Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Difference

Once while talking to Anjali Desai (Co Founder, Seva Cafe, Ahmedabad ) about education in our country, I came across a surprising but worrying reality about education in our country. Anjali is a journalism graduate from University of Texas, Austin and has seen the education patterns in both the countries. Talking about the difference in Indian and American kids, Anjali said:

“The kids in India are smarter and more intelligent than their American equivalents till they put their first step into schools. But once they cross the age to be at home and start going to school, the American kids start outsmarting those in our country.”

The reason for this, as she told, is the family environment provided to the little ones in Indian homes. While a kid in India has mother and grandparents in most houses (a long line of aunts, uncles and cousins is also there in joint families) to interact with and learn from, a kid in America is left to the care of maids or crèches where he/she doesn’t have anyone to talk to or play with. And hence, Indian kids are a lot smarter owing to the healthy family environment.

But the real trouble starts when the child starts going to school. While a school in America gives all the freedom to the child to explore himself/herself, a school in our country is aimed at teaching, or rather feeding a fixed amount of information into the child’s brain without actually teaching the real value or meaning of what is being taught. And needless to say, the freedom given to children in schools in no more than that which was given to African Slaves in America. A good student is one who wins the rat race by get a high score in examinations. But nobody is bothered about the heavy loss of free thinking which the child has to undergo in order to get adjusted to that rat race. On the other side, the freedom given to kids in America makes them think about things themselves and then they are allowed to choose, based on their interest, what they want to do or study. And, of course, the stress area in not only getting grades in exams rather it includes a lot of things like sports, extracurricular activities, community service and what not. And it’s obvious that in these situations, a child will be smarter, free thinker and able to take real life decisions without much trouble.

And it’s not only what or how is being taught at schools, the problem lies in the mindset of Indian parents or society which values success in monetary terms and hence, the only option left for a child to run for what seems to be most profitable in terms of money. No matter whether a child is interested in studying a particular subject, he/she is forced to study that because that subject is important for a ‘secured future’. Forcing the child on a pre determined path might provide a so called ‘secure future’ but is it not like grooming the child into an assembly line product? And as Anjali told, the Indian kids in America are also forced by the parents to take particular courses which might be ‘beneficial for future’.

And hence, here lies the difference in growth pattern of Indian students and American ones: While American students are treated as human beings with desires and inclinations to learn, the Indian ones are treated as raw materials which go to schools to be processed into finished products!!