Today, parents are more ambitious than ever. They want their children to go to the best school, get the best marks and want them to excel at just about everything.
Most parents dream of a stable, comfortable lifestyle for their kids and prepare them for the same – by urging them to write competitive exams in order to land a government job, or a branded school/college to get the ‘best’ education. This goal of getting them into the best institutions, if achieved, not only increases their stature in society but makes them feel that their child is “safe”. On the contrary, the better known schools, some of which are basically institutions where children are turned into rote learning machines.
The World Economic Forum estimates that 65% of children entering primary school today will ultimately end up working in completely new job types that don’t yet exist. The nature of work is changing faster than ever. We are today at the beginning of a Fourth Industrial Revolution. The gap between the industry and what the child is taught for years in theoretical models of education is ever widening.
It is still deemed a matter of pride to be able to show people a mark sheet which averages over 90%. Friends, family and relatives all start sending congratulatory wishes upon hearing the news of good performance in exams. As a result, the child starts believing in the notion of marks and starts seeing it as a game. The game to get good marks by hook or by crook – and we all fall prey to it. Studying then becomes directed towards scoring the best marks so as to prove our worth instead of learning, acquiring knowledge, expanding horizons or following interests. Your worth at the end of 10 or 12 years of schooling is assessed on the basis of your individual marks in a variety of subjects.
The biggest irony is that academic high-achievers of schools and colleges, who have spent so much time acing their exams, still don’t know what their interests are or what they really enjoy doing. In fact, the competition is so brutal that 95% of youth end up losing the game created by us anyway, and the 5% who win? They often wonder how to make life more worthwhile, more purposeful and more enjoyable. The 95% youth who lose are often so broken and lost that they don’t have any idea what to do and pursue. They end up following anyone’s and everyone’s advise and accept whatever opportunity is presented before them, calling it ‘fate’.
Most schools in India have not moved past a ‘textbook’ model of learning even though such learning does not excite a child’s imagination nor pique their curiosity. Consequently, learning becomes superficial and uninteresting, mostly based on memorization of facts, figures and theories – not really applicable in the modern world. Most of the information is not retained after a period of time and can be easily googled. Compare this to creating something on your own i.e. “learning-by-doing” model. The content is something the child can perceive through his senses — they touch, see, smell, feel, observe, create and manipulate physical objects while learning so much about concepts as they’re applying them simultaneously.
There are millions of children who finish their ‘education’ not knowing what to pursue and do with their lives. Neither do they know what they enjoy doing. Additionally, they are not aware of the rapidly changing real world and how it works. Today’s “connected”, Information Age is very different from what it used to be 10 years ago, yet students are not in a position to leverage this opportunity simply because our education system is not designed to promote curiosity, creativity and innovation. And that is one of the biggest drawbacks of the education system today. As soon as a child reaches grade 7 or 8, life becomes centred around marks, competitive exams and college admissions.
While the focus should be on developing talents, exploring avenues of interest and discovering oneself and the world around – the energy and zeal for which is all lost till the person exits the education system. By which time the pressure is on to get a good job, start making money and all the other obligations that come with being a young adult. So eventually the child is left with no time to explore the real world, develop interests, skills or avenues to make/create things, experiment, apply concepts or experience hands-on-practice of any kind.
Parents, though well-intentioned, cannot protect us from the callousness of the real world. Their efforts to shelter us actually have dire consequences of stifling original thought and the right to make decisions for ourselves. In India, the majority of parents choose careers for their kids, but career fit is HIGHLY subjective. It depends on our capability, personality aptitude and interest.
We must empower children to go after their dreams and goals, but even before that – they need to discover those dreams and goals. Thus, they need a direction and our job is to guide them. Outdated models stifle innovation. Regulation in India, particularly in education, is about 20 years behind the industry. So if you are relying on your child’s school to inculcate innovation – good luck with that!
Don’t expect young people of today’s generation to spend decades doing the same thing. We are not wired like that anymore. But atleast a young person should know what he/she truly enjoys and what they’d like to spend time working on. This isn’t too much to ask for. If you’ve watched ‘Taare Zameen Par’, you know that every child is unique and we have to start embracing these differences in children. It’s what makes them so special. ‘One size fits all’ solution does not work anymore. We need customized solutions and personalized learning approaches. We need to impart real-world knowledge, invest in practical learning and make sure they have enough awareness and exposure needed to succeed in the real world.
Let us together build an ecosystem in India, wherein the status quo of engineering/medical fields is challenged, and kids are encouraged by parents to invest time in a variety of activities, learning different skills and experiencing the world around them, thereby constantly broadening the child’s horizon and developing a holistic personality. The coming generation is going to be very brutal and those who don’t upgrade themselves will be left behind. It is high time to develop a real interest in learning rather than following the herd and merely reading through textbooks which impart no practical value.