The path of Endurance

Education – an overview

As I travel across the state to all colleges, to imbibe the employability skills training to the students, one of my friends who is working in a print media asked me a favor. He wanted to have one candidate who has reasonable idea on International politics and economics and a reasonable command over the English language. At the outset I thought that of an easy job as, I am in touch with three universities in the southern part of the state and there would be at least 150 students who would be either in their M.As, M.phils, or PhDs in the economics department. One out of one hundred and fifty seemed relatively an easy task. But on trial; it wasn’t to be.

The problem:

One major problem I encountered with is the students are not that brilliant. Please don’t get me wrong. Pupils are bright, bright enough to achieve distinction and much more achievements academically. But I hardly see that academic brightness assimilating in the real life. This of course cannot be taught, and the core of the issue lies here that our students cannot do or perform anything that is not taught to them. This prompted me to have an insight of a student’s brain, how it functions while performing academic rituals. Students in this part of the world are informed at a very young age that they should work hard in school and study vigorously. The ultimate gift or the result of studying hard and being a school topper is they can have a secured life with a good job and a decent salary. This is fundamentally wrong. The basic reason to study is to know new things and then learning happens by exploring those new things deeply. Has it always been like this in this part of the world, let’s take a short virtual time travel.

The History:

The first university in the western world was started in Italy, The University of Bologna, in the year 1088. History tells us that there was no such thing as a place where students can come and study a variety of topics throughout the western hemisphere before that. But at the time when The University of Bologna started it service, there was a University in the east which had a 600 year old heritage in Higher education, at that university was situated in India, the region which is known as Bihar today. It is the Nalanda University of Pataliputra. People actually travelled a great deal to have the knowledge to this university. Many Chinese scholars who are now hailed as the most important and renowned Mathematicians and Astronomers are alumni s of Nalanda University. Even they say the person who introduced printing to the western world in Turkey was a half Indian and half Chinese. The Point is both Mathematics and Printing Technology was not in the curriculum of Nalanda University. But there was a very important curriculum called Logic was there, which actually helped them to learn and explore such things which are not in their syllabus. No wonder the Asians praise India as a land of knowledge. The point to be taken here is the freedom of thought, which was the product of education, brought such fames to India. The great Tibetan master Miloropa Tsongpa actually formed a great learning culture in Tibet through a powerful tool of learning process which is debating. He was an alumnus of Nalanda University and he took that idea from a dense philosophical text called Pramanavarthana which was in Sanskrit. It’s great to hear that people like Amartya sen are trying to rebuild the University of Nalanda in India, where it was with the help of all Asian countries. The process is very slow, as one might know how the Government of India works, but there seems a light at the end of the tunnel to make this happen. Please watch this Video for details.

The Solution:

The problem of non productive education does not prevail only in India, but it is a global problem now. India has to deal with it more deftly and swiftly because India is a giant in population. We cover the one sixth of the total population, which means the world should come to India to get its job done. It would be a great chance of economic prosperity, and also only if the professionals in India know how to assimilate their learning to their work place. Tony Wagner, who is a co-director of change leadership in Harvard University, postulated a seven steps process to check, if a curriculum is worthy enough to produce good students. They are

ü  Critical thinking and Problem solving

ü  Collaboration across networks and Leading by influence

ü  Agility and Adaptability

ü  Initiative and Entrepreneurialism

ü  Effective oral and written communication

ü  Accessing and Analyzing information

ü  Curiosity and Imagination

If a syllabus allows students to fulfill all these criteria then it is a worthy syllabus which can produce game changers and leaders. I feel these are basic elements which have to be taken care while preparing the syllabus. Having information can no longer be considered as Intelligence. It is the era of information and one has to know that almost everybody can have the access to information. What you do with that information, will be the cutting edge in this era. How do you analyze it, process it, connect it with various other informations would be the deciding factor of a leader in this era.

Coming back to the issue which I begined in this post, those student who are the brightest only had informations with them. That may be enough to achieve excellence academically, but it would not help them to embark a journey of learning. According to the old dense philosophical text Pramanavarthana there are four elements which take place in a circular rotation while you are learning. Having first hand information is not even considered as the first step of learning in that text. It says Reasoning (what, why about the information); Analyzing (asking how?); Categorizing (sequentially arranging); Correlating (finding patterns). These four when done repeatedly would help a person to explore things deeply, the text says. Miloropa found an exquisite tool out of these four things and introduced Debating culture, as a way of learning in Tibet. Dr.Jenpa who is the official translator of his highness Dalai Lama, gave very valid information on this schools of Tibet. He said, there would be one final examination when a person is about to complete his spiritual education there and no other tests or examinations in the middle of the course to mark or categorize the level. But as there is no class room and there are only prayer halls are debating chambers, the learning happens only in the debating chambers where people automatically know, if a person is great, or ok or not so good enough. That was a wonderful thing isn’t it? The student himself knows that I am good at this, or I have to improve on this, rather than some body saying that you are not good enough on certain things. Hope we also encourage such Debating culture and bring back the richness of the minds of our countless Genius scholars of our country. Please feel free to leave a comment here, or you can click here join us on our face book page.

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