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Decimating The Education System

Updated: June 30, 2012 12:52 pm

It seems that the present central government takes pleasure in everything that hurts the common man’s interest. When the country is moving down the ladder of growth, the HRD Minister has come out with the proposal to reform the selection process to the IITs. However, Kapil Sibal’s diktat appears to be complete floundering. No surprise that alumni of IITs have thrown down the gauntlet, as they maintain that the HRD Minister should have initiated change through transparent consultations. But he did nothing, though he knew that all the IIT alumni and senates had raised objections against his arbitrary proposal. For, the HRD Minister’s proposal of “one nation, one exam” will deprive students of having succeeded the presumably lesser level of other exams than IIT JEE. Moreover, the proposed “one nation, one exam” will not do away with the exams conducted by the thousands of private engineering colleges in the country. So, in a true sense, this purported “one nation, one exam” will not serve as only one exam of the country for engineering courses. Rather, it will intensify the competition to enter into engineering courses through the way of private colleges, which would further increase their tuition fee etc. Hence, a rich but less meritorious student would be able to get admission, and a poor but bright and meritorious student would not be able to get admission in those private colleges, thus widening the gulf between the poor and the rich. Given this, it is beyond one’s comprehension as to why the HRD Minister is in such a hurry to rush through his proposal. It is not that IITs are opposed to the Minister’s proposal, they have only demanded that the move should be postponed till 2014 so that dialogue could be held to bring out a suitable arrangement, maintaining the dignity of IITs, which are considered to be the country’s best educational institutes, sustaining a high level of quality. But Mr Sibal appears to be stubborn on his part, as what the HRD Ministry has done so far shows disconnect with students. An education system cannot be for a small section of elites. The need is to first work at the grassroots and strengthen the school system, invest in quality teachers to attract students and usher in examination reforms. Reforms can never succeed, if tried at the top. They have to be gradual, done with meticulous planning and should start from the bottom.

A well-defined system of education that aims at attainment of the relevant knowledge is the key to success in every sphere of human endeavour. An ideal education system is one that is designed to meet individual desires and aspirations of each member of the society for achievement of common good of the society as a whole. Success in life of an average citizen is the chief aim of the education system. An education system has to strike a perfect balance between the societal requirement and individual’s predisposition. For success, the prerequisite is that each individual should be free to opt for a career of his or her choice. In the light of the aforementioned definition, the Indian education system fares poorly. The education system that we have inherited does not address our contemporary needs and hence fails to prepare us for the future. No wonder, India is now afflicted with another crucial issue: poor learning outcomes for students in the six to 14 age group. National data on this is not extensive, but available empirical evidence points to weak achievements for a significant percentage of students. In rural India, which is more disadvantaged, the highest level of reading that the largest segment of students in Class Eight were capable of was a Class Two text, according to the Annual Status of Education Report, 2011. In the same student sample, only 56.8 per cent were able to do a simple arithmetic division in Class Eight; others performed badly. Viewed against the backdrop of such low academic attainments, it is understandable that Education Ministers of some states expressed their apprehension at the 59th meeting of the Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE) that the “no detention” feature of the Right to Education Act could pave the way for a further decline in standards. Admittedly, in class societies education is an ideological apparatus of the state and is designed and used for the perpetuation and furtherance of its interests. And all these strategies appear to be at work in bringing a new system of education that uncritically privileges a small section of so-called elitists. However, it is worth recalling that India from the time immemorial has been the hub of education. From guru-shishya parampara to the present-day IITs or IIMs or medical education has been quite a journey. From Vedas to awareness of globalisation it has all been there. Yes, rural India is coming up but it is also true that elementary education needs edge. We need to set our own model of education. We surely are capable of doing that. India has a great potential and only possible way to harness that is through education, i.e. higher education. Against this background, the HRD Ministry cannot possibly deliver without having the IIT alumni including educationist participation on board in the matter of ITTs.

Deepak Kumar Rath

Deepak Kumar Rath

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