Thursday, 10 January 2013

Stagnating Education in India - Can we make it work?

An Education would imply a system that imparts knowledge, skills and habits. These in turn would help an individual with the ability to think abstractly, express new ideas and evolve new habits. Almost every education system I have seen in India involves an autodidact who supervises the entire education process.
In the entire chain shown in the diagram above, the "autodidact" is still present, in a form of propagation of authoritarian education.

Right from the time a kid is infused into the system, the kid is told or dictated what is to be done. There is no room for free thinking or lateral thinking or differing views. This system is so well structured (or ill-structured as I might say) that even the autodidacts or the teachers of the system do not have much of a leeway in departing from the system.

Consider the amount of morphological change interfaces to technology and architecture of buildings have undergone. Yet the seating arrangement of a classroom, almost a century ago and today has had too few changes.

The more senior the classes, the taller the desks, and a disproportionate male-female ratio or boys-only and girls-only schools are commonplace.

In my opinion, the very design of such a classroom and in recent times lecture halls and demonstration halls have been linear facing a single "autodidact." There are a few exceptions too, yet those exceptions seem to be more for the public or rather the customers to spend on rather than for education in itself.

The human mind does not get creative on a periodic basis, nor does it have the ability to produce or create results on a periodic basis. However examine the following scholastic schedule (K-12) presented here:
I am sure this bears resemblance to our meeting schedules at work too. With the stifling of thinking at every level, it extends even beyond that to be used as a system for continuing work. Equality of minds or of the individual is probably the most outrageous idea. Each individual, being unique, in terms of their gifts and abilities to think, needs a platform to perform. As long as the platform was a result oriented or result delivery platform, I would be most happy to participate. However it continues to be process oriented - to the extent that the "attendance" of a said individual (gender irrespective) is measured on a calendar and is an attribute to their regularity. This is a clear sign of an oppressive system not an open educational system.
The Compulsion of Education until the age of 13 has created an illusion that people who've attended schools have received knowledge, skills (to acquire knowledge) and habits of becoming better. The rest of the education is still reserved for those who can afford it, not necessarily those who deserve it. This too is evident year after year. We have followed a system that was a derivative of the colonial system by the much lauded Lord Macaulay. That is definitely over a century of stagnation of sticking to a system whose entire intent and purpose was not to create or encourage a free-thinking society but to create one that submitted to order and was afraid to question when things went out of order.

The above is a rather unscientific, ad-hoc, rebellious sketch of the relation between skill-required and fame. The only point this drives across, is that authors, thinkers, researchers, scientists, mathematicians are in the low fame or recognition bracket. Society doesn't listen to them because it is engineered not to listen to them. This educational divide is the first one that must be addressed, if the growing population of the world (we could say China first, India next, but the world too has an unprecedented population increase,) need to become assets who could also become self-reliant.

I am not opposed to "Formal Education" as a term and principle, but the method of formal education as it is today is too primitive and has not evolved to meet the problems that are to be solved in the here and now.

In summary, I would say that a formal education is definitely not worth what we pay for it. It is an exhaustive investment of time and money for which the returns, thanks to economies of scale, are getting lesser and lesser.

Until then we will have sights of school children being all the more happy as soon as school gets over, so they can do something useful and fun! The infrastructure too is unable to support this ever increasing demand and the lack of proper infrastructure is only compounding the problem.
If we leave this problem unattended for too long, we will return to the times when education will be affable only to a select few in highly class-based society. This is exactly what we must strive to avoid.