Friday, 15 May 2015

Education Policy: Do we have any ?

Life lost in living, knowledge lost in information, and wisdom lost in knowledge.
What for do schools, colleges and universities exist? We all know they are for education, and comprehensive concept of education would include teaching or developing skills for earning a living or vocation. Now our educational institutions fail on all the grounds. They don’t fashion souls or make us better humans. Ethically, in terms of vulnerability to corruption or harbouring a selfish, mean, sadistic personality, educated persons including the best educated PhDs don’t score better than uneducated rustics. They don’t teach the most important thing – the art of thinking (critical thinking, difference between opinion and truth, facts and interpretations, divine and human views, self and Self etc.), scientific and unscientific attitude (recently some sermons against weather prediction legitimacy were heard!). They are not, excluding some professional colleges or institutions, oriented to vocational training (less than 10% only  get jobs or make any significant use of learnt knowledge and skills during graduation or post-graduation, implying 90% drop out rate which is like traveling in a train that takes only 10% of persons to their destination, throwing out the rest ). There can be no serious doubt that current system of colleges necessarily, by design, manufactures graduates that cannot and will not find jobs using their knowledge acquired during studies. The fact that schools have failed is evidenced in their focus on exams instead of a list of skills, theoretical and practical that need to be learnt and evaluated.
There are no schools that teach about life (schools of life) but only schools that teach syllabi that  our mind mostly formats after every new year. Life, its meaning, its perfection, its joys, its challenges are all out of syllabus questions. Where is the life lost in living, knowledge lost in information and wisdom lost in knowledge as Eliot lamented? And how many literates know the difference between them?

“The unexamined life is not worth living,” said Socrates and this is recognized as the foundational statement in any philosophy of education worth the name. Now we are subject to the suicidal torture of dozens of examinations during schooling but this question of examining life never crops up. In fact we are never taught the art of conversation, of dialogue that is so crucial in learning to approach this examination of life. We live life in the caves of which Bacon spoke and in the cave of which Plato spoke. We don’t develop the faculty of vision. Intellectually and spiritually most of us fail to move forward from toddler or nursery stage. Name any moral weakness from backbiting to lying to vanity educated people don’t have? Unless we introduce something of philosophy at every level in school system, we are not going to teach students anything worthwhile as far as life, spirituality, ethics, art, rationality, love and all the noble things that make us human are concerned. What have you gained if you have gained the whole world but lost your soul or missed one thing needful as the Bible warns? Good careers constitute the worldly gain only (only exceptionally they contribute to otherworldly gain or moral-spiritual development).
Do  schools immunize us against mental and spiritual diseases? No. Do they teach us love for books, for learning? No. Do they help us in giving us jobs? To privileged few (less than 10%) only while making most of the rest disqualified for a job. Do they fashion citizens? Seeing traffic jams, misuse of electricity, and countless illustrations of irresponsible citizenship around us, who can doubt about the quality of citizens produced by our education system.
Even education for 15 or 20 long years fails to inculcate such elementary lessons as “Judge not” “virtue is its own reward” and the dignity of what Hazrat Ali (RA) calls “free man’s worship” (Russell’s influential essay by the same title may be read in light of this quote).
What can be done against the swine flu of mediocrity, and divorce from ethics and spirituality afflicting us? A dose of philosophy first to teachers who will then transmit to students at every level. We kill the philosopher, the scientist, the questioning, the wondering curious being in our children, at in early age as they ask some hard questions, like who created God, or why pray if God is bayniyaz? Neither parents nor teachers are able to satisfy children or students on countless questions because they have not been trained to think or exposed to philosophy. Philosophy understood as love of wisdom is the Queen of Sciences. Small wonder we keep complaining regarding leaders, mothers-in-law, daughters-in-law, spouses and about almost everyone excepting ourselves that they have little wisdom.
Syllabus for all the classes is out of tune with local requirements (both cultural and economic). When the syllabus for KAS hasn’t been updated from quite some time and is not in line with IAS forcing students to separately prepare for two exams, what to expect regarding lower classes.  KAS syllabus is designed in such a way, especially prelims paper that only those will qualify who are ready to force minds to memorize more useless than useful things.
It seems that autonomy has been lost or sold by J & K State in education sector. We don’t have any defensible policy on education. We have understood that education is the greatest force for change and liberty and thus it is best not to educate or convert education into a commodity and divorce it from culture, from tradition, from classics, from every humanizing element. How education sector has become an industry may be illustrated by bureaucratic approach of  the BOSE  and turning examination into a money minting industry besides wasting time of students for nothing.
Post script:
The Examination, as far as the conducting them is concerned, is an industry. There are complaints that some persons manage through various means, including unfair ones to be appointed as Superintendents for conducting the exams. Haven’t we heard stories that from Rs. 500 to Rs. 10, 000 are asked from candidates for helping them in the exams? I remember some years back some candidates on the pretext of centre-change from district Srinagar have been allotted a centre at Pampore in district Pulwama. Later, in one of the papers, ten Answer Scripts were recovered by an Inspection team outside the examination centre on the day of exams.
My experience shows one can help the blue eyed ones in examination in various ways. There is a perception that some schools, reportedly, get better results and some manage positions. What we need is replacing  the need for exams with more creative alternatives. Until we do this, why not ensure that local staff is not appointed in conducting exams, inspection teams involve people from local administration and may be from civil society and attempting formulating question papers in such a way that copying becomes futile?

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