The earliest bits of advice I heard from my parents, at least something that I remember, were about education. Later on, perhaps after puberty, I realized that it was very typical of every middle-class Indian family to put education in the same bracket as the millions of Hindu gods we tend to worship. Veneration much?
So I grew up, did modestly well in class, became an engineer with an MBA afterwards (big surprise, duh!), and got a job. And where did I get my job? An American firm of great repute. And my parents thought they had done a perfect job of raising a boy. Their responsibility was almost over (arranged marriage pending!).
Of course they had done their job splendidly. Till I realized it was just to the best of their abilities.
As I grew up, travelled to the more economically developed nations, met people from vastly different backgrounds, morals and ideas, I realized something was amiss. Not with the values or efforts by my parents. But with the Indian education system as a whole.
Once a man in London confronted my calling India a third-world nation by saying that if India ‘pumped out’ the most tech engineers in the world and sent rockets to space, why was it a third-world country? He said there was no need for self-pity.
Perhaps that is the problem. We pump out too many. Way too many. We produce fucking robots, not thinkers. We don’t teach people to find their own feet, but give them a wobbly cane to stand that would never help them in anyway. They are left neither as trainable robots, nor as hustling entrepreneurs. The focus is on quantity over quality.
Of all the students that train as engineers in India’s 3,345 engineering colleges, only 8% are employable. And more than 95% of these guys go as the mindless coders in companies like Infosys, TCS and Wipro. Tech talent? That remains with a select few. Rest are just herded like sheep.
Also, the spirit of entrepreneurship has just took off in India. Even though we claim to be one of world’s largest start-up countries, per capita wise we are still far, far behind the likes of Israel, Germany and Australia. There are also lesser number of scientists, bloggers, independent activists and artists per capita.
This is perhaps what we need. Free-wheeling thinkers, who dare to dream differently. We need to overhaul over educational content, and structure, to promote independent activities at an young age.
I learnt the word entrepreneurship in college. How about introducing a course in class 9 and allowing them to start a business of their own as a part of coursework? I know I would have been immensely psyched had this been a part of my class. More science competitions, company-sponsored hackathons, government-sponsored smart-city challenges. All this could be huge in growing not just a literate, but a more thinking, educated and responsible society.
I recently persuaded one of my cousins, who was leaning towards engineering just for the sake of it, opt out and pursue business instead. I just wish I could be there individually to motivate those who are not interested in falling into rigamarole to jump the gun and be a free-thinker.
It just makes good sense.