well, the parents are happy, the near society around them is happy, the employers are satisfied and this is everything the student wants/wanted. Who wants to even learn stuff when you can pull off an all-nighter before the exam and get done with it? I do, because I want to.

2) Inefficient college/school syllabi and curriculum — like I mentioned in the above point, most school/colleges don’t really care about anything that doesn’t help them earn a name in the highly competitive market for selling their B.S products in the name of education. The preferences are usually towards book, sports and sometimes performing arts, because it’s only these that can heighten the institution’s market value if the student excels; or so they think. Everything else is simply drained down the sinkhole leading to the river of creativity-and-curiosity-gone-waste.

3) Depreciating critical thinking and students’ special interests — how many institutions recognize their students’ interests? Not many, as far as I know. Also, students aren’t taught to think, they aren’t given opportunities to think for themselves. This deprives them from strengthen their ability to make decisions, judgements and learn from everything and anything. Simply put it, they drain the life-juice out of these young souls and make puppets out of them to score marks in exams and play them as they’re expected to.

4) under-qualified teachers — personally, I have a ton of things to share about inexperienced naive teachers who teach/have taught me, but, I will go on with it for weeks and months if I start talking about them. One of my school teachers once said, a good student learns a lot from a bad teacher than a bad student learns from a good teacher. Now, after years, I’d like to ask something; I know who a bad teacher is/can be, but, who is a bad student? How do you judge a student to be bad? As Albert Einstein said, if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it’ll live its whole life thinking it’s stupid.
Back to teachers, people who call themselves teachers and take up such a profession should either be passionate abut what they do and serve for the real purpose of educating others, or choose a different profession and spare other people’s life from being crushed because of their stupidity and idiocy. Period.
Let alone teachers being capable of answering every curious student’s silly or complex questions; At least, teachers should complete a mandatory teaching course to be fit to take up a job. Most of my teachers don’t know how to teach. There’s a huge difference between teaching a concept to make someone understand its guts and reading out one in front of a class full of students.

5) Fail to mention the purpose and application — this largely applies to schools where students think studying is the most undesirable thing to do. I don’t blame the students for thinking so, though. I was an average student back in school, maybe even average is too much to say. I failed 3 out of 5 math tests, wasn’t any brighter than the blackboard, least enthusiastic, disinterested in the rest of the world around me. I’m glad at least my classmates and teachers knew a guy named Anjan Babu was hiding somewhere in the gloomy corners of the classroom. Why I was like that is something I thought for a long time until now, I cannot answer it without blaming somebody, if not everybody. But, on a gross view, the usually suspect to a student’s underperformance is directly related to how interested he is in what he’s studying. Naturally, you, I or anybody would feel disinterested to do something without a purpose. Who wants to work hard on something if they’re not sure how it will pay them back, unless we’re emotionless machines? Enlightening students about how their education helps and makes life easy should effectively eliminate a bit of disinterest in a student.

6) Lack of interaction in classrooms — this is something similar to the above mentioned points. I sometimes wonder if classrooms are what they’re meant to be or if they’re secret dumb asylums. Teachings are mostly one dimensional, where the teacher does all the talking while the students sit it around drooling in boredom or nursing their drowsiness, after the hour long speaking session, there appears a faint question any questions?, to which the students don’t really react. How can they? No-one has the courage to tell the teacher go get a life. Sadly, I’m awaiting that moment, but, it never really happens to me; my teachers don’t bother to ask. Psst.

7) Misleading private tutorials — These relatively small institutions cost about the same as a college. Yet, they serve for only a couple of hours, must be big money flowing there. Mostly popular for assistnig students in cracking major examination/tests. Especially dealing with entrance exams. My rage against the idea of cracking exams/tests multiplies evertime I hear someone say that. The purpose of an exam/test is to judge the legitimacy, genuineness and quality of a student’s knowledge. Helping students crack exams is not the brightest idea; it’s like teaching them to rob a bank instead of getting a job. Even parents firmly adhere to believe that entrance exams cannot be dealt with if thier children are not trained by the elite tutorials in town. Overall, these tutorial centers are just another pathetic excuse to make money in the name of academic assistance. They maybe small, but, challenges every other institute in practicing B.S.

8) Encouraging the use of question banks — this has it’s roots in the above mentioned point. Question banks claim to help students crack exams or do something just as scandalous. I don’t know how much they help in scoring marks in exams, but, these books definitely are not going to do anything greatly good to improve the quality of a student’s knowledge. The sole idea behind these so called study guides is to stunt your knowledge to a frame only sufficient to help you pass/score well in an exam and nothing more.

9) Typical student mentality — it’s nothing new or unknown. How many of you remember at least 10%…wait, that must be too much to ask, 5% of what you studied in 5th grade? Am I the only one raising my hand? Disappointing. Studying something today and forgetting it before you applied it to accomplish something is not really cool. Please make your efforts count.

10) Settling for something less than you deserve — as long as students settle for the compromised education offered to them for no exceptions in the efforts and investments demanded, it’s safe to say that there will be no revolutionary changes made to this system that continues to suck on the lives of young men and women with dreams to conquer and responsibilities to help a kneeling nation stand up on it feet.

With these 10 points, I think I have covered most of the major reason leading to the compromises in our education system.

A note to parents who impose authority or force thier children into doing something again their will, it’s natural for parents to care for their children, but, watch your limit. They might be your children, but, you don’t own them or their lives. Parents are supposed to guide and help their children to make a life they desire. Forcing your children into living a life that you never could, that’s the most pathetic thing anyone can do as a parent. Everyone has a picture of their life painted up in there dreams; understand, respect and allow them to live the life they want to. Their lives mean a lot more to them than it does to you, even if you are their parents. Children might eventually learn to live with you demonizing their lives, but, its their life and so allow them to make a few decisions about it. It’s alright if they’re wrong, like as if you grew up without ever making a bad decision. Not every engineer, doctor or lawyer is happy or respected or feels the texture of fat paychecks. Happiness comes from satisfaction, respect comes from how you treat people and you get paid for the quality & quantity of your service.
That’s everything I wanted to say, if you’re wondering who I am, scroll back up and read the very first sentence. 😉

Until the next iceberg cracks, I’m gone.

If anyone feels that I misjudged/misinterpreted/wrongly portrayed anything in the above sections, or if you have anything to add, feel free to leave a comment about it. After all, it’s a great deal that I’m this capable after/while being victimised by the same system that I criticized all this time.

Anjan Babu
anjan.anjan5@gmail.com

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3 thoughts on “When Education Begins To Sound Synonymous With Tomfoolery

  1. Awesome!

    Let me quote an example, when I was an undergraduate, my professors always disliked books that are simple, notes, concise and always not precise authored by Indian authors -(I’m not being biased towards the west but technical students in India who reads the “short notes” to pass examinations would understand) they always advise us to go for those big books authored by professors from big fancy universities. When I asked them about their apprehension towards the “notes” one replied, “We just don’t want you to pass an examination and get away with a degree, we want you to learn, more, something meaningful and something that would make you think”.

    They were right, I realized when I was in my post graduate years in an university that had everything what Anjan described in the above article as “the common misconceptions and irresponsible actions leading to all this mess”

  2. I think the problem’s underlying root cause is more sociological in nature rather than psychological as would otherwise be perceived. The issues arise in the fact that we are as a nation have a huge supply and demand gap. Coupled with the weird economic climate we have come up to today, from a nation with majority of its population below poverty line post independence to an economically growing nation that has a growing urban middle class whose primary aim (especially in the eyes of parents) is monetary in nature.

    Ignorance of possible opportunities, coupled with a growing need for money, and a societal pathology of equating social status to money irrespective of significant contributions to society are perfect breeding grounds for a dystopian educational system that will ruin the youth. We live in a place and time when Mukesh Ambani is more in the news than say a Scientist or a non cricket sportsperson or an artist.

  3. Very comprehensive analysis Anjan. Kudos!
    I agree with what Alan says. It is indeed sociological in nature. But now, it is turning into a psychological one. Middle class parents may force their child into studying either engineering or medicine(and this craze about CA has started), but now even rich people are doing the same. They throw lakhs of donations and join their children into some “big” college. And in the case of students, it is mostly psychological. When most of the flock is going towards Engg/Medicine, they do have a certain degree of fear in their minds in pursuing different careers.

    Privatizing education has ruined the meaning f education itself. Except one in a thousand, these private schools and colleges work for nothing but money. And ofcourse, the govt. schools don’t work for money Infact, they work for nothing. What a sad state education is in — in this country. Education should churn out rational men who go to change the society for the better. But our system is producing fools, fanatics, immoral, greedy men who think money, sex and a nice car is life and who doesn’t care what is happening to his fellow human, I pity this nation!

    And regarding Nirmal’s point on following foreign authors’ books, I totally second his U.G college Profs. If you compare the Indian & foreign books on technical subjects, you’d find out that Indian books are short, concise, dull and good-for-memorization before exams whereas foreign authors’ books are thorough, complete and liberally peppered with trivia, short notes on scientists of the particular subject which inspire the student to go deep! In short, even the books(authored by Indians) reflect the stupid way of thinking of Indians.

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