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Monday 19 December 2011

Has education lost its heart?

Has education lost its heart?


Education today in our country has not only lost its heart; it seems to have lost its direction and goal. It is a sad situation for the future generation. Well-meaning people in society are keeping quiet. The powers that be, who ought to know better, seem to be either ignoramuses or they couldn't care less! The following case history will showcase one of the major areas where modern education, especially at the primary level, nay at all levels, is going astray to the detriment of mankind's future.

Kalyani — it is her pseudonym — was a good child who, as a teenager, was as happy as any of her age could be. Her overambitious parents were charting her educational course when she was still in high school. They were obsessed with her becoming an IITian or doctor, the mark of excellence in education these days, what with the IITs advertising the hefty pay packets that their alumni were offered by the corporates for whom profit alone mattered at the end of the day.
Many people think that the pay packet of the alumni is the yardstick of excellence of an educational institution. Kalyani's parents, with their influence, could get her a seat in one of the “top-end” schools reserved for the best “parrot repeaters,” otherwise called bright students, who can get anywhere above 95% marks in the finals. The school was proud of its distinction of sending the maximum number of students to IITs in the recent past. Kalyani did not very much relish her mathematics classes, right from her KG days.
For the carefree girl, it was too much to cope with the stress of keeping pace with her teachers' expectations almost from day one at school. Smelling a rat, her parents, anxious as they were, engaged a “bright” IIT student to coach her in the evenings, so much so Kalyani did not have any time for herself, not to speak of physical exercise of any kind. Sports were taboo too. Parental anxiety is highly contagious among children. Gradually, there seemed to be a visible change in Kalyani's demeanour. The truly extrovert girl became withdrawn, not paying much attention to her own needs, eating less and less, and she started having sleeplessness especially after a short bout of sleep in the early part. She started losing weight. Naturally, the “intelligent” parents took her to a doctor who ran all the tests and said that everything was normal and so his job was done. He advised them to take her to a psychiatrist!
Falling grades
Concurrently, Kalyani was irritable at school; her grades started falling, attracting more and more rebuke from her teachers and periodic dressing down by the Principal, who had a reputation of being a task master. She was a no-nonsense person who could not and did not “understand” a young mind!
As ill luck would have it, the psychiatrist happened to be one of the “proud” parents of one of the students of the same school. He was very proud of his son's achievements. The first thing that Kalyani heard was: “Did you not know that in your school, students getting less than 95 per cent are not recognised and they are usually not admitted there. How did you, a real dolt, could even think of getting there? The school's elevated standards have depressed you.”
So saying, the next thing the psychiatrist did was to give her a long list of antidepressants with sedatives which made her sicker. She needed to be hospitalised for a few days! Grace E. Jackson, former chief of the U.S. Navy psychiatry service, in her seminal book on anti-psychotic drugs, especially antidepressants, has shown, using solid data, that all those drugs are the cause of a new disease, even in the not-so-old people, called Alzheimer's disease! The present choice of depression treatment is counselling and behavioural therapy, and not reductionist chemicals, that too for a teenager.
The last straw that broke Kalyani's back was the remark of her tutor one day: “I am sorry, I cannot coach you anymore as I find I am too intelligent to teach a dunce like you!” That was the stage when I happened to see Kalyani. The rest of her story is irrelevant to the topic of this write-up. It is time that thinking people in society raised their voice against this new crime on children by both anxious parents with misplaced priorities and the whole educational set-up.
Getting the best
out of them
Education is not stuffing information into the child's head to be vomited during the examination to get ranks and seats in IITs and leading medical and business management schools. Education is, in effect, getting the best out of the student. The teacher, like a midwife, should assist the student in delivering, and not deliver herself.
Every child is a genius only to be converted into an idiot in school,” wrote Nobel Laureate Alexis Carrel. Education should aim at making healthy minds and not just making wealthy careers. Here,society needs to be thoroughly deschooled to get rid of the obsession with marks and ranks in place of healthy education.
(The writer is a former Professor of Cardiology, Middlesex Hospital Medical School, University of London, and former Vice-Chancellor, Manipal University. His email ID is
Education should aim at making healthy minds and not just making wealthy careers. Here, society needs to be thoroughly deschooled to get rid of the obsession with marks and ranks.

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