Brain & Mind Indian Education

The rot of rote

Cometh the exam season and Indian educational system gets hit by a wave of chaos every year.

The tragedy of our educational system is that more time is spent fighting in courts to figure out who will rule it than what it is doing to the future of India.

I feel that India is committing the most heinous of all crimes, i.e. preventing a large number of human brains from reaching their full potential. This is a crime against humanity, as humanity is passing through it most crucial phase of scientific advancement and the second largest nation on Earth is not pulling its weight.

Intensely competitive exams, MCQs, coaching classes and politicians that run the business of education have collectively turned brightest Indian brains into rote-machines incapable of independent thought.

If you are planning to throw the Pichais or Nadellas of the world at me as success stories of our education, I want you to think again, as business is not the frontier of learning. The real test of learning is about pushing the envelope, and though controversial, Nobel Prize still remains a great indicator of where we stand in this context.

Venky Ramakrishnan is the only Indian to have ever won a Nobel Prize in science after schooling in independent India, that too, as an NRI. If we are dead honest in admitting, C.V. Raman is the only truly Indian scientist to have ever won a Nobel after studying and working in India, probably because he was spared of the horrors of modern Indian education.

The zombie-fication of Indian brains is getting ever more systematic as entrance exams have now become matters of life-and-death. These exams drive young minds into corrals of coaching classes where they are systematically broken to accept rote as knowledge.

Blinded by aspiration for material success, neither parents nor students notice the horrible fact that only 20% of students survive this Kota-torture to get branded as saleable commodities for western slave-markets where bright minds toil under creative minds; while remaining kids come out with broken dreams and broken spirit that India retains to build a country full of positive desire to move forward.

India needs more than paradigm shift in education as what exists today has nothing to do with learning. And the prime reason for this is, probably, that we just try to teach too much, making it impossible for most to imbibe it as learning.

The change that I would like to see is drastic reduction in science curriculum at 12th level. We must understand that, at this level, we are dealing with a general pool of people that we just need to screen for higher learning, and not all of them are capable of actually learning advance maths or science. By forcing a huge curriculum on them, most have no choice but to opt for rote over understanding.

The rot of rote doesn’t stop here. Too much of advance science forced into brain as rote at an early stage prevents actual understanding of how things work in real world later, a process that produces engineers that cant fix a leaking tap.

We really don’t need to shove so much of higher maths and science down the throats of everyone passing through the sieve of 12th, as it gives us nothing useful at the end of the day in terms of learning. If we just want to grade minds, it is not necessary to increase the quantum of curriculum as we have done.

The higher maths/science should be introduced in graduation curriculum, where without the life-and-death pressure of competitive exam, a student can actually opt for understanding over rote.

DNA: 8/4/16

I am happy to admit that I have managed surviving till now with minimum effort as all my intellect has be used to avoid doing anything meaningful. As I needed to while all the free time I generated in course of being lazy, science has been my favorite muse that I have enjoyed company of. As an effort to kill time (in a way, to get even with it) one fine day I decided to write a science column, more for my personal amusement than to attract readers. After getting educated about the attention span of modern readers from my editor, it became more like a challenge to tackle esoteric subjects in 600 words that I have managed to remain interested in for more than a year now. I do not want to add my worldly profile here as these are ideas that need to be considered only on the merits they carry and not as an opinion of a certain human being.

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