©Joe Loong via Flickr

Last week, I came across a news piece emphasizing our Union HRD minister, Smriti Irani’s decision to prioritize reforms in higher education.  Clearly, there’s no beating around bush for we all know just how lacking our education system is (in terms of both infrastructure and quality).  The Indian Varsities, even the most prestigious ones stand nowhere in comparison with their Asian counterparts, let alone Harvard and MIT.

While talking to a friend the other day, who also happens to be a research fellow by profession, our conversation eventually steered towards the stale and dogmatic style of teaching in India. Having been a part of a research institute for a quite a while now, she told me how the higher education in India is not research oriented, and that how it undermines the hopes of students who have a knack for creating rather than repeating, due to conspicuous lack of available funds.

The quality of any university imparting higher education can be judged by the number of research papers it publishes in most reputed academic journals. However, in India, lack of focus on the infrastructure, inexperienced faculty and meagerness of capital leads to less than required publications.

There is a paucity of collaboration between the academics and industries (a symbiotic relationship, wherein companies provide funds to institutions so as they carry out research  that might, in turn, benefit the industries involved), mostly because the companies in India are still service providers, and not manufacturers. Therefore, it can be safely said that, creativity among the students is not at the top of agenda for Indian educational institutes. Nevertheless, higher education alone should not be held accountable for achieving this feat.

The root for the lackluster performance of higher academic institute could be attributed to the outdated model of Indian Primary education .This  pattern designed during the colonial times with the intention of producing service class rewards mediocrity and rote learning.We study, not for knowledge, but for job, and good score ascertains a satisfying appointment. Focus on marks rather than the concept has been a defining pattern throughout our schooling years. Critical thinking and inquisitive mind aren’t given much prominence. To inspire a creative atmosphere and to open young minds to various possibilities has never been deemed crucial by our educational system.

I remember being conditioned to take my teacher’s word for everything they said, because ‘to question’ has never been a part of curriculum. I also remember my tuition teacher being extremely pleased every time I gave an oral test, parroting word to word from my note book. She didn’t ask if I understood a single word of what I said, for she might have thought that understanding wouldn’t get me good score, but, rote- learning most-certainly will.

There’s no denying the fact that there is an urgent need to overhaul higher education, and government’s staunch resolution to do so is much appreciated. However, amidst all the talks of refurbishing, let it not be forgotten that to make gains of such reforms sustainable, the archaic style of primary education needs attention, too.


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