Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Right to ‘Right’ Education

Much has been said about the Right to Education over past few weeks. And I completely agree with the fact that every child in the country should be sent to school up to a certain age. But at the same time is it not necessary that we also take care about what is being taught to our younger generation? Should not education be aimed at teaching values and skills which can help a child to tackle the real life problems in a better way later? Should not education be aimed at creating energetic, lively, curious, and inquisitive individuals rather than producing trained manpower who are limited to their cubicles or cabins?

If the answer to the above questions is yes, then the country is certainly going in the wrong direction and may have to face dire consequences in the time to come. Education, meant to broaden the outlook and perspective of an individual, has reduced to a tool for securing a better job. Forget about those who don’t have access to education, most of those who are pursuing higher education are doing so only in the hope of getting a good job with the degree which they will receive after passing out. The love for the quest of knowledge has been lost somewhere between the glitterati of high paying jobs. The stream in which one wants to pursue one’s higher education is decided by the pay package which one is supposed to receive at the end. And that is why most of the students are running after a degree in engineering or management now-a-days, without having the right aptitude.

There is nothing wrong in choosing a particular degree program because it provides better job opportunities in the market. But the real problem arises when the so called ‘better job opportunities’ don’t cater to the interest of the person. And with the gradual passage of time, the life becomes monotonous and the lucrative looking job previously now seems to be a dull boring activity. Some of the daring people then return to what they actually wanted to do from the very beginning. But in this process, they loose some of the very precious years of their lives, running after the mirage of a rich and happy life.

So, who is at fault in all this? I would say the society as a whole is responsible. And here, by society, I mean everyone right from the family to school to the neighbourhood. Everyone around a high scoring kid sees him/her as a future engineer or MBA. And subjects like social sciences, literature and languages are supposed to be passed only. And when the child sees such hopes and aspirations from everyone around him/her, he/she has no option left other than killing his dreams and ambitions and doing what is expected of him/her.

This trend is not only bad for the younger generation of the country but also very dangerous for the country in the global competitive scenario. As Jerry Rao, the cofounder of MphasiS, the big Indian outsourcing firm puts it (taken from the book ‘The World is Flat’ by Thomas L Friedman):
“We have no one going into liberal arts and everyone going into engineering and MBAs.” He adds, “If we don’t have enough people with the humanities, we will loose the next generation of V S Naipauls and Amartya Sen. That is sad and dangerous”

In this scenario, it becomes very important for the parents and the teachers to help the child recognise his interest and encourage him or her to move forward in that field instead of pushing the child in the so called ‘high paying’ fields which don’t interest the child. And then only can the Right to ‘Right’ Education be secured in the true meaning of the words.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Wake Up Sid - 4 Stars

Indian cinema is undergoing transformation for the last couple of years or so. Now, there are less and less films where there is a hero, a heroine and a villain (in the form of social status, caste factor, family disputes carried over from the past, or some relative of the hero or heroine trying to add jahar (poison) in their happy lives). The films made these days are more connected with the realities of the life. A normal human being can relate with the films these days.

With the advancement of science and information technology, today’s youth is more aware about the world and has a variety of options to choose a career. And he is looking for a career which is interesting, challenging, provides some meaning to his life and establishes his own identity. And as a result, he has to wander, after the adolescence years are over, in search of something which would provide him with the true meaning of life. And this period where a person is indulged in looking to find his purpose can be termed as the odyssey years. It is the period after adolescence and before gaining full maturity or adulthood.

Wake Up Sid is one such movie truly depicting the transformation of Indian cinema. It tells the story of two different people in their odyssey years. While Siddharth or Sid (Ranbir Kapoor) has just passed out of the college and is still trying to figure out what he wants to do with his life, Aisha (Konkana Sen Sharma) has moved all the way from Calcutta to Bombay to search for her independence, individuality and most importantly to realise her dream of becoming a writer.  And interestingly, Siddarth is one of those few lucky kids who are born with a silver spoon in the mouth and still, he prefers to find out his own way to lead his life instead of joining his father’s company which makes millions. They meet, become friends, become a support for each other during difficult times and eventually end up falling in love.

A subtle message which the movie gives is that though one can move alone in order to search one’s individuality and reach one’s goal but one always needs someone who can be a mental or moral support in the times of failure or when there are low times. And this mental support doesn’t necessarily need to be a girlfriend or a boyfriend but it can be anyone: a close friend or cousin, a sibling or even a parent. The only thing needed is that person should believe in you and your abilities.  And same is the case in the movie when Siddharth helps Aisha to settle in Bombay or when Aisha allows Siddharth to stay at her place and get a job in her office when he leaves home.

However, there are a few glitches in the movie as well:

  • Aisha, who is seems to be a bit conservative girl agrees to go out with Siddharth for a walk during night within very few hours she meets her. And they actually become very close after that first meeting.
  • She even allows Siddharth to share his flat without any hesitation.
  • Siddharth and Aisha falling in love was quite unnecessary. (But without emotional masala (spice), how can Indian junta like a movie and how can Karan Johar make one?)
  • The role of Sonia (Kashmira Shah) looks quite unnecessary and absurd.

But apart from these, the movie is refreshing and provides something which the youth can connect to. There is love and there is a very good story but it’s not a love story. And this makes the movie beautiful and interesting. And Ranbir Kapoor has done a lot better this time than his previous appearances as a lover boy. Needless to say, Konkana Sen Sharma is as good as always and has done justice with her role.

A must watch for the ones in their odyssey days.

4 out of 5 stars from my side!!


Saturday, October 10, 2009

For The Sake of Science

A hundred years after its establishment, Indian Institute of Science has decided to launch an under-graduate programme in science at its Chitradurga Campus. This would not only give smiles to many young students of the country who want to pursue science in college (but are unable to do so because of availability of very few of good colleges teaching pure sciences) but also provide a boon to basic science education, which is, somehow, losing its glow in front of the glitterati of engineering and management courses.

The program, like the institute offering it, would be unique of its kind in the country. Unlike the conventional three year graduate course in science, it would be a four-year duration programme. According to the IISc proposal, the structure would give enough emphasis on research work. The first three years (or six semesters) would be dedicated to the strengthening of basic knowledge of science, mathematics and engineering subjects while the fourth year would be reserved for research work. And here comes the icing on the cake: the Humanities courses would be mandatory. And there would be ample choice of courses from history, sociology, management of science and technology, and others. The structure of the programme would also be kept very flexible. According to an IISc professor in charge of academic affairs:

“An interesting feature of BS is a student specialising in physics can take, say, 70% of physics and combine it with 30% of biology or chemistry and a chemistry student can specialise in 70% of chemistry and opt for 30% physics. The plan is to make BS flexible to give students a lot of options.”

 This is in very much contrast with the under-graduate programmes at the IITs where flexibility in the structure is very rare. And this flexibility would surely increase the interest of the students in the courses they study.

The programme will be geared to create interest in higher studies and research and would be on similar lines with the ones offered at Harvard or California Institute of Technology. Moreover, a four year BS programme would never mean a loss of one year for the students as the students can directly get enrolled for PhD after the completion of four years. And since the programme includes engineering courses as well, a student can opt for engineering courses for masters and higher studies if he/she wants to change the field.

So when do we get to see undergraduate students finally? It depends on government clearance after the academic plan is finalised. Hope our honoured Minister of Human Resource Development is quick in taking a decision here as well!!