Given the Darwinian principle of survival of the fittest in this competitive world of marks and examination, social status and financial stability, the process of meaning making, action and reflection, the development of critical consciousness, or the right to choose a vocation rather than a profession gets totally lost.
The film Three Idiots by Rajkumar Hirani is an entertaining reminder of the apathetic condition of our education system which is based on conventional prescription, transfer of information and competition for marks rather than on critical thinking, creativity and participation of the learner. It has also witnessed systematic intrusions of communal prejudices and gender biases and, in a way, become a medium to further the process of alienation, dehumanisation and ‘othering’.
The Imperial College of Engineering and the classes in this institution bring to the common man’s table the point how our teaching-learning process is built around the expertise of the teacher, who deposits information in his/her students, and who, in turn, come close to the idea of containers of information than knowledge. In this context, perceptions, experiences, the cultural and ideological underpinnings of the process, etc., are rarely made explicit. Learning and mastering the curriculum is the key goal of the event.
‘Sense of hollowness’
Given the Darwinian principle of survival of the fittest in this competitive world of marks and examination, social status and financial stability, the process of meaning making, action and reflection, the development of critical consciousness, or the right to choose a vocation rather than a profession gets totally lost. Thus as Krishna Kumar, Director NCERT, says: "There is a ‘sense of hollowness’, which a lot of young people today find in our institutional life. They find that nobody cares for them, the learning game is essentially a marks-examination game and the success game is essentially a game which is being played to eliminate a lot of people from the race. Thus, students do not associate purposiveness and integrity to education." There is need for a paradigmatic shift from the ‘banking or depository’ form of education where students are ‘passive containers or recipients’ to more participatory or dialogical ways.
It is important that we recognise the learner as a ‘resource’ and not just a ‘recipient’ of information so that we do not annul the process of creativity and critical consciousness that play an important role in giving meaning to human relationships and, consequently, to education itself. It is time we recognised that India faces critical questions on issues of secularism, minority rights, gender discrimination, etc., along with a process of dehumanisation and ‘othering’ on the basis of caste/religion/ethnicity/gender.
There has been the inculcation of perceptions of ‘difference’ across communities, and even distortion of facts, especially in history and social science texts. The content of education, along with the way it is transacted, shapes the thinking and behaviour of young people, influencing both social attitudes and perceptions of what constitutes knowledge.
Efforts to address these issues by MHRD, UGC, NCERT and others are piecemeal and much is still desired. The focus should be on the content and pedagogy of education.