In the Name of Education, Amen

The Indian Middle Class typically upholds certain ideals and values that are intrinsic and exclusive to it, and derives its characteristic nature from them. One of these is the attitude of the Indian middle class towards education of their children. 

Typically, children are expected to perform really well in school, “well” being indicated by their academic percentages and their comparative rank in class. With extra-curricular activities gaining popularity and importance, “well” also implies juggling a dozen such activities along with scoring high marks and getting ahead in the rat race, come what may. Donning a badge or two is the ultimate icing on the cake. Children, at an impressionable stage of their life, are forced to become clones of one another, forced to replicate the attributes of the “best child” in class. Come senior school, and they are sent to the best coaching institutes, preferably for every academic subject, to deal with the newfound pressures of the syllabi and in preparation for the “great battle” ahead- Board exams. These exams are seen as a Do-or-Die attempt, having the power to make or break their “future”. This so-called-future is also determined at this early stage by their choice of subjects in school. Taking up Arts, instead of Science or Commerce (in that order) is no less than a disaster. And going by the standards that seem to be re-set every year, getting anything below 95% is a clear mark of the student being a failure. Not getting admission into the “best” college in the country, and, not wanting to be a Doctor, Engineer, Chartered Accountant or a Lawyer is a sign of unfortunate mediocrity. In addition to relenting to such pronounced failure, young students today are also doomed if they are on the wrong side of the line that divides the “Special” from the “General”.
What are we doing to ourselves? We are creating a society that is driven by the largest young population in the world, albeit old, jaded and typical in its attitude. We are encouraging a blind and savage competition with a three-hour written examination being the only indictor of success or merit. In homogenizing performances based on one’s power of rote learning, we are killing diversity and true talent. What about the under-scorer who clicks brilliant photographs or the child who went to a not-so-famous-school but paints exceedingly well? What about the girl who tops math but wants to be a dancer instead of going to the IIT? Or the boy who topped all his life but does not want to take the CAT and is content working at an NGO because that is what he loves doing! Will we be able to resist judging them and pronouncing them as “un-ambitious” or even as “failures”? 

We need to erase such fallacy-laden values and standards that do not let us be what we want to be. That is creating a society full of robots, trained to think and do alike. That separates our vocation from avocation, and leads us to loathe work, which was meant to be worship. The society we live in should be driven by what we think, and not what we are made to think. 

Shruti Agarwal 

[Image courtsey:]