I recently had a very enlightening discussion with 2 of my friends as to whether education in India is successful in doing what it wants. I believe that while India still produces some of the brightest minds in the world, India falls far short of the demands India places on itself. India wants more research, and ultimately get a Noble Prize in science – I know some will argue with me saying that that’s not true and we can’t judge on success by Noble Prize alone, I would like to point out the massive feeling of disappointment that comes whenever some Indian edges close to the final review processes of the Noble Prize but fails to win it. I remember once reading an article in a newspaper at a time when some Indian was being considered for one of the science Nobel Prizes, it claimed that it was time for the world to acknowledge the importance of India in the world of science by awarding him the prize. They argued with Indians having discovered Zero, and coming up with the original number system, and various other points, all the while completely forgetting that not those people, but someone else, for some other work was being considered for the Noble Prize. If you argue on this point in India, you will get a similar rebuttal as to how India WAS great and should be respected and feted.
There is a pervasive feeling that because India was great, India MUST STILL be great. No doubt centers of learning like Nalanda University – it was destroyed long before University of Bologna (the oldest still running university in the world) was FOUNDED!!! – meant India had a great system of structured education system. But the arguments fail to see the lack of such international universities at the present time in India. Indian people seem to think that IITs and IISc must be great. They fail to see the lack of substantial research output compared to even some mid-level university in US, UK or Germany. What is even more incredible is that most do not know of the one Indian institute of learning that’s truly unique – Indian Statistical Institute. I once read that there are only 3 other such institutes in the entire world – but tell an Indian to try for ISI and you are more likely to get a shocked statement like “The Pakistani Intelligence Agency?”. Even IISc. doesn’t get the general public acknowledgement that it deserves. The only output people are interested in are Job-packages and size of campus. Students in India go to university not to learn and earn knowledge but to earn a degree and eventually get a job. Gain stability, earn money to support the family.
Students who go abroad are often looked upon as traitors to the country’s cause. They talk about leaving the country to its problems and escaping. Yet, ask them to name some great Indians and they are likely to come up with names like CV Raman, Jagadish Chandra Bose, Srinivasan, Amartya sen, Ratan Tata – completely ignorant to the fact that all of them gained their defining education outside India. They came back to help India. But Indians fail to see it in that light, all the while cursing them for cursing the system. However do not assume that THEY are proud of the system, they themselves curse the system but do nothing, citing reasons like “what can I do with my limited knowledge and abilities?”. They say that being a product of the system they are flawed in themselves and so can do nothing useful, and yet they call students, traitors who go abroad to expand their knowledge.
India is producing a lot of educated people. But I feel that the onus is on quantity rather than quality. Given India’s population, competition is fierce, and so parents take the less risky path and MAKE their children engineers rather than asking them to follow what interests them. They only want to make sure their child will be able to sustain himself and his family in the future. I think THIS mediocrity and lack of imagination is what is holding back Indian students from making it big on the world stage.
I will write more about my other discussion points in the future. Till then feel free to comment on this. You are free to comment any which way – I promise that unless its pure gibberish I will approve of the comment even if you comment something nasty.