So there I was. An opportunity to study what I had been yearning to study since 5 years. Satisfying a dream I had nurtured for the longest time. The road here had been rough. But it was well worth it. Or so I thought...
Flashback to education in India. A product of the Indian education system, a marks-oriented intense societal pressure system that is becoming increasingly capable of driving young children to suicide. But I was among the lucky ones. The kid who scored. Who managed a decent rank in all exams. In school I did it because I liked it. Or that's what I was taught to believe. I would like to think I liked it. Then came a series of bad choices, not fought hard enough against that sent me straight to the exact education I did not want. Technical studies were traumatic enough- I was driven further up the wall thinking about how I should be outdoors and not cocooned inside air conditioned walls. Scoring in exams came easily though- whether out of lack of challenge or because of smarter friends who taught the subject a day beforehand, I don't know. But we lived, I lived and to my relief I was spat out of the system- glossy and shiny - all ready for a thriving it job market.
When I put my foot down. And decided it wasn't worth it. But once a victim, always a victim. After a year of relative peace in a nondescript rural area, I packed off to another education system, another continent, another country, another culture- but the same stress. This time around I face a time-starved system- that offers me a zillion choices, but won't afford the time to give justice to any of them.
So without launching into a diatribe on the evils of the education system, I ask a few questions-
1. 'Customer Satisfaction' is the buzzword across the globe. If the customer is satisfied, if the electorate is satisfied, if the employee is satisfied, success follows. Why is this principle not applied to education systems? And to students? How many students can claim to be a 90% satisfied with their education? The issue becomes critical once the student enters college, and falls into a routine- a routine he accepts as being a part of his future. In a way the system prepares him for a future of dissatisfaction with his career, his dreams crushed. And hopes shattered.
2. Is education for the elite? Despite considerable efforts at promoting school education globally, higher education remains the privilege of an elite few, who have the means (or rather are supported by parents) to pursue graduate education. How fair is it that despite such advancements in human society (of which I consider few to be really significant, but that's another topic) only a few of us get the opportunity to pursue further studies? Why are education systems so cash starved that they become increasingly elitist with higher degrees? And what responsiblity towards society do we bear, as alumni or current students?
3. As products of a graduate degree, what is our global contribution? As fortunate members of a 7 billion population, being people who have had the rare opportunity to become 'knowledgable'- how are we using our skills and knowledge to improve the globe? Eradicate poverty? For social justice? Improve health? Not everybody needs to be a social activist, not everybody needs to be out in the sweltering sun. But where are the big ideas, the innovations, the reforms required to revolutionize society? Or to make the lives of even 50 households in a remote poverty stricken village better? Where are the big ideas?!
4. Is education really the answer to all problems? As students (ESP in India) we have been pushed from one degree to the next to the next to the next until our rationalizing, understanding and tolerance powers vanish into thin air. We remain but hollow skeletons of a system that ruthlessly churns out more paper degrees each year, unmindful of the quality of students being generated. So should we care about education at all?
Depressing though it may seem, there has to be a golden rule. Some hidden formula that makes education worth the quarter of our life we invest in it. Perhaps it is time we start looking for answers. Avoid the mistakes of our past.
Because education is not such a bad word after all.