Education plays an important role in the life of every individual, especially in a today’s fiercely competitive setting. A good education, as everybody believes, is a passport to comfortable living as it guarantees a good job and possibilities for higher studies in reputed universities. Therefore, parents are singularly focused on ensuring that their children get admission into the right course in a good educational institution. In their minds, good education invariably means engineering or medicine, and, perhaps, a management degree later.
According to an estimate in 2016, nearly 71% of Class XII pass-outs wanted to pursue an engineering degree and about 17% medicine. The question is, “Is this the right strategy to pursue?”
This approach calls for starting the process early. Students of Class VII are put on the “treadmill” of entrance examination preparation. These children have to forego the opportunity to unlock their creative energy and passion and instead subject themselves to a rigorous routine of maths and science. Class XI and XII students are sometimes subjected to a “concentration camp-like” situation. They are asked to monotonously memorise every word in their science and maths textbooks in order to score centum in these subjects and secure a seat in an engineering college. There are other models available for training for the IIT exam. In all these models, students are subjected to high pressure learning of skills which are useful only for passing an entrance examination.
Invariably, all these models share a common feature, “operation success, patient died.” While many of these students may have obtained an engineering degree, they become clueless about life and are inept in handling “real life” issues. Unfortunately, many do not blossom into successful professionals, leave alone becoming satisfied human beings. This raises a fundamental question: “What is the ultimate goal of education?”
The ‘engineering rat race’
As everyone thinks engineering education pays, the number of engineering colleges has been increasing. The number went up from 1,511 in 2006-07 to over 3,300 in 2014-15, churning out over 1.5 million graduates. More than one third of these graduates did not get jobs due to non-availability of employers. Reports also suggest that 85% of the graduates are “not employable”. Even among those who got jobs, a sizeable number were given a pathetic salary, which did not grow over the years.
Working professionals face another set of issues while they are on the highway of career progression. A number of them are not finding satisfaction at their workplace. Long working hours, inability to handle situations at their workplace, and poor communication and inter-personal skills come in the way of their work and personal life. Many do not know how to strike a balance between workplace and home. Moreover, a number of them genuinely feel that they lack an overall framework to life that enables them to pursue their passion, even as they go about their official chores. They have gone through some costly experiments in their lives on account of the lack of right knowledge to handle life issues. Strikingly, many notice that their education never provided any inputs and guidance on these matters. It appears that merely stuffing the students with some jargons and techniques is simply not working.
The loud message emanating out of these experiences cuts at the root — the very assumption that “job seeking” education is the “be all, end all.” It appears to be short sighted and inadequate in developing individuals with inner strength to deal with multiple situations in life. It reminds us of the basic axiom that well developed individuals not only get good jobs but also stay happy, pursuing his/her passion even while productively contributing in the workplace. This is the future citizen that we need and the type of education provided must be able to develop such all-round individuals.
New educational programmes must factor these into consideration. They must have good inputs in some of the modern disciplines that may enable students to fetch jobs. In equal measure they must develop individual interests and provide avenues for testing them while graduating. There must be opportunities to develop an open mind and critical thinking. A rather liberalised approach to the nature of subjects to be studied will be really valuable. Sufficient emphasis must be provided in developing superior communication and inter-personal skills.
Another area of growing concern among the youth is that they are not adequately informed about the ancestral knowledge of India. A good understanding of our ancestral knowledge will greatly inspire the youth and help them stay connected with their roots. This will help in developing self-confidence and pride. We need new academic programmes that enable students to choose from ancient Indian knowledge systems, Sanskrit, comparative philosophy, appreciation of alternative art forms, and so on, even when they are pursuing “job-seeking” education.
After all, good jobs can provide material comforts but cannot produce happy and satisfied individuals. The latter aspect is also important in the business of education today. This is the only way we can restore the role of education from an education to eke out a living to its original prescription of an education to liberate us from the clutches of bondage.
Prof. B. Mahadevan is the Vice Chancellor, Chinmaya Vishwavidyapeeth.
Click here to read the original article published in The Hindu on February 13, 2017