Is higher education really high?

If education is for bringing out the best in a human being and help him develop and use it for the progress of the individual and society, then the public education system in general, in India at least, has consistently failed. Parents, peers and teachers guide or force a young soul to that which they think is good which is mostly about success and career and an almost exclusive importance to money getting. Very often we see newsreports of students being physically punished and banished for not conforming to the system. I have seen this often as a student at school level and a few years ago, as a teacher, was myself told by the mother of a student to break his boy’s leg to make him study. I don’t know if she meant it or not but the violence in the mind of parents of unsuccessful students is regrettable to say the least. Passing the examination is a ‘do or die’ battle for students and annually when the school finals results are published many students who fail to make it take the extreme step of committing suicide. Those who do not escape thus have terrible time to go through. It may be fitting to call the present educational system as institutionalised cruelty by the society.

Teachers themselves are under great stress from the managements to achieve high percentage of success which make them into mercenaries. Faced with the impossibility of making everyone pass the teachers grease the official machinery to get the question paper in advance or allow their students to copy inside the examination hall. I am told that a teacher of a nearby ITI school collected Rs. 1500/- from each student to bribe the hall supervisor and she passed chits with answers through waterboys to her students writing the exam. The result was 100% pass. It is a practice going on there since years. Politicians are finding their own muddled solutions to the crisis by advocating legalising mass copying (An ex – CM of Uttar Pradesh is credited to have said this) or passing lakhs of failed students by adding ‘grace marks’. I had to check out the results of my nephew who had written higher secondary exam in Kerala last month and was astonished to note that the state board had declared over 98% of the examinees as passed by adding ‘grace marks’. I suspect that success of a political party in the elections are nowadays linked to how many percentage of students they declared pass in the board examinations.


“Cheating” by Hariadhi, myself – Own work. Licensed under CC BY 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons –

A teacher who can unleash terror by physical and psychological violence on the students is the most favourite of the management. In some schools the Principals themselves set the example by beating the errant students black and blue. Now they are installing cctv’s to help their ‘education’.

Vocational training system which was expected to be an alternative to theory intensive higher education streams, and to which students who pass with poor grades turn, has failed to live up. The omnipresent exam oriented attitude pervades here too and kills the spirit of developing practical knowledge and skills. Students make up academic records of experiments without actually doing them. I know first hand of a teacher, again of a nearby school who made his students actually do all the practical experiments being admonished by the Principal not to do so. “It is expensive”, said the paragon of education who was already charging the students the highest fees in the region.

Having gone through the so called higher education myself and getting degrees in engg. and arts streams I can tell that most of what one learns at university level education is useless for work life and the degree is no guarantee for possessing commanding or even substantially applicable knowledge in the chosen field of study. Once a fellow teacher who had passed M.A in English and also B. Ed asked my help with a page of text she had written. There were grammatical errors of the ridiculous kind in every paragraph. What the degrees give the students is a ticket to job market, status in society based on suspect ability and conceited self importance.

A relevant article on Times of India: Teens say no to college, yes to learning


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2 thoughts on “Is higher education really high?

  1. Ravi Iyer May 15, 2015 at 2:47 pm Reply

    I heard from someone that the quality of engineering students coming out of run of mill colleges is quite bad. Only about 10% has the potential to work and produce the results needed – as I rmember from a writeup by a senior excutive of Infosys. At the moment world accepts that Indians are good with software development, if we want to continue the success, we need to find special skills and niche market to sell them, whatever field it may be. Unless we consistently produce younger generation with sufficient knowledge, future would be difficult for Indians. Here is our competition -

  2. jothicharles May 15, 2015 at 3:37 pm Reply

    Yes Ravi. I also recall reports in Indian media saying most engg grads are unemployable. The system is same as it was when we were studying, perhaps worse. Too many students and too little infrastructure but that doesn’t matter because what is required is ability to cram without understanding to pass exams.

    A few years ago a fresh E & C grad joined as teacher. Very soon he reported to me, as a senior faculty, that a wall socket wasn’t working. I told him to take a multimeter and check if the voltage was available at the socket points. He checked with selector switch of the meter on DC 12v and burned the meter. I asked him if he used a multimeter in his college lab. He said there were nearly 10 students doing an experiment and it was impossible for all to get a chance to handle it not to speak of becoming adept. Yet he passed graduation with high grades.

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