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Education System - promote more ‘idiots’
Our pedagogy should look beyond exams and help students fulfil their dreams

The Sunday Indian (in all 14 editions), 17 January 2010
Dr Parth J Shah, President, Centre for Civil Society

Since decades, the education policy India should follow has been a matter of debate. Aamir Khan’s “3 Idiots” has only intensified the discussion. In the movie, there is a flashback scene where the child protagonist attends classes of his choice. The child grows up to become a renowned scientist. The film questions the system of evaluation on the basis of examination in particular and the education system in general. In my view, this is a valid criticism. The so-called classroom model of education that we follow in our country is primitive. And we keep on following it blindly. The only thing that has changed over the last 1,000 years is the architecture of school and the quality of furniture. It just reflects that we have only focussed on resources all these years while nothing has changed in the way education is provided.

There are other issues as well that have been raised in this movie. In the West, there is a system where not only the child opts for the subject of his choice but the teachers as well. In my view, this is the best way of education. If a child chooses a subject of his liking, then there are valid chances that not only will he focus on studies but will also fetch good marks. Their examination system is such that it provides a clear evaluation of the candidate taking the test. The grading and credit system is scientifically designed to evaluate the students several times in a year and, that too, on different parameters.

Now look at India. The entire evaluation of a student is done through a three-hour sitting examination. Suppose, a child falls ill on the day of the test, either he fails or fetches poor marks. His entire year’s effort, thus, goes to the dogs. In the West, however, if a candidate falls ill on the day of the examination, he is allowed to take it on another day. His entire year’s labour does not go to waste.

Keeping this in view, India must immediately put a stop to the process of board examinations. Apart from India, there are very few countries in the world which follow this board examination system. In this regard, Kapil Sibal’s decision of doing away with the Tenth board examinations is a welcome step. There are a few schools as well as colleges in India that have come up on the pattern followed by the West. But they are very few in number. And most of these institutions are too costly for an average Indian to afford. There is a need for more of such institutions. But the pace at which modern institutes modelled on the western principle are coming up, there is scope for optimism. This will revolutionise the education system. The spread of Internet will ensure that teachers need not be physically present in classrooms. Desktops will, no doubt, replace blackboards.

However, adapting to this new system will pose a serious challenge to Indian teachers, long used to traditional modes and tools of tutoring. Since bookish knowledge won’t suffice, they will have to rise to the challenge of satisfying the students’ inquisitiveness. In other words, they need to have solid grasp over their respective subjects. But looking at the current crop of teachers in colleges and universities, one wonders if they will fit the bill. Another problem that plagues the Indian education system is its lopsided stress on traditional courses at the expense of professional courses.

The government is blissfully unaware of the challenges that it is going to face in the future. It becomes evident when you see the policy mandarins wasting resources on extravagant buildings and not on introducing scientifically designed textbooks.

The B.Ed examination system that has been made compulsory for school teachers primarily focuses on teaching techniques and is in no position to judge the command the teachers enjoy over their respective subjects of expertise. In a way, it is accepted that a teacher, who, in most cases, is a graduate, is qualified enough to teach in schools. This is fundamentally flawed. The B. Ed system should be designed in a way that it incorporates all the new researches and information that have come up in a particular subject.

3 Idiots is justified in questioning the redundant education technique that our teachers follow. The sole motive of the teachers is to teach in such a way that the students manage to pass the examination. Similarly, students, too, consider these tests as the final frontiers of the quest for knowledge. There is very little or no stress on introducing new researches and discoveries to the students. This outlook does not help the nation or the society. We should aspire for an education system that allows students to realise their wildest dreams much like the three idiots on screen.


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