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Saturday, April 17, 2010


Article Collected by - Education is My Passion

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“I remember clearly the student riots; remember being a student who did not really know for sure what was the cause and effect of the rioting; but was constantly reminded “that there would be no jobs if we did not fight for our rights;” We joined in as there were no classes, and how could we not go with the rest of them? It was exhilerating to feel like we were changing the course of history, being discussed in the newspapers. Once we stepped in the real world, there was no change, and we had lost time.”

This is the most common remark we heard during the research Education Times did on student movements and politics. Historically, student movements have been a vital component of many issues worldwide, but in India, given our overwhelming distortions in education standards, educationists opine it is more of a reflection of studentunrest which arises from a lack of direction in the education system, and the access politicians have to the universities, than a genuine well thought out expression of dissent; or even a willingness to actually work out solutions on serious issues.

An Education System that does not work for all. 

Though as a country we may be in a hyper expansion mode, our degrees absorb years together and leave more than half of the total graduates high and dry. “If a student does a BA, B Com, BSc degree, spends three years after school on it, and does not get a job after that, what does that say of our education?", asks NIT Warangal Director, Dr Y V Rao, who insists that the country should look at the deeper causes of student unrest. "Unless we bring in the industrial sector and make our curriculum very real time, very applicable, we are not going to help the situation. Seriously lacking in creative thinking, seriously demotivated from working hard, it does not take much to sway them into political movements.” 

   While we have several institutions of excellence in all spheres, mediocrity still reigns high. It is a sense of despondency that creeps in once students are in the education system which clearly may not connect the student to a life of opportunity well enough for them to focus entirely on education. The restlessness exists in millions of young people and can and is used by politicians easily in a country like India. 

   The malaise runs deep, says Rao. We have a structured approach to majority of our education courses that does not work at all in the real world; and we have a completely unstructured approach to updating it. The situation should be reverse: we should have a systematic approach to updating education and keeping it relevant and that necessarily means leaving part of the curriculum unstructured. Even today, decisions can be very ad-hoc.“Take for example our plan to vocationalise education,” he says, “we want to put up 1000 technology institutions. But do we know if we need 100,000 electricians year after year?” he asks.

Easy access to students by politicians

As education is a subject on the concurrent list and the state politicians have access to all state education institutions, they are likely to be sitting ducks for any movement that needs passionate participation. This could be for a right and apt cause too, but students need to be discerning. The central universities, the IITs, IIMs, NITs and other institutions under the centre are run differently. "Even if we keep politicians off campus, the posession of mobile phones with most students nullifies such measures," says a university VC. It not surprising that families still want to send their children abroad for education given the vagaries of the system here.

Those impressionable years

Students and their minimal exposure to real life macro issues lead to a kind of illusionary trap about the impact of their dissent on issues. Even if the cause is genuine, there may be very little ability to turn it into a reality. CII Andhra Pradesh chairman Harish Chandra Prasad remembers that when he was president of the engineering college at OU and a passionate marxist, “sitting on the student body panel and influenced by powerful speakers we thought the whole world would turn communist tomorrow.” "The level of gullibility in student life is high and students who have a herd mentality anyway, are swayed into action" says Nalsar VC Veer Singh. Also, often when fighting for an issue, students are convinced they will be given handsome rewards later on. “Given that being a politician in India does not need any kind of qualification (though being a clerk does), this fits in perfectly with a disillusioned set of students,” says YV Rao.

Difference between dissent and rioting

In a democracy, expressing dissent with an existing situation is everybody’s birthright. "But the line to draw is what kind of dissent is it? Is it a peaceful dissent, or rioting" asks Veer Singh. “Everybody should understand that their freedom to dissent ends with their nose. Your dissent cannot be extended to other people’s life, property and peace,” remarks Harish Chandra. HCU Vice-Chancellor Seyed E. Hasnain who was also a student of Osmania University comments that given the situation in India, students themselves should be alert. “The student community should ask themselves are they being used, or is there a genuine cause here? In my own experience, in the years 1972-74, my exam was postponed during the Jayprakash Narayan movement in Bihar. Very few students actually made any headway into public life even after giving years of their lives. Most just had to pick up where they left."

Lost years and lost sense of direction

Two years of discontinued education can completely take away ones faith in the system, and mar a student for life. 

Discipline, which is the core requirement in the real world, is difficult to adhere to. Thousands of students lose precious time because educational institutions have not found a middle path between expressing dissent and continuing education. We certainly need to bring in an education which brings in the conviction in the young to invest the time and believe their life and the country will benefit. There will be hundreds of issues that this billion people plus country will face in coming times, so we need to decide if our education institutions are worth keeping offlimits for political causes; and to begin with, if we are actually giving a real ‘education’ to genuine students.

Source : The Hindu
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