Are Young Indian Students Prepared for The Real World?

Educating Our Future Generation

“United we stand, divided we fall”, many of us probably would have been spoon-fed with these kind of sentences in our early school days. But have any of us experimented with these lines ever? Of course some of us have! But I am sure many of us will land up with an “umm…” I asked the same question to a secondary school boy. This is what he replied “So what do you mean? Pick up each and every proverb and quotation and keep experimenting and following them! Who will study for promotional exams then? Who will submit assignments? Who will study for competitive exams?”

I don’t think he was wrong in his perspective. He is so much overloaded with his study schedule that he hardly gets a time to connect his books with real life. Well the one line answer for this mess, what many of us will say is “the education pattern in India is just like that, it has no connection with reality.”

But is this kind of education pattern only in India? Or does it exist somewhere else? Or everywhere else? Let’s go a little back. Have you ever opened the cobwebbed closet in the corner of your home? Let me guess for probably what you will find there – an empty carton box of the air conditioner or refrigerator, some old magazines, some broken furniture which in no case can be used anyway, your school time broken water-bottle and lunch boxes, some old torn and rotten linen, empty plastic cans of cooking oil… and all kinds of now-useless items you can think of. None of which your upcoming generations, or you, would be able to use a single time!

Surprisingly, I saw some empty whiskey bottles, kept in a chest on the roof top of a neighbor’s house in my village; Grandma said, “His Grandpa drank them when he was alive.” We Indians love to gather and preserve anything and everything we encounter. Let it be empty bottles of coca cola, polythene bags in which we brought vegetables, carry bags from the shopping mall, cartons of any size, the burst tyre tube, the fuse bulb, sticks, rods, papers …. And what not. Many of us even wash disposable glasses and cups and keep them; we don’t know what for! We love to gather anything.

Now there is something called intentional negligence, which means that though you see many things around you, you observe only the ones you wish to observe. For example – you must have seen your wrist watch many times, probably many times a day. But if asked do you remember that are the marking on your wrist watch is Roman numerals or English numbers or it’s a mix of both or just without any marking? Many of us will answer, but many others wouldn’t.

And if further asked to draw your wrist watch on a paper, of course many of us will topple down. Now mix this intentional negligence with the great Indian art of gathering everything. We gathered the best of books available in the market (initially Indian markets, but after globalization, the world market) and put them in our syllabus. Now our kids are supposed to learn the best of everything in this world. Be it Aryabhatta to Einstein, Rig Veda to bible, Aayurveda to Allopath, literally all. And the result comes when that school boy replied to my question in the beginning of this article. We pour on them so much that the importance of the lessons reduces merely to gather marks on their score card. Let’s see one more example; I happened to make quite a frequent number of train journeys for a last few months. At many of the places in India in general, and the railway stations in particular, you will find a good number of people engaged in begging activity.

During my first few journeys, when I had to wait for my train at the station, I would give time to seeing those beggars. Some had amputated limbs, some blind, some full of wounds surrounded by flies and some just – well! I sincerely kept on thinking whole my journey about how to remove this malady from our society. I even had a few minutes conversation with a beggar regarding how he lives his life and what does he expect to be done by us. But after my initial few journeys, I slowly started ignoring these people. They crawl and roll and bang their empty bowl in – front of me and I kept eating my packet of chips. And now, I hardly remember that I saw any of them during my last journey. The same is happening everywhere. At first we see something, then we resist and then we learn living with it and then we forget that we really saw something itself! Now let’s see the fine art of “Reverse engineering”.

“United we stand, divided we fall”, the meaning of it that has been engineered by many of us, is “people don’t support the person who intends, or is about to fall.” So now if you are crying against the local goon, probably 10-20 people will support you and encourage you to fight for them. But as soon as the goon rebounds back with his full muscle power, the supporters vanish in their closets, because their parents told them that “son, united we stand and divided we fall, so be with the majority and not with the one who is about to fall” And if at all a witty kid asks his elders that this is not what he has read in his books then they proudly reply, “Son, this is the real world. Books are good only at school.”

I ask “daddy, why don’t you teach me the real world in schools? That will make sense against your hard earned money then!” Raja ram mohan rai, the Indian socialist, he learnt many languages just to read and understand the genuine versions of the various religious books. The pundits and so called hardcore religious followers were all practicing the stupid activities like sati and untouchability in the name of religion. The socialists like Raja ram mohan rai and others opposed these malpractices with the evidence of the holy texts which were misinterpreted by the pundits. But at the same time everybody can’t be Raja ram, everyone can’t be multilingual and as a matter of fact everybody mustn’t.

In this era of information technology and globalization, we should enable our next generation to be prepared for the real world. We already have maligned this earth enough, if we keep on holding their fingers and directing them to move on the same path as we did, I am afraid they won’t rise to being capable of curbing these maladies. Take them out to the real world, show them the problems we are facing, ask them to innovate the solutions, don’t make them pore over books and notes. Teach them less but enable them learn to more.

Abhishek Kumar writes from Patna, Bihar, India, telling the stories of the people who live there and the things that affect their lives.