Balancing education

Are Mathematics and Science the only benchmarks for quality in education?

I often ask myself what education is all about. While talking about educating a new generation, we are not talking about a homogeneous set of individuals whose interests, aptitudes and inclinations are all the same.

Not all the fingers of one’s hand are of the same size and not all of them can be used in the same way. The best way to use one’s hand is to realise and recognise this. And so it is, or should be, with education. 

But somewhere, this idealism is lost. And this becomes painfully evident, when the press echoes the words of eminent people who make statements such as; India and China are striving hard to “out-educate” Americans and then, in the next sentence we are told that Indians and Chinese are outdoing the Americans in mathematics and technology.  Clearly, the global market does offer more job opportunities in the field of technology and I am, like the rest of us, proud that we Indians are ahead of even the Americans in mathematics and technology. But let us not, in this pride of being technologically superior, forget that the best education is a holistic one.

Are Mathematics and science education the only benchmarks for quality in education? It is because of this slightly oversimplified concept of education that the youth in India consider mathematics and science to be the only respectable streams of study. And it is this attitude which drives many young students to extreme measures if they fail to “make it” in these two areas.

Some time ago, the French government had suggested the removal of French literature from the school syllabus, judging it to be of no value to the country. One can imagine the resentment this suggestion created amongst the French, a people so stubbornly proud of their language! It is indeed a sad day when politicians dictate the course of education so as to deny opportunities to thousands of young people who are brimming with talent and innovative ideas-and talent - and innovation are not hallmarks of only science, mathematics or technology.

Too long have we Indians allowed the concept of “education as an investment for profit” to dictate us. We follow a system in which the talents of a few exceptional individuals are inundated by the mediocrity of the majority whose educational goals have not been driven by passion for the subject but by immediate gain. While it is true that a lot of time spent in school and college needs to be directed to building a child’s career, it must not be forgotten that the choice of career should be left to the individual child.

The purpose of education is not to straight jacket children into doing what society thinks they should do, but to expose them to as many educational experiences so that they discover their talents early enough in life. What is lacking in Indian education is not the capacity, but the passion to make things happen.

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