Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Education - current status and future

In today's era education becomes much more important like never before. Education remained integral part of all the civilizations from centuries. Since the dawn of the civilizations it flourished and deeply affected by cultures and affecting it back in every possible way. Our scriptures say "guru Brahma guru Vishnu guru devo parbrahm...". Generally accepted meaning of the sloka is Teacher is everything, he generates, he nourishes the new ideas and put an end to bad views, which I think is merely popular meaning. I think anything living or nonliving, place or moment or anything which waves ideas to our mind is a Teacher. In other words, I can say “the whole nature is Teacher” for every being not only humans. Every being learns from every element of it. If we carefully, sensibly feel even the sand grains, then they can teach us lessons more naturally and can make our experience rather more profound.
Our historical educational methods assumes integrity of student and the material, he is studying, as starting point of education. Touch, feel, smell, company etc. were the part of initial lessons and then slowly a student is appreciated to identify his/her subject of interest. Vinoba Bhave, the supporter of “Nai Talim” (an initiative of Mahatma Gandhi) and leader of Bhoodan Andolan, writes in his book "Thoughts on Education" that when a child plays he does not know if he is playing to remain healthy and physically strong. Similarly, if child does not feel, when he is learning something that it will give him white collar job, liberate himself of poverty or something alike then his education and learning is natural but otherwise its burden.

Current Status:
Our current education follows neither western culture nor Indian. The sad part is that we have not chosen it, but adhered because of the tendency -”let's move in the direction of flow”. This thought has already broken all limits of our laziness and ignorance. Since I cannot permit myself to foray into other topics, that is why showing you a particular impact of this bad habit.

Rays of hope
Indian history shows many examples which confirms relevance of real world objects in attaining education. Education by books and that too by specific books is abstract from the understanding received by touching, feeling, smelling, looking, hitting etc. In a sense learning, only by books, for a child is as if we expect him to understand spirituality. The best example of Indian education from history could be Panchtantra which teaches worldly behavior without explicitly stating it.
Reading biographies of some of the successful western personalities, it can be learned that if one’s childhood is spent in playing with real world objects and associated problems one can construct successful personality for oneself. Consider Hollywood Film “October Sky”, based on the school life of NASA Engineer, Homer Hickam, who got inspired to build rocket from first man made satellite, Sputnik, revolving around the earth. This inspiration not only changed his whole life but changed the way people used to think in Coalwood, his town.
Similarly, if you look at the book “Surely you must be joking Mr. Feynman” by Feynman, famous nuclear physicist of his time tells that he earned his pocket money by repairing radios. And he believed that this opportunity gave him good chance to understand electricity and things related to it like capacitor, resistor etc.
Buckminster Fuller another big name from west, he suggested structure of C12, he also suggested architecture of Geodesic domes (quick building, earthquake resistant and energy efficient architectures). He spent his childhood playing with wooden articles and tools. In his school days he was not able to understand concept of point and line but afterwards he presided prestigious High IQ society, Mensa.

Alarming Status of Education:
Our education system is no more explorative it is rather based on beliefs. it is not much different from religious system. We seated in schools and universities finds it difficult to tell why earth is spherical? I mean how one should know/confirm if earth is round?
A child invests his precious 20 years to our educational system trusting parents and society. during these years he never gets an opportunity to confirm if he is getting what he wants? what he needs to do after all these years? what difficulties he may be facing when he will work in real environment? where he may be able to employ his learning? what are the different jobs out there in adult world? Whatever he is learning will it give the job that will satisfies him in some holistic sense? In this lot of questions not even a single question is answered during his education. It seems as if our Education system is superstitious. No one dares to ask any question or probably don't ask again by same logic of “moving in the direction of flow”. this kind of system leads to a sense of insecurity where nobody cares for society and everyone blames it for not being duly cared. this kind of education leads to an army of young men who even after high dissatisfaction, feared of proposing alternates. Moreover, it diminishes free and independent thinking. Further sentences like -”Study what you have asked to study. For a decent job you should study hard.” has promoted opacity in education and prohibitive to new ideas.
Again, cutoff of the education from real world makes it incomplete. It cannot let one feel real world environment of certain real world job. Since each individual is very specific, he has his own choices, likes-dislikes etc. It can be helped by one’s experience, but cannot be decisive in choosing or rejecting. this disconnect from the real -world adds to the problem that student cannot put their independent or free ideas (as they don't have idea about real environment, the constraints and the facilities). That is the end of entrepreneur skill set, means possibility of educated entrepreneur is rare.

Hunt for the solution
Knowing the gravity of the situation and importance of good education in some holistic sense, how can we ignore the situation? Can we still dare to choose “flow in the direction of flow”? Education is not merely a means to earn decent living, it is far more than that, it is means of individuals mental health and is a mark of social prosperity. It should be responsible, answerable and transparent to its students and hence to society. Lets come together to study different forms of education. Let's build good infrastructure for good education. We can study about different methods / models of education, experiment them. We need to be responsible about the mental food of our next generation.
Education can be provided from any work that helps society or nature in some way. We can fabricate reasonable environment, doing such work on small scale where students can interact with real world environment. Promoting students on such a fabric, we can let them understand social responsibilities and provide feasible freedom to choose job. In this way we may be able to construct independent personalities as well as we can improve upon entrepreneurship abilities. This transparent model may provide feasible freedom to choose work and also gives willpower to state one’s opinion more openly.
I should stop here, as we should provide ourselves sufficient time to think and choose consciously and cautiously the alternates on the issue. I hope we will take future of our next generation seriously. And will try to know the best possible alternates to this issue.
You are invited to share your questions / suggestions to my email: Our conversation may lead to some concrete ideas and identification of tasks for various collaborators / stakeholders. I will keep writing on this issue, for which your responses will be encouraging.

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