The Indian education system revolves certainly around unfair assessment, inefficacy of the teachers, an ever-widening cleavage between teacher and student, incomprehensible curriculum, woes of ‘weak students’ and jubilation of ‘bright students’.
I am no expert in the matter but I belong to the student community whose views are either not sought or are dismissed.
My parents shifted from my native village to a nearby town in a quest for better education for me. I fortunately got admission into an ICSE-affiliated school. As both my parents had not completed their schooling, they could not interpret the homework or project demands of the school. Consequently, I was sent to a coaching institute where the creativity that I had was put at bay. I was forced to sit there, tight-lipped, nodding at regular intervals, getting punished for failing to understand what the teacher taught.
I was weak in mathematics. Ever since the beginning of school, I used to fail constantly, and the teachers said that I am not bestowed with a maths brain. I was pretty much interested in arts subjects, not because I found them appealing but they earned me marks as I could memorise stuff quickly.
But my parents would frown at me saying that there is no future without maths, that every competitive exam requires maths and I had no standing in the ocean of students. Einstein said, “Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school.” Well, what I learned were a few gobbledygook chapters which I have forgotten and alas, nothing remains.
In 2018, the CBSE paper leaks reignited the debate on the rudimentary education system of the country. Demonstrations by the student fraternity rocked the country, and amid the chaos, I saw a placard held by a demonstrator which read, “Two things missing in the Indian education system: education and system.” These words exactly sum up the sentiments.
Our education system starts thrusting its tentacles into the minds of students so much so that they start getting alienated from the very system.
The notion that garnering marks is the sine qua non for existing on the planet also gets deeper. The marks that the pupils attain from their lower grades will supposedly determine their salary package, social standing and whether investing in their education is worthwhile.
On the other hand, teachers can work arbitrarily, with no regulations prescribed for them.
After wading through this, if the students manage to opt for the appropriate subjects and clear hundreds of exam, they will be allowed to enter college, leading to another set of exams followed by more exams.
As the students progress a notch higher in their education, the web of coaching gets denser, manifesting
in its ugliest form as competitive exams’ coaching which have set their own hotspots: Kota for medical and engineering entrances and Delhi for the coveted civil service exam, for instance.
In this quagmire, the draft New Education Policy is the much-awaited ray of hope, however it has already got mired in a controversy owing to the ambiguous three-language formula. However, the proposed system of early childhood care and education and focus on liberal arts, research, traditional languages, creativity and so on are welcome measures.
But the more fundamental questions regarding the error-ridden marking patterns, declining creativity, the proliferation of coaching institutes and sky-rocketing fees remain unaddressed.
In “Where the mind is without fear”, Tagore envisages an India “where knowledge is free”. Leave alone free education, the standard of education that a person receives depends solely on the financial status of the family.
To conclude, I would say if we shun the current approach and work relentlessly to weed out the shortcomings and change the system right from its roots, the knackered system will go and education will come out from hiding. For the time being, we shall cherish the fact that the long-held status quo is changing.