Dear Javadekarji, do ants have eyes?

Dear Prakash Javadekarji,

I have written a lot of open letters to you in past, but most of them were written with hope.

Today the frame is different, as there is more anguish and guilt than hope because I have started my day with a page full of photos of some of the finest young brains of my nation that I suspect are brutally murdered by all of us.

As I read this full-page advertisement carefully, I admire our efficiency in killing kids, as some of them were killed in “classroom”, while a lot more were killed over a “distance” or “through correspondence course”.

Sir, my bigger misfortune is that I know some of these kids, or at least their type very well, as I have the honour of meeting them, or rather their ghosts in classrooms of some of the finest academies of our nation.

They all are really fine kids, probably the best that humanity has to offer, and would have done wonders to our nation if they were not killed before they can understand that we are killing them.

Though I take the advantage of the fact that we have murdered them by unsettling them with questions that only those who are alive can answer; but, when I walk in a classroom where I know that I am the dumbest person and still manage to draw a zit from all those monstrously powerful brains sitting in front of me with a simple question like “Do ants have eyes?”, I get worried about how we are treating these brilliant brains.


I am worried, and you should be worried too. As we may be the youngest nation on earth, but we could be the one occupied by more dead young men and women walking if we carry on like this.

Whenever we discuss Indian education, we have one boogeyman that stops us midway, as we all are too scared to unleash it. So, I will deal with it first.

Indian reservation system has always been a blessing in disguise for the political class put in place to steer the nation to better future through education, as it stands as an unsolvable problem that can be always be made a scapegoat to absolve them of the guilt of the very apparent fact that we are undoubtedly the worst managers of our human resources through education.

Reservation looks to be a very good excuse for the fact that we are unable to move forward with meritocracy and, in turn, knowledge-based economic growth; but, my dear Sir, the time has come to take a real stock of things.

Blaming reservation should have made sense if we lacked scale that can offer matching amount of opportunities.

We are a nation that is yet to be built, yet to be systemised and yet to offer even the basics of human life to nearly a billion people. With such a demanding task ahead, we should be actually worried about having enough people, as every hand would be handy if we want to build this nation.

What is really killing Indian meritocracy, it is not our education system, schools or even reservation. It is the coaching classes.

If coaching classes had just disrupted meritocracy, I would not be that worried. My real worry is, they have completely and utterly destroyed knowledge and learning at a level that they are now damaging the future of India in the coming years where knowledge will be the real power and wealth.

Let us understand what real knowledge is.

Knowledge is not knowing answers to existing questions. It the ability to find new questions and figuring out their answers. And, let us admit that our education has no real consideration to address the need of creating people who can do that.

The net result of seventy years of self-governance of our education system is that we don’t have a single Nobel laureate in science from India and we are now slowly and painfully discovering that nearly 95% of our engineers actually know nothing worthy of employing them.

In past, we had blamed British education system designed to produce clerks, but now we have come a long way in self-governance, and as we are unable to do any better, we need to confront our problem without looking for excuses.

The reason why we have gone astray is that we have not looked at education policies from the perspective of feedback-based corrections. While we have allowed market forces to enter education, we have not bothered to evaluate their impact.

The arrival of coaching classes coincided with competitive exams spreading to almost all sectors. When Kota exploded on the scene, Indian education was going through the worst demand-supply gap in its history. As we had very few academies of excellence and we wanted only the best to enter them, coaching classes were seen as a contributor to honing skills and were not looked at with a great concern.

Where we stand today, coaching classes rule the roost in Indian higher education. They shamelessly claim to have power to “crack” exams that should have been designed solely to ensure that they can’t be “cracked” through a system of rote.

While coaching classes become brazen by the year, I see no real response from the state to understand their role in education.

As I look at young bright kids on the first page, I get a pit in my stomach to realise the torture that young brain must have gone through.

A kid so bright that he/she is in first thousand of a competitive exam taken by millions is special. It is a brain gifted by God who may have given us intelligence to appreciate and unveil the secrets of the wonderful universe She has built.

If that level of intelligence is employed to memorise the number of electrons found in an Iron atom, it will surely rise to do that, but its real job is to understand why Iron atom is what it is. But, passing through the Kota grind, it will require tremendous vitality and curiosity for a brain to remain alive enough to still appreciate that.

Sir, let us realise a bigger issue emerging fast. The new age is completely about knowledge, the real stuff and not what can be coached, and we, undoubtedly are a nation-worst prepared to face it.

Please recognise the fact that, if a competitive exam becomes crack-able, it has failed as an exam. If one can be coached to crack it, it is an insult to learning.

India can live with reservation, but not with coaching classes that are not only creating an unequal playing field but also destroying knowledge in its essence.

Please do something, not just for the nation, but for the humanity at large, as we are destroying brains of one-fifth of entire human race.

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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