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By Way2k Way2k
Way2k 27 Sep 2012
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Whats wrong with our education?
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The debate on the IIT entrance examination refuses to die down. Some IITs claim that the standards will be diluted if the criteria are changed to consider school marks, while the HRD ministry disagrees. Most of the candidates are likely to enter the IIT irrespective of the mode of selection. Alas! JEE has long been defeated by the coaching factories. Those who live in regions that are close to the successful coaching factories have joined the IITs in hundreds. The best-coached students seem to be the most eligible ones to study at IIT. In this situation, an alternative way of selecting students appears relevant.

Whats wrong with our education?

Its rarely the same individual who scores the highest in school, in JEE, IIT, CAT or IIM, lands the highest paying job and goes on to become the most successful professional. There are not many school toppers among our most successful managers or engineers. JEE ranks do not correlate well with the academic performances at IITs. Rarely has the JEE topper finished first in the B.Tech programme. A far more serious question is how the engineers are occupied after college Many seek MBA; a few go to US universities (IITs are not popular for post graduation). Jobs are sought in the finance sector, core sector and IT (the largest recruiter of engineering graduates).

Now, the core sector does not actually offer technical jobs. Managing production, procuring materials and chasing people for unfinished work are typical tasks. The engineer does not create products. Indian engineers may have put power plants or created railway infrastructure in African and West Asian countries but, in the sphere of product development, our record is dismal. In the first 35 years we bought, copied (with or without permission) and turned out the same products, decade after decade. Even after liberalization in the 90s, new products were rarely developed in India. If the primary occupation of the engineer should be creation, design and development of new products, then the very existence of engineering education in this country looks purposeless.

Any general education and training will be enough to manage shop floors and purchasing and to do most of the software jobs. IIMs want a heterogeneous mix of graduates in their classes. Why are we, then, obsessed with engineering education? There is an even more fundamental issue regarding education. The British system of schooling in India started in the 19th century, probably with the aim of creating clerical manpower for the East India Company. It progressed to create civil servants, too, but the primary purpose of education to serve people of other countries seems to continue! Most of the work in IT companies is to develop software for developed countries.

Dull and boring jobs are dumped on us in the belief that money is the prime motivator here while essential services fail to attract people since they pay less. There is no visible concern over shrinking labour and lands for agriculture and vanishing traditional craftsmen. Free lunch is offered to increase enrollment in schools but there is indifference to reports that children cannot read the headlines of a vernacular newspaper and cannot subtract even two-digit numbers. They learn little in the schools and miss out on learning any trade or craft that can fetch them a livelihood. Once, I said to some urban college students, Ninety per cent of the students seem disinterested in the classroom, at any level.

They replied that, I had underestimated the percentage! Are we then thrusting a whole lot of uninteresting stuff down the throats of millions of youngsters What for To receive the education that would fetch employment to serve the aliens Shouldn’t we seek alternatives Can we reduce the wage disparity between those who work with their hands and those who do mental work How do we bring about dignity of labour in this country A Japanese guru of quality spoke about the joy of sweating. Our society, too, had that joy.

Why did we lose it to the pleasure of air-conditioned offices to do dumb jobs Can we nurture those who enjoy working with their hands and not force them to learn by rote “how can we enable each individual to pursue an occupation according to ones aptitude”. I do not have answers to the multitude of questions that, I have raised but my concerns remain. Will our policy-makers, planners and educationists take a relook at the path we have travelled so far, do an honest analysis and re-define the goals of human resource development in this country Maybe we are late but let us proceed on the assumption better late than never.
The writer is a Prof. MS Ananth Former Director IIT Madras

Courtesy: Times of India

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