(Image taken from the Internet)
I am currently really amused by the whole Narayan Murthy vs. Chetan Bhagat drama regarding the IITs. Narayan Murthy commented on the deteriorating quality of students churned out by the IIT and Mr. Bhagat took an offense to it as he is an alumnus whose sentiments are widely hurt by something that raises the finger on students of the premier institutes.
While both agree that the standard of IIT has gone down, both seem to have been caught in an unnecessary debate. Most importantly, media and news channels focused on the debate that Narayan Murthy said this and Chetan Bhagat felt hurt and said this. So, a stupid sort of sensationalism was created for lack of any relevant story. Everyone seems to have missed the main point that IITs are not able to cultivate talent in a manner expected of the best technology institute in the country. I am not going to question or debate on how talented IIT students or even IIM students are. I don’t think quality of students can deteriorate because in reality average IQ has grown higher over the years. People today learn and manage multiple stresses that were not there in earlier days due to simplicity of life. Technology and awareness has only grown more and more over the years. Everyone today has access to cellphones, computers, internet, emails and social networks and the stresses and benefits associated with these things. People can only be said to have become smarter in terms of handling all this and their time. So, no, I don’t think anyone can deteriorate as such.
What has deteriorated or rather not evolved is the teaching system in places like IIT, IIM or for that reason any place of higher education in India. Thankfully, there are some schools that do provide some change or innovative ways of teaching and learning. These are largely private schools. But, when it comes to colleges or universities, even private institutes leave a lot to be desired. The limited availability of seats in all institutes of higher learning - govt or private, is a major reason due to which all these institutes focus on everything apart from innovation and creativity.
I have written about the lack of creativity and innovation in our education system before as well. Even now, I say the same. We need to wake up! It is important that talent is nurtured and not wasted. Indians have proved to have exceptional ideas and talent when in a foreign setting due to the nurturing environment offered there. But the same Indians are not able to do make a true breakthrough in their own country.
I have done my higher studies from an esteemed college and university. Both are considered amongst the best in India. I did my masters in Clinical Psychology. The university is considered one of the best in India and has a great Psychology Department. Psychology is a very wide science as it pertains to human life and behaviour. A lot of times, we found the teaching practices extremely dull. Creativity is a subject matter of study in Psychology, and I can say that I was taught about it in the most non-creative manner ever! Infact, so rigid and dull was the teaching system and professors, that not only me but my entire class felt, that how can someone teaching Psychology be so dull and apathetic. Overall, most of the times we felt that our professors were like zombies who had forgotten the essence of psychology. A lot of times, we even felt as if they were sucking out every bit of enthusiasm and happiness that we felt for Psychology out of our lives.
In final year, the University offers us an option of taking up a topic for dissertation. I had studied the dissertations done in past by my university and they all largely focused on either anger or emotional intelligence. I didn’t see any point in carrying forth on the same because more or less every dissertation stated and proved the same hypothesis. I wanted a new dissertation on a topic that was more applicable to the society at that time. I approached my guide with the same. But he was reluctant to allow it, because the topic was new and creative, unlike the others which were same and monotonous. I did try again and again but he wanted me to work on emotional intelligence only. I discussed with some seniors and students who were doing PhD. I found out that when it comes to research, guides and professors did not allow anything out of their comfort zone. Their comfort zone unfortunately mostly included proving the same theories that exist in western societies again and again. No one wanted to research on indigenous topics or experiment on something out of the way due to fear, laziness or just apathy. This is what they had become, just followers and not leaders. Creativity and innovation had drained out of their lives totally and they nurtured the same culture. Those who really wanted to meaningful research, often had to wait years, earn a PhD with same monotonous sort of topics, and then finally work hard for many years and somehow privately fund their research or become a professor and then research because that allowed you a certain freedom with respect to what you want. There was no option but to go with the guide and follow the monotonous route or drop the dissertation altogether. I finally chose to not do it, as I couldn’t see myself putting extra effort in researching something I didn’t care about.
I really felt hurt and sad that I was faced with a wall that curbed my enthusiasm and creativity and I had to give in. This is what needs to change. With a population of 1 billion, we can bring about big changes in our country itself if this population is given a platform to express and implement its ideas freely. To allow that, the first step has to be the reformation of teaching practices in India – in schools, in colleges and in universities. Some ideas on how we can do this are:-
- Cut the processing time – In India, we have a huge huge planning or processing time. Every proposal has like a huge circle of steps that must be crossed for it to become reality. I think these steps need to be reduced everywhere, in every part of governmental machinery.
- Train, Implement and Check – Whenever a process is rolled out. Like let’s say, steps are reduced for clearance of educational courses. Then proper training should be given to clerical staff involved in various steps. They should be shown the proper way to do things, to clear them fast and enough solutions with way of illustrative examples in cases where exceptions can be found. Once training is complete, implementation should occur and regular checks must be carried out to see that the processes are being followed the way they are supposed to be.
- Motivate – Regular exercises of motivating staffs involved in decision making processes must be done to ensure they continue to keep their enthusiasm alive and work more efficiently and faster. Infact this is something that must be done for teachers and every member of educational institutions too.
- Carry Regular Surveys – Regular surveys must be carried out to understand what people think about an educational policy or process. The findings of such surveys must be processed in a fast manner to bring about changes wherever necessary.
- Form a Bucket of Ideas – Educational institutes, boards, government offices should have a Bucket of Ideas, or invite people to send ideas for improvement. These suggestions should be implemented and not just stored and forgotten.
- Develop a Customer is King Attitude – This is probably the most important point. All concerned institutes, government bodies must cultivate this attitude – Customer is King. So, they should go all out to please customers – that is students in the case of educational institutes. New and innovative packages to suit needs to students should be rolled out and continuous innovation must become the order of the day.
What do you feel about these ideas; do you agree with them or have anything that you would like to add on this?