in personal

The prequel to Goodbye JEE: Sucky Education systems

So, today I’ll tell you what the problem with the education system really is. Obviously it’s not that many exams like the boards and the JEE stress the students. Please. If people can commit suicide after/due to failing in the class X boards, you can do nothing to remove the stress of children. The stress is a problem. But their cause is not the exams. Point one.

The aim of the life of a student, it seems, is to get marks in exams. My parents have actually used almost exactly those words at times – “We have so many duties to fulfill in our life. We ask you to just do one thing. Study and do well in your exams.” Right now, I find the possibility of this statement ever having existed, humorously ludicrous. But I’m fairly sure it was said to me. And I kind of accepted it. Kind of. In that I never really ended up getting marks (I probably didn’t study either, but that’s very arguable and subjective. What can you say for sure? I surely didn’t get marks (up to my parents’ standards, that is. But I won’t argue about the subjectivity of that. I shared their disappointment, so let’s accept those standards as an absolute) And my mother definitely did say to me that not getting marks was a definite indication of not having studied well enough). This might not be impressed upon everybody as explicitly, but every student in school (at least ‘above’ a certain level of… caring about… I don’t know… marks) thought that getting marks is not just an obligation, it’s a duty. I don’t disagree, really. If you’re going to school, getting marks is a fair enough thing to choose as your job. For starters, that’s what everybody thinks ought to be your job. And secondly, it makes you employable. Somewhat. At least in theory, you can claim your marks, and either get a job directly (if you’re in some kind of a hurry) or you can claim your marks and get into a college, and get some more marks there, and claim those, and either continue to become a post graduate and get some more marks, and then get a job, or have spent an adequate amount of time having lost your mind, and go ahead and do a doctorate, and become a university professor. (On a side note, my school’s head of department of mathematics claimed to be a Dr. If she actually got a doctorate in math, and ended up as a school teacher, I would imagine many possible remarks about her performance, or the college she got that from, but shortly put, God save humanity.) So in an indirect, twisted manner, marks are making you employable. Yay, go examinations.
For 12 to 16 to 18 years of our life, our parents pay schools, to prepare us to be in a status where we can pay for ourselves. And eventually make kids of our own for whom we pay schools so they can get out of the schools to pay for themselves. It’s a nice self perpetuating thing.
What happens in this time span? We push off, for ourselves, the point of time where we’d be busy making ourselves survive on our own capacities. In theory, we’re spending more time to generate a greater worth for when we get into having a job, we’ll be paid better. But rarely, if ever, can that really happen in an education system. Where can it happen? In a place where you do stuff. Not school. Outside of school. That place you’re delaying being in. That’s the place that’s going to determine and build whatever relevant faculty you need/have to survive there. Unless you want to be a school teacher/professor/something on those lines. Then, following school and college makes some kind of sense. Though even there, I don’t think that’s the best way to be an accomplished academician or professor or thing.

Going back to the self perpetuating process: It’s all nice, except that I believe the fundamental problem, is somewhere in the start. And somewhere before it as well. I don’t know why schools exist, and I don’t know why everybody collectively started believing that one’s job should be to get marks.

/strikeout{I’ll tell what reasoning I think is given. Schools were made to mass educate children, with basic skills, so that they could all be said to have such and such knowledge, and have the basic aptitude to be able to do this class of tasks. Because, somebody thought that _everybody_, should really know this stuff and that. Really. They can’t be worth anything if they don’t know this stuff! And then exams came out of the}

The rationale behind school is something on the lines of training children with basic skills essential to whatever they may want to do in their lives. The point of examinations is to gauge how competent in the same skill, the people managed to become, so that this measurement can be used to variegate the value of employing their skill in something hopefully relevant. Sadly, this system, if ever sensible for the existing layout, is definitely not appropriate for today. There are few things that make you competent, at probably any point of time (in civilization). Basic skills, I find it hard to imagine, were one of these essentials. Today, you do not need to have a basic skill level to be able to do things. You do not _need_ to know a programming language, to be an able programmer (at least no in the algorithmic problem solving capability.) You can always learn whatever language you need to use, to solve a problem, as and when you require it. You need to be able to solve the problem. And you don’t need to know how to solve problems, off textbooks.

Being asked a problem in reality, is generally somebody looking for an answer. Not somebody who knows the answer and is testing if you can tell him the same thing back. Because he did tell you that answer at a previous point of time.

In today’s world, school has no meaning. It is teaching nothing of any value, and is doing nothing except stuffing people with idiotic prejudices and opinions about what matters (not about stuff that matters. Fill with opinions making people believe that weird entirely irrelevant stuff matters. Media does a better job of that perhaps but school is one of the places we’re also conditioned to believe in that the media is important and we ought to pay attention to news). I mean, in India, people aren’t even gleaning knowledge from the education system. People still believe in the left brain-right brain theory, and we’re still taught the diagram of taste buds on the tongue (last I checked, to say the least) – and it’s not like the books aren’t doing anything to dispel these myths, however pointless knowing them, or of their accuracy, might be – more often than not our books teach these things.

So, having lost track of what I started with almost entirely, I’ll just say that again, and assume that point to be concluded. The aim of a student’s life happens to have ended up being, obtaining marks. With almost no purposeful sub-aim as part of the education system. To do anything better, you need to break out from the system. And you’re not doing anything a teacher, or the system expects you to be doing, or is probably even remotely capable of helping you do.

The second point, with regard to what the problem is (having stress, and people thinking exams are the cause), is that the students aren’t having fun. Now I could go on and on about how students could having fun. By doing something that they want to, for starters. And being able to pursue it in whichever crazy direction they want to go ahead with it. However purposeful, or for the random sake of it, it may seem to be being done. Of course, there are a lot of reasons for why, doing that is not feasible. Teachers aren’t smart enough, might be one of the noticeable reasons, though only one which comes at the end. Of course there are other things. How can we call this school? School is supposed to be a painful experience by definition, right? It’s supposed to be all the pains we learn to manage, so we can cope with doing th work in our elderly lives, doing things we don’t want to, have no passion for, because that’s what school conditioned us excellently for. Who has the right, to do whatever they want to, huh? How could school drive this ridiculous notion ever? Of letting students have fun, and do whatever they want to.

How would you test a process like making glass paintings, or composing music, or designing logos for companies and stuff, if that’s what somebody picked as their activity of interest? I mean, at one location or another, in specialist schools too, they do make a testing procedure out of these things. I don’t think they do much to actually make the person more excellent. I don’t think Coldplay, or Rahman, reached the level of doing things that they do, because of any school examination. They reached their levels, simply by doing their thing. I don’t think they even went to any kind of music school. And I’m not saying school would’ve been bad, if it helped them get exposure to the techniques of playing instruments. It would’ve been bad if it imposed upon them a need to learn stuff they didn’t feel like, to a depth they thought unimportant, with the aim of being able to pass the final exams.
Oh wait. It seems like I succumbed to saying exams are all wrong too. So of course, the next logical deduction should be, let’s make exams to be easy so people aren’t stressed with facing them. Oh we’ll make them objective too, so you can ask one or another kid around you. We’ll pretend we don’t want that, with pretentiously strict invigilation and everything. Because we have money, and we like to spend it. So why not on teachers who have nothing in their lives except to sit in a classroom for 18 hours, 3 hours for six days in a span of 2 or 3 weeks, doing essentially nothing. I find it appalling that creatures like those exist at all. Couldn’t they earn more in that time, simply by begging on the streets? At least they’d not begin to die of that sedentary and jobless lifestyle. That’s kind of what the board seems to lean towards. The exams becoming lame and easy, being the more important part, than the invigilation.
No. The fix is not necessarily to remove exams. Or make them easier. The aim, should be to make them: one, fun; and two, challenging. Kids likes challenges. Look at any kid and how he tries to lap up things you say are out of syllabus, especially in a topic he finds interesting. I liked math. If a teacher offered to teach something out of syllabus, I’d be far more interested in that than anything else. And I’m pretty sure anybody who’s been interested in any subject, knows about that eagerness. Don’t try and challenge a kid wrt everything. Challenge him in what he’s interested in. I like math. Then don’t ask me to sit for exams apart from math. And the math exam that is, should not be a 3 hour stretch of repeating rote techniques I’ve been trained to perform. It should be a year-long work on a problem, as tough as I can try to handle – or maybe tougher – and one in which I can collaborate with every person I can find, in whatever way I can think of. That’s how I understand real world problems are faced. Maybe not with year-long time lines, but pretty much how. How much a kid proceeds with this problem set given to him, is a perfectly valid way to gauge his competency [so I believe, of course]. Sitting in an exam hall and attempting questions? Rarely, if ever.
When one fantasizes about such things, it is more than trivial to accept that it is almost impossible for a real world school to work like that. Among other reasons, because my structure, I myself don’t think encompasses everybody. Even if schools never wasted their time suppressing the creativity of the students and desire to do whatever they want to – I don’t think every person will be able to find a direction. I don’t know how to account for them. If you set a lower bound on coolness: if you’re any lamer than the current education system and you can literally go kill yourself, that’s a system that works on good enough. Whatever we’ve done, is good enough. Let’s try and drive this need of good enough even lower into the ground. Let’s not ask the students to study for a JEE to get into an IIT, but study for an ISEET. In Seth Godin’s words, we are running a race to the bottom. Where the least we expect out of students, amongst other things, are as worthless as can be. When does this end? It ends for the very best, when schools (and all education systems) finally realize that they’re not really helping. It is almost completely impossible for them to serve any real purpose.
So, what’s the point I’ve been driving at? That people should realize schools aren’t important. They shouldn’t even exist. People should understand, that learning and experiences are. And that’s what children should be conditioned to love, to want to indulge in, all the time. Fun is foremost. And we should be taught, from the day zero, to have fun. Given some guidance, on fun. But never restrained. Never told that the real life is supposed to be work, the very opposite of fun, and things like that.
And following up on that, school should be fun, and really worth it too.

//You may or may not be able to tell this post was written over numerous days of entirely discoordinated and broken thought. If it doesn’t make sense, and/or appears totally incomplete, you only have me to blame. You’re welcome to point out any such things, if you’re in a shortage of other more relevant things to point out to me, in any case.