The Lost Meaning of Education - Abhishek Singh Gaur, FMS Delhi

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    Abhishek Singh Gaur did his MBA from FMS, Delhi and BTech from NIT, Hamirpur. Abhishek has a rich experience of more than 8 years in mentoring aspirants for competitive exams. He has won various case presentation and leadership competitions and was also an active member of cultural and academic forums.

    It was the year 2000. My teacher had asked me to read a paragraph from a chapter of my book on Value Education. The story of the crow putting stones into the pot did not rouse any new ideas into my mind. You may wonder why I am telling you an excerpt from my life. Well, the excerpt did help me almost a decade later. It was for the first time that I had considered the value of education and its long-term importance. Education at its core is a way to find meaning into life. Often, parents and institutions may claim that it is a pathway to a glorious career. I may disagree with this based on my own prejudices. But what stupefies me is the fact that this idea is propagated with absolute certainty.

    We do not question it, We follow it. We live in a carrot and stick world. We live by goals.

    Some among us may lose our purpose of life without goals. This raises a few important questions. Ideally, do goals define us? If they don’t, then what does?

    I have been a part-time teacher for over half a decade and I have always asked this question to my students: “Why do you want to study so hard?”

    Amidst the variety of answers I get, most answers are around gratification of the desires which are seldom their own. We tend to please others. In the process, the hope to find one’s own choice is lost. Do you know what happens in the process? There is a horde of engineers who fail to solder a wire and horde of business graduates with poor communication skills. The necessity to seek gratification from our society, peers and family has brought us closer to artificially intelligent machines that follow instructions.   

    At this point, my readers may oppose my argument saying that they are independent and make their own decisions. They are often not influenced. In most ways, each one of us believes so. Think of a cold drink and if Coke and Pepsi emerge as the first thoughts, you certainly have made a choice that is governed subconsciously. This is the beauty of branding.

    The biggest problem is what I will discuss now.  What was the purpose of education? The purpose was to be enlightened and aware. This awareness helped in making changes and being conscious of the ones that occurred around us. What is the purpose of education now? A good score or a good job is amongst the most prominent answers. This is the goal we set for ourselves and for the generations to come. A mere idea of this sort makes us run away on the path of gathering extensive information in short time. A major lesson is missed in the process. We forget the very essence. We are like gobblers eating large amounts of food in a food-eating competition. We forget to taste the food.

    Do I mean to challenge the education system? I do not. By all means, I am a product of this system. I challenge the inability of teachers to promote free thought. I question the ability of parents who tend to ignore the skills their kids possess and instead seek the ones, they don’t. We all have studied about stars but only a few can point out constellations in the open sky. We all have studied that throwing trash on the road is a bad thing and yet we do it. We treat the limited practical education in schools as an extra incentive. Where did it all go wrong?

    It all started when the British decided to kill the diversity and creativity of Indian minds in 1835. We adopted this system as an opportunity for representation and hence began the story of our devastation. We became the menial subjects who were like items of a production line. We worked as we were ordered. We needed instructions to think. What did we do with this system after Independence? We bred a system which was made to limit our intelligence. We nurtured it with our competitive mindset. Our pursuit on content made us lose sight of the free thinking. No wonder why the most prestigious civil services test the capacity to swallow and vomit rather than decision-making. Most of our selection processes challenge the candidates on the ability to practice and work hard. Hard work is important. Each and every animal kingdom species does that. But unnecessary and undirected efforts make you the despised donkey. Although, I am not still sure if we borrowed the donkey’s approach or vice versa.

    Amidst all the error of choices, we never learned from failures. So we continued to tread this path. Further ahead, we forgot to teach the importance of menial tasks. Whereas many parents worked hard to earn a name and a reputation, their children learned to live off the perks. This only intensified comparison. What began as an economic divide became a mental divide among children. The definition of independence today is based on how well you can spend on your own. Sadly, the urban poor came into existence.

    To make matters worse, we put successful on the high pedestal and left the failed ones in tears. The comparison soon followed. We forgot to see the ability of our children and we ran on to make steady comparisons. We forgot to teach the importance of falling and then failing again. The only way out of this coffin remains self-realization. Personally, I did learn this myself a little later from the Batman movie where the young Bruce is asked, “Why do we fall?” “So we can learn to pick ourselves up.”

    If we put some thought, we realize that we got the whole definition wrong. We have made professions out of teaching and we compare children constantly. We drilled fear into the hearts of the young ones. In the end we created an army of standardized candidates. What happened to the misfits? Some left the country in search of better opportunities. The others either adapted to this system or got busy in building their path to glory. This instability we created becomes more evident with passing time. It’s time to change!

    It’s time to make new ways into teaching. It’s time to bring back the respect of the position and the role. It’s time to value education. It’s time to relish the present. A step into changing the teaching methodology can be the driving force towards a great nation. The importance of application should be valued. It must be stressed that no work is menial. A good path is a result of good choices that in turn are by-product of failures. Teach values. In the end, it will never just be about the solutions. It will be about hard choices and creative solutions.

    Why? It’s simple.

    “People who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world are ones who actually do.”

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