Education beyond marks & syllabus
Prof. Kalyan Kumar Banerjee, 05 May 2014

Why must we put recognition goals so far removed from real value creation that we end up celebrating plagiarism?

SOCIAL inclusion really happens when we empower the marginalized; there are many aspects to empowerment and social inclusion – one obvious path is meaningful education. It is not enough to just open a college and produce degrees. We need to be careful that education is custom-delivered to fit the context. To make an impact to our society and its future, we need to understand and appreciate our diversity, and the complexities that result from the skewed progress made by different sections of our society.

 

Discrimination is endemic

Unknown to us, we discriminate against students from specific backgrounds. Aptitude tests are a test of speed and hence test practice, thus eliminating those who could not afford the coaching. Any competitive exam that has spawned a coaching industry has left out large segments of our students from that opportunity. 

 

Meaning and substance score over uniformity and metrics

Traditional education programmes in India are syllabus-bound and examination-driven. Exams are necessary, but the drive towards “standardization” of the examination system has led to predictable questions with unambiguous answers. When the quality of education is measured primarily by marks or grades, it could lead students, faculty and education administrators to single-mindedly focus on good grades. That results in students acquiring enough nuggets of information on the subject, not necessarily with much wisdom or fundamentals.

 

IP is the be all and end all

Education must not also become a meaningless chase for numbers. Some academicians sport over a 1000 publications in their résumé , and we celebrate them. Is that humanly possible? Professors with credibility will confidently say they must have plagiarized. Why must we put recognition goals so far removed from real value creation that we end up celebrating plagiarism?

We also lament we lack patents. The concern is good to the extent that we must nurture research and knowledge creation. But why patents? Is that in tune with Indian philosophy? Can we stand up and say our Universities stand for open sharing of knowledge? In fact, that should be the purpose of education.

 

Collaboration and community

Nation building is not a competitive exercise. Yet we find academic institutes resistant to collaborate. Even industry-academia interactions are limited to the formal transactions of recruitment and internships. We must join hands, and come together – freely share information, ideas, development programmes, and exchange faculty and students.

 

Education is 360 degree

The uncertain future necessitates that students learn cultural aspects of living  in an unknown society that throws unexpected challenges at them. Can such challenges be anticipated? How to live in a big city and face its consequent challenges, or how to work in a corporate environment with an impatient and sometimes insensitive manager, are necessary elements of such learning when we take a holistic view of education. When education is residential, students get adjusted in campus first, and get acquainted to living with different and diverse people. Such education stretches beyond academic hours, and focuses on culture, curiosity and cooperation. 

As a nation, we need to have the courage to set our own goals and our own path. Harvard and MIT serve one end of the spectrum pretty well but America  has its own problems with education, and we need not copy them in everything. Let us also not make education a chase for doctoral degrees or papers. Let us instead focus on how education can make an impact to the well-being of our next generation – this includes focus on values, relationships, finding purpose in life, and a lot more. Let us pursue the different route with courage and conviction. 

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