To learn or to unlearn


Shiva Shanmuganandam, @SadaaShiv

If you were in school during the 1980s’ to ‘90s’ till 2000, you were part of what is known as a transition in an educational system that still reels from Macaulayism (after Thomas Macaulay the father of English education in India). That Macaulay link is a point of concern.

Macaulay’s name has become emblematic for the ‘ills’ of colonialism. Macaulay and the British education system have been blamed for producing a generation of Indians not proud of their distinct heritage.

Speaking at a national seminar on “Decolonizing English Education&  in 2001, Professor Kapil Kapoor of Jawaharlal Nehru University declared that one of the by-products of mainstream English language education in India today has been its tendency to” marginalize inherited learning ” and to have uprooted academics from traditional Indian modes of thought, inducing in them “a spirit of self-denigration (heenabhavna).”
Author Rajiv Malhotra has bemoaned the ” continuation of the policy on Indian education started by the famous Lord Macaulay over 150 years ago ” for the virtual banishment of classic Indian literature from the country’s higher academic institutions and the emergence of a “new breed”; of writers professing a “uniquely Indian Eurocentrism”. Vestiges of Macaulayism are also seen by many Hindu nationalists as a mechanism of British neo-colonial control in India.

When every other student has thrown in the cap, an allusion to the affinity for a ‘Professional Course’ there usually is one student who decides what to do, what not to do and what they all do, not fall prey to the impulse, insecurities and try out something new. The rate at which education standards and its infrastructural needs match with the growing population explosion is another matter altogether, worthy of careful study. Again CBSE is considered reputed and tough to crack and excel-in, in the south of India than in the North, let’s say Delhi for example.

Are the adolescents of today really in a position to make a decision or at least weigh the pros and cons of a particular stream of study and of course follow their career decisions as well? The pace of change is leaving the older generation behind and with no one to guide the newer GenX. But not to worry, the unconventional decision-making is actually not just helping in filling the void for those positions in the job market but also allowing the younger generation to take more (albeit calculated) risks. With more start-ups springing up in the last decade than the entire number of species that went extinct in the planet, the realm of Start-ups is turning out to be great job-providers.


As a direct result, more and more students are willing to pursue their passion over parental pressure. In most cases, (whether middle-class or otherwise) parents play a huge role in shaping these critical matters. A certain handful of parents alone are willing to take a gamble and help and support their wards in such decisions. For example, an exceptional and meritorious student of Nuclear Science (commercial – power generation) spends huge amount of money to pursue higher studies in European countries in order to get a job here in India and that too after more than a year’s wait.

Whereas, a student who put all his money on learning a foreign language, such as an Arts Course, Bachelors programme of 3 years, earns more money and is in a better position to secure a job than another who studied the Engineering and/or technical stream, spending a lot more time and money than the Foreign language experts. The Job market and the new industry verticals that take shape as part of shifting trends in the way Global businesses operate are bringing to light the fact that there is a gap that needs to be bridged between paperwork/certifications and actual ‘business-readiness and bare minimum requirements like communication skills.

Students today have a lot more pressure from peers, their teachers at school, parents at home and the increasing competition that directly stems from an increase in the graduating population. But beware of these do not paint a very accurate picture for the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in 2007 said, “Our university system is, in many parts, in a state of disrepair. In almost half the districts in the country, higher education enrolments are abysmally low, almost two-third of our universities and 90% of our colleges are rated as below average on quality parameters. I am concerned that in many states university appointments, including that of vice-chancellors, have been politicised and have become subject to caste and communal considerations, there are complaints of favouritism and corruption.”

And then there is the gender divide and its implications on career options: With about 85%-90% girls studying or discontinued their study due to parental pressure. Rest are studying what they wanted to. Only a handful few about 3-5% are actually following their dreams, and even fewer following their childhood dreams.

teachers-petAs for the boys most seem to be lacking a sense of direction, as they already have family business to take over.  As a result, only about 65% of boys are aiming at a degree after schooling out of which 20% are studying something of their parent’s choice. 10%-13% are studying or pursuing a career in what they are actually interested, and the rest 2-5% are literally the only ones who get to follow their dreams. A number of factors ranging from financial situation of the family to the education of the parents themselves to the geographical location (Rural, Urban or Metro) to the demographics, are at play here.

Slowly campaigns like “Wo Padhegi, tho Udhegi” are gathering momentum in educating the girl child. Women make up the very fabric of our society and education is everybody’s birthright. But the purpose of education to empower an individual, is being undermined by changing socio-economic patterns and, education in turn, is being looked at a sure shot of financial freedom and emancipation. However, the run-of- the-mill set of degrees and certificates are plenty and more and more emphasis on soft skills and other para-didactic and extra-pedagogic and post-educational training is becoming a common sight.

Even though technology has brought about a part of these circumstances, it has still made accessible some basic learning tools which were hitherto inaccessible, thereby enriching the learning experience. More and more youngsters today are willing to step out of the comfort zone called ‘Job security’ and are willing to give a shot at the unconventional jobs that come up. Nobody knows for sure what the future of job markets hold and the new demanding ways in which it will change education per se. We have come a long way from early days of Industrialisation to the modern times of candidates dictating terms with their employers.

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1 Response

  1. Ravi purbey says:

    very nice

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