Wanted: a new direction for education

Posted By: Ramesh Menon|Dated: November 17, 2011

While we drown in the noise of debates over what India needs to do, how many talk of education? Politics is important in a democracy and has a rightful place, but if democracy is to succeed, it needs a literate population to drive change and progress. Education should be our number one priority, as it has the potential to drive away many social ills, blind faith and, of course, poverty. It can help us think differently and to build aspirations and inherent strengths.

New direction for education

One of the biggest challenges today is how to spread the right kind of education. The education system as we know it is very theoretical and does little to inspire students. Learning has to be exciting, pro-active and practical. As sage Sri Aurobindo said, “Nothing can be taught.” We need to get away from rote-based learning and move towards integral learning, through which students can enjoy the process of discovery and understanding.

The emphasis today is on exams and not on intelligence, innovative thinking or even problem solving. Students are mugging up theorems in geometry and securing full marks without understanding them. Teaching methods are archaic. Rarely do teachers undergo professional training in new methods of instruction. Low salaries do not attract the best minds to teaching, which is seen as a soft option and not as a job that can ignite change.

India has numerous experiments in education to showcase, like schools that are free to teach in innovative ways and give space for children to think independently. There are schools without exams, like the one established by the Sri Aurobindo Society in Pondicherry in South India. But parents are wary of sending children to institutions that operate differently, as they fear that they will not be able to compete with the outside world. The fact is that those who have graduated from these alternative schools have done extremely well in a variety of fields. Their world view is much finer.

Education should also be job-oriented and not just theoretical. Organisations invest heavily in training newcomers, as the education system does not teach required skills. The former President of India, Dr A P J Abdul Kalam, remarked that only 25 per cent of graduating students were employable as students – the rest were lacking in technical knowledge, English proficiency and critical thinking. Sam Pitroda, chairman of the National Knowledge Commission, says that only 10,000 of the 90,000 MBAs who graduate are employable.

As the IT sector booms, the emphasis is on skilled and cost-effective manpower as it is no more India-centric. As IT emerges as a catalyst to fuel the economy and creates attractive career-oriented jobs, it’s becoming clear that operational excellence is the key. International companies are eyeing India as there is a serious shortage of young people in the United States, Singapore, Japan, Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong.  India cannot afford to miss this opportunity – it is the only country that has a young, upwardly mobile class ready to work hard, take risks and dream.

India’s education system must respond to this challenge.  We cannot continue to have educational institutions that churn out students like factories, that do not promote real learning process that involves analytical thinking, experimentation and independent thinking.

The obsolete parts of the education system have to be junked, new areas carved out, and syllabi redesigned to meet contemporary needs and challenges. Infrastructure must also be improved and school fees minimized.

India has always had a great standard and tradition of education. It can still become a crucible of innovative learning. It can rise to become a shining example for developing countries wanting to use education to turn around their future.


About the author:

Ramesh Menon

Ramesh Menon, 56, is an author, journalist, educator, film maker and corporate trainer. Recipient of the prestigious Ramnath Goenka Award for Exellence in Journalism, Ramesh began his 34-year career with The Times of India as a reporter and has since worked for as associate editor of India Today, executive producer at Business India Television and TV Today, Roving Editor at rediff.com, and columnist with DNA. He has directed and scripted numerous documentaries on environment and social issues.

He recently co-authored “Whatever the Odds” with KP Singh and Raman Swamy. It was published by Harper Collins India in November 2011.

The views expressed above are those of the author, and not necessarily representative of the views of the Mahindra Group.

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  • http://twitter.com/googlegupta Naresh Gupta

    I cannot agree more. We have seen how the system doesnt function, and  how the young minds who really want to explore are stymed and wings are clipped. Well said my friend

  • Sarode

    Enough things have been said about the education system as for as whether it produces employable people.
    We have seen in the recent past that people educated in the presigious institutions and holding senior positions are getting the taste of life behind the bars. All because of lack of ethical values. So right education should also address the issue of “living with ethical values for happy life”.
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  • Raj

    It’s glad to see these type of topics. I think this is the perfect time to think about it. As centuries goes smartness of children is improvising vastly. Decades back getting 60 % marks is graduation is tough task. But now-a days children are achieving 98% marks in school and graduation level very easily. This shows the best example of smartness of present century children. Indian government should think about it and do some changes in subjects and topics of education system. 

  • Prashantsubbu

    We all are in the race for ‘marks’ and have forgotten our roots which emphasized rather on remarks, character and whole sum development

  • Rik Chatterjee

    i am a student .a weak one .i feel and i have seen different people being receptive or in other words r being able to repond to varios modes of teaching .i pesonally have a habiit of learnig more fast from anything in audio visual interface.but as this method comes at a high cost ,it is now on every impractical for now in india.but atleast the healthy  student teacher relation and proper knowledge of all the carrier options available should be able to facilitate indian students in the present scinario,along with parental understanding and respect of a child wishes ,dreams and thoughts.   

  • Untoeternity

    i agree as a teacher myself that the education system in India is not  directed to the overall development of students and also it is a weak point for us that we are not capable to churn out the cream out of the children based on this system and our inhibitions as teachers.

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