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Produce well formed minds instead of well filled minds
Posted on : 20-03-2013 - Author : Major G. Lakshmana Rao

With more focus on marks, ranks, tapping & testing only memory skills of a student, the system could not produce the products acceptable to employers and not able to face with ease the critical challenges in the battle field of life by using all the innate faculties bestowed in human mind. We need to produce minds that can solve scores of problems which they have not studied but are still able to apply their minds to come up with new approaches and solutions.

The inputs of the curriculum, academic calendar, teaching methodology & pedagogy adopted in our institutions are not allowing the holistic blossoming of a student’s personality. The learning process and the examination format practiced in our colleges and universities provide no scope for the total efflorescence of inborn talents/ skills of even gifted students. Student is tied down with unnecessary chains in the rigid frame with no scope for individual thinking and originality. The lack luster quality of Indian graduate is well demonstrated in their massive unemployment. The present generations of students as well as recruits expect very detailed instructions. They do not think for themselves. Even for small things they refer to their parents or higher authorities. They rarely solve their problems on their own. The degrees of masters and doctors obtained in this process are viewed as the pinnacles of learning. Somehow, the idea that we need to continue to enhance ourselves is not being celebrating or cultivated in our culture. Even basic rules of conduct like sticking to one’s own, being punctual have to be spelt out.

This system is killing the very zeal and joy to learn and suck the creative juices of the students. It is the process of learning that builds the students, character and shapes their  thinking. We have to bring back the passion and joy for learning into our system. We have to capacitate students to realize what is right and wrong. Though we talk from high pedestals about the importance of Education and Teachers, some where we lost our focus and started producing students not capable of doing even basic arithmetic and reading & writing two coherent sentences. It is high time that we stop examining the students on the basis of books.

The creative spark of the students should be ignited to make them feel a sense of fulfillment in their studies. They should be able to unite their avocation and vocation. Their genius, courage, initiative and intelligence shall be fully tapped to make them creators of knowledge. The light of their creative flicker, in the midst of monotonous routine, has the capacity to transmulate a boring thing into something that gives fulfillment. Student’s life in the college must be linked to their life outside the college. The legacy of bookish learning that is shaping our system is causing a gap between the college, home and community. An attempt is to be made to discourage rote learning. Instead, the system should ignite the imagination, enkindle their creativity and originality. Student centered system in education should make them reflect on their own learning, pursue their imaginative activities and questions. It is strongly believed that, given the space, the students generate new knowledge by engaging themselves with the information passed on to them by teachers and other resources. Treating the prescribed textbook as the sole basis of examination is one of the key reasons why other resources and sites of learning are ignored. Inculcating creativity and initiative is possible, if we perceive and treat students as participants of learning, not as receivers of fixed body of knowledge. Students shall have the eyes to see things differently- the eyes to see a world in a grain of sand. They should note the distinction between copy and original. A copy adapts to the world, original tries to make world adopt. Usually people tell not to cross a bridge till we come to it. Let the students know, today, that the world is owned by those who have crossed the bridge in their imagination far ahead of others.

Let the youth know that one do not drown by falling in water, a person drowns by staying there. Being different is one’s greatest asset. The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little extra- jig jag letters. All this necessitates considerable change in college routines and mode of functioning. The daily time table, semester/ annual academic calendars, teaching & evaluation methods will determine how effective the teaching is and how a text book makes the student’s life in a college a happy experience rather than a source of stress and boredom. His/ her priority and space to opportunities for contemplation and wondering, discussion in small groups, activities requiring hands on experience should have justifiable place in the teaching methodology and pedagogy and academic  schemes. Involving students in the process of learning both as recipients and creators of knowledge for generating creative classroom environment shall be the corner stone of educational edifice/ paradigm. The practices of screening videos and asking for student responses, visits to places/ industries and asking the students to make presentations on what they saw will stir their thinking and compel them to make self study. Information need not be poured/ pumped into students mind by the teacher who himself learnt the same one day earlier. The practical field visits, encouraging discussion among the students, library visits by the students, time spent by the students in the library, book reviews, case studies, originality of assignments, paper presentations, PPTs, relating a lesson to real life situations, internship, apprentice, major projects, cultivation of speaking and writing skills, provision of more space for hands on experience, group assignments will definitely improve their problem solving, team working, capacity building skills and also their learning, re-learning and unlearning abilities. We can examine the students in various ways. Exams have the potential of changing the way the students learn or teachers teach. Easiest way to make learning joyful and thrilling is to make changes in the Examination pattern and format. The illiterate of 21st Century will not be those who cannot read and write but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn. Therefore, it is the bounded duty of all concerned to develop such attitudes among our students. In fact, it is the biggest challenge for our teachers especially under current Education Policies and Procedures which instead of creating Centres of Excellence in teaching and learning are creating Educational Walmarts in which teachers are considered no more than sales persons. The present Examination system exploits only the basic level of acquiring Knowledge by  Memory.

The other 5 levels – Comprehension, Application, Analysis, Synthesis and Evaluation of learning are not being tapped and shaped. The true empowerment of the  youth through Education that too Quality Education and through Quality teachers will definitely make a great difference in producing creative individuals with holistic growth. The future of the country lies on what the teachers give to our students. Hence, special attention shall be given to the process of recruitment of teachers.
Their passion for teaching, commitment to students concerns and their own creativity shall be the criteria for their selection but not gold medals and top ranks. There is rapid transformation in the work place, atmosphere/ gadgets, the expectation of the employer and end user, skills to be exercised in a job. The twin forces of globalization and technology, especially the Internet, are rapidly and radically altering the scenario of how and whom we work for. A click of the mouse can erase geographic boundaries, and routine jobs are increasingly getting automated. Social networks, online retailing, ebooks and GPS maps have revolutionized the question of how we socialize, shop, read and navigate our worlds. In result, new jobs are being continually created that require different mind sets rather than traditional manufacturing jobs. Hence, the aptitude and skills that 21st century worker needs are quite different from those of his predecessors. Harvard psychologist, Gardener, states that 5 kinds of minds will be valued in the future as human beings continue to break new frontiers of knowledge in this era of knowledge explosion
wherein for every 12 years the knowledge is getting doubled. Specialized knowledge is going to be increasingly praised. Experts of particular domain will play important role. Secondly as we are bombarded with information from diverse media, the mind that can gather the information from various sources and synthesize it in a meaningful way will be critical. Third, as routine jobs get automated, the mind that can extend knowledge and understanding in creative way will be esteemed.
Fourth, as the world gets more inter connected through the web of globalization, we need to learn to tolerate and respect difference, be it in the form of language, religion or culture. Finally, in the context of Indian mindset, we need to nurture an ethical mindset in the students so that they can learn to think beyond individual self interest. Educational administrators shall note that for every 3 years the gadgets used by the employee and the end user are replaced with new ones with attractive new features and facilities. Even at higher cost the end users are readily go for those gadgets. Education provided to the students should be geared up to cater to the need of end user, the manufacturer and the human kind. The Students need to acquire “Seven Survival Skills” to meet the dynamic demands of ever changing work place. They shall have ability of problem solving and think creatively. Instead of being overwhelmed by the digital deluge of disjointed information, students need to synthesize effectively. The students need to learn to work collaboratively. They need to hone their ability to communicate cogently both orally and in writing. As change is ceaselessly constant, students should demonstrate flexibility and adaptability and not displaying rigid mind-sets. Finally they have to keep the spark of learning alive forever and be willing to learn and accommodate themselves to the demands of a job. One has to adjust oneself to new places of living, work,  olleagues, boss, nature of work, etc. Lifelong employment in a single job is a thing of the past. Unfortunately, Education has not kept pace with the changing landscape of work. The content that schools and colleges teach should be used as a means of developing competencies. Emphasizing traditional academic subjects at the cost of sharpening and showcasing of other talents should be dispensed with. Our testing methods should not stifle the very skills and qualities that are essential to meet the ever changing challenges of life and career. To come out of this situation, our students should work on 5 areas that employers value namely Communication, Creative problem solving,  Resourcefulness, Curiosity and Professionalism. Unless, students cultivate these traits, the anachronistic education system will not wake up to the fact that a notebook does not necessarily have to be just a made-up-ofpaper. In order to make students skilled and savvy for work in 21st century, schools/ colleges have to exhibit innovation, creativity, flexibility and zeal to model the very skills they need to impart. Education in the broadest sense cannot be left to schools and colleges alone. All stake holders including parents, policy makers and the media have to do their bit to cultivate multisided development of the student mind. In all these 65 years of independence our policy makers failed to give meaningful and significant shape to our Educational policy. It became last priority, and for this neglect we are witnessing moral decadence and unethical corruption in every sphere of our society. There are no magic bullets to bring about the desired transformation which is possible only through a farsighted vision, sustained nurturing and nourishing. Gradual introduction of good policies, practices and procedures in a transparent way in every sphere of education at all its levels will  bring the desired results. Let the education planners/ policy makers realize and act quickly to save the generations from drift and downfall. The western system to a large extent is giving due importance to creativity, self-study, original and out of box thinking of the students which made those countries the hub of all scientific and technological innovations of the last three centuries which India cannot boast of.

Education is a process of spiritualization of making man less and less of an animal, less biased and privileged and more and more morally and intellectually robust. Bankim Chandra Chatterjee, a great intellectual giant who gave us Vandemataram pointed out the difference between Indian and western concepts of knowledge.
For westerners, Knowledge is power, whereas for us knowledge is salvation. This was endorsed by an eminent historian of civilizations, Arnold Toynbee. “In his mastery over nonhuman ature western man is a dazzling success, but in his understanding of his own nature, he is a dismal failure”. Western science and technology have contributed tremendously to the material progress of mankind but without a matching moral progress. Without raising the moral and spiritual stature of modern man mere materialistic progress may act as a stumbling block for the higher evolution of man. Nobel laureate and modern scientist, Jonas Salc said that Darwinian Theory of the survival of the fittest should be modified as the survival of the wisest, in the context of nuclear power and weapons. Both Darwin and Marx did not fore seen the unprecedented progress of science and technology which has completely changed the nature of human situation which demands total attitudinal changes in the society. This is the only panacea for the ills of technological civilization. Another scientist meaningfully modified Darwinian Theory in another way. It is not the survival of the fittest but it is the arrival of the fittest. Higher Education institutes should usher in such arrival of the fittest. The characters of the fittest are ex-positioned long ago in our Isopanashad. There are two kinds of knowledge, “knowledge of the para” (Brahman) and the Knowledge of apara” (Matter) and they complement each other and both are essential for the liberation of human soul. Let us recast Bamkim’s distinction as Knowledge is power for the salvation of hungry millions of Indians.’ The upinashad itself enjoins the acquisition of both kinds of knowledge. Our colleges and universities should create a space for some sessions devoted to the overall discussion and exchange of views on the relationships between contemporary, social and cultural progress and spiritual heritage of the country which will help our students to acquire some measure of understanding about the multi dimensional personality of man to realize and visualize Ahambramhasmee.

Source : The Career Guide
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