Alphabet soup of life

Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has in school – Albert Einstein

Results are in. HSC, ICSE, CBSE, JEE, NEET, UPSC, SSC, IIT, EAMCET…the alphabet soup of exams have set out future of the children of India. By the age of 16-17 years, half of school going children in India go through stress and struggle than an adult goes through in 30 years of his working life! Every year crores of children write these exams hoping to build a future for themselves. Many stories emerge from these exams. Some familiar, some out of the box.

Girls outshine boys in schools, boys outshine girls in engineering and medical entrances, sons and daughters of samosa makers to rickshaw pullers emerge triumphant against all odds. North India is more inclined towards Public Services and South India towards IIT /engineering & medicine. Some take to extreme steps in face of failure. Psychologists, sociologists and educationists analyze advice and caution on the ways to win, handle the victory and the defeats in these exams. Every year the story repeats.

Education, especially up to pre-university level is probably the biggest business out there in India. Bigger offshoot of this is the tutorial college business. Kota in Rajasthan, Hyderabad and southern states have famous factories that produce these purported future heroes & heroines of India. Anand Kumar’s Super30 in Patna, a truly non-profit study center, gets a near 100% results every year. The parents of these children spend lots of money, lose lots of sleep and pin great hopes while over burdening their children match the gruel that their children go through. As one of the mentors in one of the factory colleges told a group of parents (including me), “ask him to give 5 years of his life now, he can have a great life forever afterwards”. If he does not make it, who will give him back 5 years of his youth!

Due to the sheer size of population, only one country’s children and parents go through a similar grind. China. Few days ago on June 7 to 9 this year, 200 million children and 400 million parents in China went through an ordeal called Gaokao. It is a popular name for National Higher Education Entrance Examination. Gaokao is a must exam for every child in China to pursue higher education. While In India’s IIT, EAMCET etc. are restricted to Maths, Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Zoology, Gaokao is an exam with much wider range of subjects including Chinese language, history etc. Gaokao sets the pecking order. Higher the score, better college you get to go. Apparently, the race of life begins very early in India and China.

If you are wondering why parents of teenage children (especially boys) are more upset with Donald Trump than Americans themselves are, it is these exams. For many parents, especially in South India, an engineering degree is a passport, visa and ticket all combined to United States of America. IIM is the next abode for any many IITians and engineering graduates in their educational pilgrimage of life. For many IIT+IIM is a combination more powerful than nuclear fusion. It is another matter that, many of these bright engineers end up selling soaps, sugared water and investment products!

India produces the highest quantity of unemployed (& unemployable) engineers. Quality of education in India, at every level save few institutions, is a cause for worry. Surprisingly while the cost of education is going up, while teachers are grossly underpaid! Today’s newspaper report highlights that 38% of urban families’ expenditure is on higher education. Many schools in India resemble a low-level office complex sans any facilities apart from ramshackle classrooms. Playground is a dream, sports an option and proper desk a comfort.

During the British rule, Thomas Macaulay created an education system in India that had one objective. Liquidate the indigenous culture of India by substituting it with an alien system to meet the needs of the British Empire. India produced clerks to serve the British Empire. British and Macaulay left long ago. Macaulayism remains entrenched in the schools, desks of the children and minds of the parents. We replaced clerks with coders.

Which school shall we go to get rid of Macaulaysim? Take an entrance test for the same!




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