Yours truly is a grammar Nazi of sorts (yes, even in a language that I cannot speak much), but luckily for me, my classmates think that it is a good thing and turn to me to get their doubts clarified (mostly because the teacher is staunch in her decision to teach us French ONLY in French). During one such discussion…
Classmate (A recent engineering graduate, who I hope to heavens NEVER reads this) – Could you tell me more about what you were discussing in class?
Me (Genuinely confused) – About what?
Classmate – About the miserable something?
Me – Oh yes! ‘Les Miserables’ (We had been discussing the book and the movie. Now, I was even more confused because we had been speaking in English, and did not see what she could have not understood.) But, what doubt do you have?
Classmate – No doubt, as such. Could you just explain it? You know, about who wrote it, what it is about, who made the movie and stuff, which actress won the Oscar, etc…
By now, I was truly appalled. Now, it was not because she did not know about ‘Les Miserables’. I do not know everything (and I, incidentally, have not watched the movie or read the book, I just know OF the book and OF the movie), and so I do not expect anyone to know everything either. BUT it was shocking that she should ask me to explain something that was easily ‘Google-able’.
But then, what else can you expect from a product that the education system has spit out, after chewing out the juices of independence, creativity and ability to THINK?
Ever since the age of 3, for a period of 18 years, we have been fed information in the form of ‘lessons’, of which not everything has to be read or assimilated; it is enough if the answers to the ‘important questions’ are duly memorized, and then faithfully regurgitated in the exams. We could become the ‘top ranker’ if we followed these instructions sincerely. And then we could land ourselves a well-paying job. There is absolutely no necessity to think, to question, to find out the answers for ourselves, or to explore stuff outside our text books.
But what happens after? What happens once we exit the protective cocoon of our education systems, where everything is spoon fed to us, where it is a punishable offence to ask questions? What happens when we enter an increasingly globalized work atmosphere, in which we compete against people who were brought up in an educational environment that fostered independent thinking, innovation and most importantly the roll-up-your-sleeves-and-do-it-yourself attitude? What chances do we have against them? Next to nothing.
Now, people do learn after a while about the way the world works. And we common Indian people are nothing if not resilient. We adapted when Hindu kings ruled us, we adapted when Muslim kings ruled us, we adapted when the British ruled us, and we have also adapted to this sham of a democracy.
But do we deserve to be disadvantaged so? We pay our taxes, just like any responsible citizen of any other country. Do we, as children, not deserve a better training ground, so that we can eventually take on the world? We do, but we are not far sighted enough to make such changes happen.
Because we are still arguing about whether to write the UPSC examinations in English or Hindi, whether we should include regional languages or not, whether we are disadvantaging SC or ST or OBC or any other minority or not. Because frankly, these arguments do not matter. The intent of the exam is not to uplift any part of the society or advantage one community over another; it is about finding capable leaders and administrators to RUN OUR COUNTRY. We need to get our priorities straight.
It is high time we realized that it is not about one state producing more IAS officers than another, and definitely not about one state besting another’s literacy rates to become India’s number 1. It is not just about Tamil Nadu or Kerala or Bihar or Jammu or Orissa anymore, it is about India, India as a single entity against the rest of the world.
It is not about outdoing one’s competitor school and putting computers and smart education boards in the class rooms. It is not about filling children’s heads with enough trivia for them to win bar contests or the next Kaun Banega Crorepati.
It is about building a weapon if you will; a weapon of knowledge, creativity and innovation, a weapon with the potential to think freely, to think radically, to question the status quo, to respect humanity, to be compassionate, to be socially conscious, and to better the society by bettering themselves.
Now, I am not qualified to reform our education system, but I am qualified to dream; to dream for my future children, a dream for them to grow up in an environment where their young minds are unfettered by the restraints, that we call schools.
Image Copyright: Caroline Jariwala