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The education in India is too straitjacketed to produce a progressive, happy society. It is not going to produce enough innovative people, or ideas, to really take on the world. Why is it that a Satya Nadella or Sundar Pichai reach the highest position in the USA, but there’s a lack of similar charisma in India, asks Tarun, in his weekly column. A Different Truths exclusive.

I have been a public school educated person. I hadn’t set foot in a government school, until I got a centre for exams in one of the schools, while pursuing a correspondence course of Delhi University. That centre was an education in itself. While the building was open and spacious, the toilets were equally so without a proper latch. The teachers were doing their knitting, while being invigilators. I could sense a vast difference in the way they talked to the students. The playgrounds lacked the jhoolas (swings) that kids so dearly liked.

Then one day last year, I was invited to the Independence Day function in a government school. There, the teachers continuously exhorted the students to wash hands, comb hair, and wear clean clothes. I realised what a different kind of challenge these kids faced than the public school educated ones. I was very skeptical of the kind of productivity these kids would show when they were to join the labour force.

Education was defined by Gandhiji as being different from literacy. He said literacy is not the beginning of education, neither the end of it. Our public schools focus on literacy. The Boards are such an important word in every parent’s dictionary, whose ward is studying in X or XII class. But do they focus on body, mind and spirit? Are we having a sporting culture for the body? Are we seriously training the mind of a kid, by making him do independent work even at teenage level? Are we giving him enough spiritual material for training of the heart?

I think not. Why? Because we are solely focused on the rat race of progressing economically in life. We wish to get our kids admitted to the best higher educational institute, so as to ensure a good high paying career. But that rat race won’t give happiness ever, without the corresponding training about good food habits, good health habits, good emotional responses, and good heart training. Our economy would never realise its full potential, if the full potential of its average citizen is not realised.

Our government schools struggle with the basics such as hygiene, regular attendance, discipline, and of course, literacy. The socialist system of subsidised education, as well as the background of the students studying there, is not doing much to improve quality of education. The higher attributes of education do not even begin to kick in there.

I also see the problems of higher private education. It is too expensive. There is a new culture of student loans taking shape. A student is doomed to a life of monthly instalment the day he takes admission to one of the higher private institutes.

What about the subsidy culture in higher education? The UGC does the funding per student of colleges, with the result that college functioning is completely tied to the UGC grant coming through. This results in the lack of flexibility to college management in moving with the times, and lack of sufficient seats. If UGC reduces the funding, as is being feared by colleges, then, the higher education would become more expensive.

The education in India is too straitjacketed to produce a progressive, happy society. It is not going to produce enough innovative people, or ideas, to really take on the world. Why is it that a Satya Nadella or Sundar Pichai reach the highest position in the USA, but there’s a lack of similar charisma in India? An economy needs a constant stream of innovation, risk bearing, enterprise, and of course, pragmatic policies, good and clean administration.

Also, if the education is too expensive, the student would be forced to expect a higher income when he goes out to earn. If the quality is low, then he won’t be able to do much productive work.

The government expenditure in India, as a percentage of GDP, is among the lowest in the entire BRICs countries, at 3.3%. This has not increased over the years. The Indian public school fees have been increasing at a rate more than an increase of income of the people. According to the survey by Assocham, the public school fees has increased from 55,000 rupees annually in 2005, to Rs.1,25,000 in 2015. This is a more than 200% increase in simple terms. By contrast, GDP growth rate at an average of 7% annually is much lower.

In a highly populated country like India, we need to be very vigilant about education. Education alone makes productive people out of the huge youths entering the workforce every year. This education can be literary, or basic skills, or entrepreneurship related, or a combination thereof.

What is the purpose of this article? I try to highlight a problem, and then give a solution, which has not been there till now. The problem here is the insufficiency of education system in India to meet her needs. The solution? I remember the interview with the principal of a school, where I went with a recommendation to get my kid admitted. He flatly refused to entertain the neta (politician). Then he gave me an earful. But what he said, did make eminent sense. He said, netaji wants to show his power by getting the kid admitted to a well-known school. Why does he not improve the condition of government schools? And if he is unable to do it, why does he not hand over the management to the successful public schools? I came out a little disappointed, but with food for thought. Why could the public schools, who are making huge sums of money, were not asked to take over government schools as part of their corporate social responsibility?

If we could experiment this way, and be successful, we would have done a vast service to the future generations of this country.

©Tarun Gupta

Photos from the Internet

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