Education: Let’s Shift Our Basic Goalpost

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Our educational system, right from the kindergarten to the university level, including research, encourages accepting minds. The doctrine of acceptance is so deeply entrenched in the education system that any questioning of it even out of curiosity is proscribed. This is a dulling process deep within. The system does not promote thinking and questioning minds. Intellectual rebellion is banned just as terrorist organizations are.

At the psychological level, there is terrorism when the questioning mind is throttled. There is violence against the potentially questioning mind as it finds no means to ventilate its urges to explore the world differently, creatively, beautifully. Our education system, in that sense, is sheer violence on intellectual beauty. This is a psychological terrorism unleashed by our educational system.

The what part of education is mere knowledge accumulation and presentation, the how part of it is creative knowledge accumulation, creative thinking, imagination beyond what is apparent, critical judgement, and promotion of the questioning, sceptical, dissatisfied mind always looking for solutions to problems beyond the set pattern of solutions that have outlived their purposes. This culture continues up to the PhD level. No wonder, most of our PhDs are not reckoned as original in the international market; no wonder, our universities stand nowhere in world rankings such as the one done by the British QS (the most reliable one); no wonder, our patents are so few; no wonder, we continue to fail to produce Nobels. Our only emphasis is on exams – neither valid nor reliable, which on most occasions are based merely on rote learning, not on original thinking.

In Education: Forward to Real Basics, Osho Rajneesh, one of the most controversial spiritual gurus of the last century but also one of the most radical ones who had dwelt on every subject on earth (he was a philosophy professor prior to his avatar as a spiritual guru), says, “Education up to now has been goal-oriented: what you are learning is not important; what is important is the examination that will come a year or two years later… there should not be any examination as part of education, but every day, every hour observation by the teachers; their remarks throughout the year will decide whether you move forward or you remain a little longer in the same class. Nobody fails, nobody passes – it is just that a few people are speedy and a few people are a little bit lazy – because the idea of failure creates a deep wound of inferiority, and the idea of being successful also creates a different kind of disease, that of superiority… So, examinations will not have any place. That will change the whole perspective from the future to the present.”

Then Osho comes to the tricky subject of the teacher – presumed to know all, who can never fail in his teaching, and whose teaching must be accepted, not questioned. He says, “The teacher was educated thirty years earlier. In thirty years, everything has changed, and he goes on repeating what he was taught. He is out of date, and he is making his students out of date. So in my vision the teacher has no place. Instead of teachers, there will be guides, and the difference has to be understood: the guide will tell you where, in the library, to find the latest information on the subject.”

So in the Osho scheme of things, there is no place for examinations in an education system, nor is there any for teachers. The former is replaced by continuous evaluation of students, while the latter is replaced by guides who would act as facilitators in the knowledge generation system. It is a radical idea. We must understand that the exam system in vogue, especially in India, has done no good to students when it comes to testing their originality or creativity or innovative aptitude. As for teachers, they are mostly ill-trained or not trained at all in even the existing system of education while at the same time they lack innovative ideas to make the learning process interesting. The student is a disinterested soul in the class. He wants to leave it as soon as possible. This is not a sweeping generalization of teachers. Yes, there do exist exceptional teachers who inspire their students on creative lines. But their percentage is minuscule.

In the light of the above, it is time some course correction of a very radical kind was effected in the education system of this country. The first pertains to classroom teaching. Do you need teachers taking a 45-minute class in which even the most intelligent student is attentive for hardly about 20 minutes? Even the teacher in general cannot remain focussed for the whole duration of 45 minutes. This may be replaced by a system in which students may be divided into small groups of, say, about five students who can discuss among themselves one particular subject for 45 minutes. The teachers, who would be guides, would be available to them in a separate room to clarify their doubts. Different time schedules can be prepared for different groups, subjects and teachers concerned. This can be implemented right from the primary school level up to the university level. In this scheme, guides can help their students not only in getting their doubts cleared but also in suggesting them the best books and the best internet sites from where they can get additional information.

But more importantly, grades should be awarded to students, and not marks in every test at every level, on the basis of their interaction with their guides and the quality of questions they come up with. Additional grades can be made available to those who come up with alternative and better solutions to the existing exercises/problems in their texts. This will engender original thinking – so abysmally lacking in the Indian system of education.

All of this could go a long way in redefining education towards a new intellectual living. But are we ready to take this giant leap?