It occurred recently when I was reading a discussion on Linkedin.com. I attempted to make sense of what was being written in that thread. I struggled and …..failed. They were expressing their sincere views about the importance of education, and how to deliver the better education so as to prepare students of India to face the challenges of 21st century. Though I also felt that the whole issue and underlying issues they were trying to decipher no doubt are strong indicators of the heart-felt dissonance & chronic frustration among the academic fraternity in India. I wrote there that I would imagine that their expressions in that thread & similar discussions were just the tip of ice-berg. But the discussion provoked a question in my mind and I dared to ask this:
What would you teach by-the-way?
(I continued on Linkedin discussion….)
Please don’t feel offended. I just wish to point out to–what is being fed with existing education system. Everybody knows it is not correct and knowledge is not being imparted, ONLY FILTERED contents are being allowed to be taught. How would you cut loose, when the system has been very carefully designed to limit what is to be taught?
1. For example, Western scholars devised an ethnocentric scheme to explain a phenomenon—one that India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, and many other modern Indian intellectuals came to accept– that a previous European people must have once existed, an Indo-European race upon which the world, and India, drew for its linguistic roots and genetic stock. This was propounded as Aryan Invasion Theory. A theory which still had not been substantiated and probably would never be. But we have surrendered to such blindly theories without even thinking of challenging them. One, Max Muller comes (in fact, never comes to India) and imagines something, and it becomes a universal truth for we, Indians. How?
Similar distortions and interpretations were allowed with our historical chronology. No researcher among us is coming with the work that could reverse the damage done to the story called India. Till date, we are hooked up with European ethnocentrism, colonialism, racism, and anti-Semitism and what they wished us to believe and teach.
2. Now look at the enigma left by Charles Darwin. His theory is simple, perhaps even too simplistic. Life on Earth has evolved through a series of biological changes as a consequence of random genetic mutations working in conjunction with natural selection. One species gradually changes over time into another. And those species that adapt to changing environmental conditions are best suited to survive and propagate and the weaker die out, producing the most well-known principle of Darwinism—survival of the fittest.
The theory has been taught to children for generations. We have all learned that fish changed into amphibians, amphibians became reptiles, reptiles evolved into birds, and birds changed into animals. However, it is far easier to explain this to school children—with cute illustrations and pictures of a lineup of apes (beginning with those having slumped shoulders, transitioning to two that are finally standing upright)—than it is to prove.
Darwinism is the only scientific theory taught worldwide that has yet to be proved by the rigorous standards of science. Why it is being taught as proven ‘Scientific Fact’ world over and in India too? How many scientists and researchers from India are choosing to challenge the Darwin’s Theory of Evolution? There is no debate among us about ‘Tao of Physics’ Verses ‘Origin of Species’.
3. Add to agony, and we find that our own Archaeological Research is lagging at least 100-150 years behind the work done world over. How less we as academics know about ancient Harappan civilization of the Indus Valley and Mohenjo-Daro? Forget about ‘Mahabalipuram’ and the like and where do they fit in our indigenous chronology of historical events.
But how far does the ‘Knowledge Filter’ go? How much of the actual history of India still lies in the dustbin created by Western ethnocentrism, colonialism, and scientific materialism?
4. At what point till his/her graduation, a student of science is being ‘introduced’ to the Neil Bohr, Heisenberg, and the works of other prominent Quantum Physicists? When about the famous thought experiment of ‘Schrödinger’s cat’….and the like?
When would they be introduced to alternative worlds of science? When would they be told that there is science beyond the ‘Newtonic Physics’? So on…?..??
5. Though times have changed. And the ‘Transfer of Technology’ is a bit faster than previous decades, BUT the ‘Transfer of Knowledge’ of all type is still very slow to India, especially if it is a newer knowledge and challenges the pre-conceived notion of knowledge in any field.
India, with her treatment by the West and her acquiescence to that treatment, typifies the way in which Western intellectualism conquered the world. Call it the “West is best” model: a strict adherence to European doctrines.
I personally am of the opinion that the system can’t be changed by mere wishful thinking from any body or any section in the society. It could possibly be changed by directly challenging it, but with solid, independent ‘Original’ works by intellectuals and researchers from India.
Somewhere I feel that it is about cutting loose. Then we would be able to teach whatever it needs in this century and centuries to come. No help be needed.
I was asked a question in retrospection by one of my honorable colleague Dr. Usha Krishna at Linkedin.com:
“If I were a teacher, what would I do?”
- Teach according to syllabus
- Teach whatever you like
- Teach for satiating the curiosity
- Teach western course content
And, my answer went on the following lines of thought:
If I do comply with the stipulated syllabus, then only I would be allowed to remain a teacher, a professional.
If I choose to teach ‘whatever’ (instead of what) I like, then again rebellion against the system would leave me out at the periphery of system itself.
If I choose to teach only for the sake of satiating curiosity, then it would become a crime according to the laws of system.
Here is what would I continue to do? I would ‘learn’ non-stop for satiating my own curiosity inclusive of all variety of thoughts or concepts.
But if I don’t share with students what I think or have learnt because of any repercussion, then what am I doing by being there as a teacher? Is my job just to feed the filtered contents and leaving my students with only unilateral lines of thinking and creating a production-line which produces robots only?
I would pause to think–If my job is about sharing with students all types of multi-dimensional and conflicting thoughts/ideas and in the process, leaving them curious enough, open enough and making them actually thinking persons who can think and act independently.
May be, the kind of thinking I personally have, has its roots in the fact of my life that my father had been a teacher, government employee. And somewhere down the line that it became clear to me, myself that I don’t want to become a teacher. Yet, I love to learn a lot and am open to all types of ideas, vantage points; and even love more to share those. Because sharing those keeps me at edge and never allows the complacency to set in.
(Though I could not add there that even my grandpa was also a teacher for whole of his life. He and my father, being teachers, induced all the right notions among children, yet probably they also realized that something beyond standard education would be required for their children. I owe to my father a lot and especially for his encouragement to reading habits. I remember that I was even a kid of very small age and I was made exposed to 2-libraries of the town. As the times passed by, it left me with a very wide horizon of thinking……..such a spectrum of information and knowledge of all types. Above all….. with an ability to choose and dwell among the conflicting thoughts/ideas.)
(I continued on Linkedin discussion….)
Though like you and colleagues in teaching profession, I also have strongly digested my inability to deal with system in my own chosen profession. Nothing makes me wise enough to suggest any thing to you all. I just share……….believing in the power of ‘robust dialogue’. That’s about it!
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