What do you care what other people think ?

A few days back, Kushal had posted some thoughts about newbies on IRC and especially related to the way they go about their business. He wrapped his comments into an audio file.

Today, I read Swaroop’s blog about providing ‘coding’ training.

So, here’s the bottom-line – the education system as it is in place in India is flawed. Not only from the perspective of content or focus, but from a deeper core objective of what it is supposed to do. This isn’t a rant. I’ve studied all my life in this system and so have a number of others. And post my studies, the more I come in contact with the current crop of students – it provides empirical evidence that things aren’t so good.

The basic problem with Indian Education is the lack of emphasis to build up the fundamentals of science and mathematics. That isn’t an implied statement that the arts and literature are subject unworthy of attention. However, the lack of an organized methodology to teach building blocks of mathematics and science is a serious issue. When I say building blocks – it means teaching science and mathematics in a form that elaborates the concepts and gets the students to think. ‘How to think’ is becoming an extinct art form and that is another cause for worry.

How does a lack of ‘how to think’ skills impact students ? Dramatically. An admittedly small cross section of students from institutes of various reputations, that I talk with, seem to have internalized the notion of ‘read what is in the book, and don’t think beyond since the questions aren’t asking you to’. So, here’s another twist – the pattern of examinations is out-of-date and lacks a context. Lack of basic mathematical ability or, the conceptual grasp of mathematics generally translates into weak knowledge of anything that has to do with data manipulation. Thus, anything from the realms of mathematics, physics, chemistry ie the sciences to engineering in its various forms are affected.

Add to that the perception of the parents about this entire journey through the education system as a ‘rat race’ where the successful rat wins a cushy job with mind boggling payouts. So, the intrinsic curious nature of a child is soon transformed into a mindlessly numbing game of ‘go with the flow’ and ‘be like your better peers’. The ones who stop to think, be different are either nerds or, social misfits. And, I am not being overtly dramatic over here.

The entire concept of ‘what do you care what other people think’ which would allow the mind to wonder, poke around and learn from first principles isn’t aided by the system of education. And, there is the root cause of the crumbling. A rule of thumb guess as to what is happening due to this can be comprehended by the decreasing number of enrollments each year for the pure sciences and even applied sciences while studies that have anything remotely computer science-y have overflow of candidates. For all the high sounding words of ‘education not being there to serve industry demands’, that is precisely what is happening.

The main idea about education that it isn’t about the text, but about the context is what I see missing. I see and meet stellar candidates with high marks, but a chilling lack of grasp of concept. And, more scary is the fact that they have no notion of what they don’t have. Since around them there isn’t a group of folks telling them as to what can be or should be done during their formative years of learning.

I don’t have a solution for this disease. What I have is reams of stories which, over the years, make me more depressed – why do we do this to our kids ? Why can’t we teach them about not caring about what other people think and being themselves ? What does it take for us to attempt a leap of faith and make our next generation far better than what we are ?

[initially part of my other blog on livejournal]

3 thoughts on “What do you care what other people think ?”

  1. The purpose of formal education is not to create thinkers. That has long stopped, with the advent of the ‘Western’ education system started by the British. The purpose of the education system now is to make students want to confirm with authority.
    Given this, the question is – Do we want to ‘educate’ our children?

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  2. @Aditya – the system of training (rather than education) which was implemented during the East India Company was functional and had a single goal – enable to create a cadre of clerks who could assist in transaction of the business for the Company. ‘Western’ education system has for long cherished the tradition of making students ‘think’. Historically, the reason for existence of a systematic method of teaching has been to enrich thinking processes and hence contribute to the improvement of the baseline of society. From that perspective, I’d say yes we do want to ‘educate’ our next generation. Question remains – do we want to dip into the current process that is in place ?

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