Einstein once said: “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid”.
By Hemanta Kr Sarmah
We strongly believe that each one of us is endowed with some inborn ‘special quality’. In later life, it depends on our home and social environment, our sincerity, hard work, exposure to different situations etc., whether we succeed in unfurling these ‘special qualities’ for the benefit of ourselves in particular, and the society and country in general.
In our system, we generally consider those students as ‘brilliant’ who secure good marks in examitions where memory power plays a bigger role than creativity. Srinivas Ramanujan, whose genius is still keeping the mathematical world spellbound — on whose unexplained formulae, research is still going on in many intertiolly prominent institutions — failed in our system of examitions. Had Professor GH Hardy, the great British mathematician not been there, probably nobody would have ever heard about Ramanujan, who for sometime worked as a lower division clerk in an accounts office at Madras. One can find many such examples.
If someone takes statistics from SEBA, we are almost sure that most students who failed in HSLC examition, failed either in Mathematics or in English. Our society labels them ‘poor’ students, which condemn them to low self-esteem, frustration and prey to negative forces. Ultimately, they turn into ‘socially disturbing elements’ and even ‘terrorists’. Surely, many such students may have other gifts (including artistic qualities or craftsmanship) to offer for the benefit of society. Our education system has no provision to spot differently gifted students. Not only are we wasting our human resources, but also indirectly contributing to creating so-called ‘anti-socials’.
The need of the hour is to think about these so-called ‘poor students’ who, sadly, form the majority of the student community. One should not forget that Bill Gates was a ‘school dropout’ and Steve Jobs a ‘college dropout’, yet they went on to make ground-breaking contributions to technology and welfare of humanity. In our view, this is a more serious problem than ‘brain drain’. Because, to which country the ‘drained out brain’ has gone should not be of much concern to us; after all, they will definitely contribute positively towards humanity. But the ‘stagnt brains’ amidst us can destroy our society.
Any solution? In our opinion, the solution lies in opening up more and more Industrial Training Institutes or such types of institutes rather than traditiol universities. Though we have some ITIs at present, most of these have become outdated due to long negligence. The general opinion in our society is that ‘intellectually poor’ students go to these institutes. It is a pernicious outlook we must change. If failing in English (a foreign language) makes one ‘intellectually poor’, then how many ‘brilliant’ students passing out from English medium schools can write and read their mother tongue correctly will also be an equally important counter question.
Let us now look for some solutions to the problem confronting us. We have to open up more ITIs or ITI-like institutes to accommodate these students and rejuvete old ones by giving top priority in terms of funding to augment their existing infrastructure and for opening up new and modern courses. We must be very careful in designing the syllabus for such courses. Haphazard formation of syllabi will not solve our problem. Unnecessary theoretical portions should be elimited and replaced by technical and practical portions which have direct applications.
Probably the syllabi in force in ‘community colleges’ of advanced countries can guide us, but we have to modify those according to our existing resources and prevailing socio-cultural situations. People from different industries should be consulted in framing such syllabi because they know what types of skills are required for their industries and can incorporate those for the students of these institutes. If possible, Study and Learning Materials (SLM) should be provided in mother tongue because these are meant for those who are supposed to be weak in English.
The PPP (Public Private Partnership) model may be fruitful for setting up these ITIs or ITI-type institutes. In Assam, if Oil, ONGC and tea industry join hands with the Assam government in developing such institutes, we think it will be a revolutiory step in this direction. These industries can help the government right from framing the syllabi to providing experts for training. This will definitely improve the quality of training imparted to students and will make them skilled as per the actual requirements of industry. The students can be exposed to actual work situations in these industries during their training itself. This will give a tremendous boost to their confidence levels. Big industries probably can also open up such institutes under their ‘corporate social responsibility’ scheme. It will help these industries build up a pool of really skilled workers.
There are several administrative flaws in the existing system under which the ITIs are running. ITIs and other vocatiol training institutes are under an administrative structure where policy matters are governed by DGET (Direcor General of Employment and Training) but the implementation is done through DTE (Director of Technical Education) of the concerned States. Again, the responsibility of setting standards and accreditation is in the hands of NCVT (tiol Council of Vocatiol Training) and its State counterpart SCVT. This fragmented system of magement suffers from lack of coordition causing inefficiency in the system and delay in implementation of policies, and as a result fail to deliver on desired goals. Necessary remedial measures should be taken by the Government so that the system works more efficiently.
We foresee the following immediate positive impacts if more and more ITIs or ITI-like institutes grow up soon:
· It is often said ‘an idle brain is the devil’s workshop’. Our so-called ‘poor students’ must not be left at the mercy of the ‘devil’ within, which can ultimately help us in neutralizing ‘socially disturbing factors’.
· It will mitigate the scourge of unemployment.
· It will rrow down economic disparity in society.
· It will fincially empower people, which will ultimately give positive impetus towards opening up of new trades and businesses.
· Once we become a developed country through fincial growth of our citizens, our higher education and research will become more fruitful in the real sense. Right now, we feel, many of these institutes of higher education and research are merely imparting degrees, thereby producing more and more educated unemployed youths.
· It will help in creating an atmosphere where people will start talking about ‘skills’ instead of ‘degrees’.
In conclusion, we are not against higher education and research which is so essential for scientific and technological development of a country. English, Mathematics etc., will be indispensible tools in such pursuit. But, at the same time, these institutes of higher education and research should not grow ‘horizontally’ and we cannot remain oblivious of those whom our society labels as ‘poor students’. We have to take them with us in the process of tion building. The structure of the pyramids should be in our mind. They are not ‘top heavy’ but ‘bottom heavy’, which is why they are still standing high and stable from time immemorial.
(The author is Professor, Department of Mathematics, Gauhati University)