Education plays an important role in the lives of every individual, especially in a fiercely competitive, globalised economic setting as we witness today. A good education, as everybody believes, is a sure passport for a comfortable living as it guarantees a good job, perhaps an overseas assignment or possibilities for higher studies in reputed universities in the US. Therefore parents are singularly focused on ensuring that their children get admission into the right course in a good educational institution. In their minds, good education invariably means becoming either an engineer or a doctor and perhaps pick up a management degree later. By virtue of the training and the parental and peer pressure every student wants a “safe route” and engineering appears to be that safe route.
Although there are signs of this trend changing slowly, a vast majority is still wanting to go through these disciplines only. According to one estimate, during 2016, nearly 71% of 12thstandard pass outs wanted to pursue an engineering degree and about 17% medicine. The moot question, therefore, to ask is, “Is this the right strategy to pursue? This article takes this question to a logical analysis and presents a paradigm for the future of education.
Early Beginnings to Win the Emerging Race
Many have come to believe that in order to be sure of this, it calls for starting the process very early. It is not uncommon to see in the states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana that 7thstandard school children are put on the “treadmill” of entrance examination preparation. These children have to give up the opportunity to unlock their creative energy of discovering the world, discovering their own likes, dislikes and passion and instead subject themselves to rigorous routine of maths and science. Similarly in the state of Tamil Nadu, in the neighbouring districts of Salem, school children in class 11 and 12 are nearly subjected to a “concentration camp like” situation where they are asked to monotonously memorise every word in their science and maths textbooks so that they can score centum in these subjects and secure a seat in engineering college of their choice. There are other models available for training for IIT exam. In all these models, a vital part of the growing youth is subjected to high pressure learning of skills which are useful only for passing an entrance examination.
Invariably, all these early beginnings share a common feature which can be well summarised with the well‐known medical phrase, “operation success, patient died”. What is implied is that while many of these students could have cleared the exams and obtained some engineering degrees, they become clueless about life and are inept in handling many “real life” issues both during their student life and later. Unfortunately many do not blossom into successful professionals eventually, leave alone becoming happy and satisfied human beings. This fundamentally raises a question, “What is the ultimate goal of education?”
Perils of the “Engineering Rat Race”
Once everybody comes to the conclusion that engineering education indeed pays, the first development that will happen (has already happened) is mushrooming of numerous engineering colleges churning out engineers in several thousands. The number of engineering colleges went up from 1,511 in 2006‐07 to over 3,300 in 2014‐15, churning out more than 1.5 million engineering graduates. More than one third of these graduates ran the risk of getting no jobs due to non‐availability of employers. Several years back, Narayana Murthy of Infosys remarked that Infosys found over 85% of the graduates “not employable”. Even among those who got jobs, a sizeable number of them were given pathetic salaries, which did not grow over the years.
Working professionals who crossed all these hurdles seem to face another set of issues while they are on the highway of career progression. A number of them are not finding satisfaction in their workplace and are going through stress and job burnout. Long work hours, inability to handle situations in their work place and poor communication and inter‐personal skills come in the way of their work life and personal life. Many do not know how to strike a balance between the workplace and home challenges. Moreover, a number of them genuinely feel that they lack an overall framework to life that enables them to pursue their passion and develop individual interests on issues that are closer to their heart, even as they go about their official chores.
Only such an approach to education which can factor these things can make a person happy and self‐satisfied. It will indeed enable him/her to productively contribute both at the workplace and at home. Strikingly many notice that their education never provided any inputs and guidance on these matters. Unfortunately, these issues become paramount once they spend a decade in their work place. Unfortunately it is too late and not many options are still available for them. Moreover, they have gone through some costly experiments in their lives on account of the lack of right knowledge to handle life issues. It appears that merely stuffing the students with some technical jargons, and familiarising them with some state‐of‐the‐art knowledge and techniques is simply not working. Clearly the “job seeking” approach to education is not addressing this requirement and it calls for a fresh relook. Is there something else required other than the mere job seeking educational inputs?
Job seeking to Life fulfilling education
The loud message emanating out of these experiences cuts at the root, the very assumption that “job seeking” education is the “be all, end all”. It appears to be short sighted in nature and inadequate in developing individuals with inner strength to deal multiple situation in life. It reminds us of the basic axiom that well developed individuals not only get good jobs but also stay a happy person pursuing his/her personal interests and passion even while productively contributing in the workplace. This is the future citizen that we need and the type of education provided must be able to develop such all‐ round individuals.
The new educational programs must factor these into consideration. It must have good inputs in some of the modern disciplines that may enable the student fetch jobs. However,
in equal measure it must develop individual interests and provide opportunities for testing them while graduating. There must be opportunities to develop an open mind and critical thinking. A rather liberalised approach to the nature of subjects to be studied will be very valuable. This will truly open up their minds and help them discover their interests and passion. Sufficient emphasis must be provided in developing superior communication and inter‐personal skills by redesigning the pedagogy and student evaluation methods to facilitate this. There are fresh attempts by some of the recent universities to address these concerns.
Another area of growing concern among the young is that they are not adequately informed of the ancestral knowledge of India. Every other day, some NASA report or a new research on Yoga and Sanskrit conducted in some US university is the only source to come to know the value of ancient Indian knowledge systems. We need new type of academic programs that enable students to choose from Ancient Indian knowledge systems, Sanskrit, comparative philosophy, appreciation of alternative forms of art etc. even when they are pursuing “job seeking” education such as engineering and management. Institutions considered to be the “Mecca” of Engineering and Management education in this country will summarily dismiss this idea at the very outset and laugh it away.
A good understanding of our ancestral knowledge will greatly inspire the youth and help them stay connected with their roots. This will be an added advantage in creating young minds that believe in themselves and develop self‐confidence and pride in an informed fashion. Such an approach to education will take us away from pure “job seeking” dimension to “life fulfilling” aspects of education. After all good jobs can provide material comforts but cannot make happy and satisfied individuals. The latter aspect is also important in the business of education today. This is the only way we can restore the role of education from सा िव ा या िनयु ये(an education to eke a living)to its original
prescription of सा िव ा या िवमु ये(an education to liberate us from the clutches of bondage).
The author, a Professor at Indian Institute of Management Bangalore, is currently the Vice Chancellor of Chinmaya Vishwavidyapeeth. The ideas expressed in the article are the author’s personal views. For contact and more details, visit, http://www.chinmayauniversity.ac.in