Revolution is a confused word. It defines itself as ‘a dramatic and wide-reaching change in the way something works or is organized or in people’s ideas about it’ and then turns around to stare at me as it redefines itself as ‘motion in orbit or a circular course or around an axis or center’. One meaning talks of change and the other talks of coming back to the position in which it was! This made me think… which of the two meanings of ‘revolution’ are our education thinkers tinkering with? And if it is the latter that is happening, would we really want a revolution in education? More aptly, can we actually afford a clownish revolution to keep revisiting the past?

It isn’t just the ministers and the bureaucrats who need to emerge out of their fuzzy cocoons, it is the academicians too who must leave the warmth of their well layered nest and begin looking around in real earnest.

‘What?’ I’m sure you’ll shout and add, ‘You want all the serious-minded folk of this country to look around and not think and brain-storm and drink their coffee in their Plato pose?’

‘No,’ I’d answer back, ‘the true thinkers go out and observe and then thoughts just happen. Our thinkers sit in curtained air-conditioned rooms and force their stalemated brains to churn out stale ideas, if not stolen ones.’

‘So you want them to go on foreign junkets and enjoy weeks of observation in far off countries?’

I knew then that this discussion wasn’t getting anywhere and was just revolving on its own axis… and so I raised my hands to signal silence and said, ‘By going out I mean going and meeting people, going out and seeing life being lived by the common man. This is what will suggest us the right path.’

Our thinkers and idea-generators must know that it isn’t just academic prowess that must create a good student. We ‘need to recognize the intelligence in art, mechanics, music, people-skills, and public-speaking as well as the conventional forms of measuring school success. We need to recognize them and place legitimate value on them.’ A change can be created by adding the skills-orientation angle to the school and college curriculum.

The kind of revolution that is happening today is like the HOHO buses of Delhi… no wonder then that our ministry is so excited about hopping on one concept and then hopping off it to board another concept and then ultimately find that they’ve reached their first destination. In this entire hop-on-hop-off strategy, it is the common man of India who is actually taken on a perpetual ride!

Thus we find newspaper headlines screaming of a new Sibal dream every other day. These dreams could range from creating a revolution for school NCERT text-books by removing all the ‘sentiment-busting’ creative toons to making sure that students have access to the now-so-famous Akash Tablet. Or there could be a new grading system in place. Or all entrance examinations to be merged into one so that students enjoy their holidays without having to rush to exam centres on every Sunday after their class XII examination. Or there could be talks of including more and more subjects so that our students emerge from school as mini Aristotles! But what really happens is that all these remain mere ‘revolutions’ of a wily politician’s mind and take us all on a ride to be asked to de-board at the first station!

Almost every dream of the government gets defeated or begins its ludicrous roll-backs! Very soon our dear ‘roll-backs’ are going to be hailed as the National game because Kabaddi anyway is getting to be too strenuous and embarrassing for our men in parliament!

So revolution is probably going to be re-spelt as rollovution unless we stopped talking of them and began adopting other ways out of the mess that education is in now:

  1. Stop announcing revolutions every week and also gag the Senate of IIT, Kanpur. After all, that Senate seems to be emerging as more powerful than our men-in-khadi (are they really dressed in Khadi even now?) which could be a serious threat to the security of our Netas. Instead, announce blogging contests for new ideas and reward the winning bloggers with a seat in the Rajya Sabha. We’ll have some original thinkers hobnobbing with the parliamentarians and this may make a difference.
  2. Stop learning tours of Netas and Babus to the jungle safari in South Africa or the harbour bridge climb in Sydney or watching the antics of the Tower bridge in London or sailing to the statue of Liberty in NY. It is better we have them scuba diving in Havelock island or para-sail in Dharamshala or ride a motorbike to the Rohtang Pass… we’ll promote India as a great tourist destination and give them enough opportunity to mingle with the hoi-polloi of India and get a genuine feed-back.

There are many other solutions that I have in mind… but we’ll talk about them some other time.

Scan of the article in 'The Education Post'

Scan of the article in ‘The Education Post’


Note: This article was published in ‘The Education Post’ monday, June 15, 2012.

Arvind Passey
22 June 2012