Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Nothing sentimental about college education
I just came across an interview Tarun Tejpal gave to a career magazine. The interview had a rather catchy title "India's rich fund temples, not educational institutions", but what was of interest to me was his recounting of his college days. I felt a bit lofty that he did his BA from my city, though not from my college. DAV College in Sector 10 would too be proud of its alumnus. There is only one problem—Tejpal admits that he did not attend a single class in those entire three years! That obviously means that his "education" happened outside the institute and his college was merely a document-provider, giving him an official-looking piece of paper, a testimonial that he is a graduate. And barring some elite institutions, which mostly teach sciences, colleges in India are perfect breeding grounds for autodidacts. Two of my classmates immediately come to my mind, one has ended up being a bureaucrat while I saw the other selling vegetables in a mandi, sitting alongside men, most of whom, I am pretty sure, never had the chance to see how a degree college looks like from inside. College education was incidental to life pursuits of these two classmates of mine. I am increasingly of the opinion that for most of us Indians, it is not the education system that decides what we will end up doing in life but other things such as our family background and the web of social relationships we are part of. In this sense, perhaps, Indian education system is still a bit medieval if not ancient, where things like caste and class limit one's vocation in life. This, of course, is not to generalize, individual freedom does exist and perhaps in many other cases children find it easy to slip into the role their parents once performed (talking about roles, Shah Rukh Khan and Hrithik Roshan are examples of individual freedom and family legacy respectively), but there have been umpteen number of cases where undeserving candidates get selected at the cost of people really cut out for a particular position. We do meet such professionals who are there because of a plug and not because of merit alone.