This week’s Indispire prompt suggested by blogger Neha Tambe is about Indian Education Scenario. The exact prompt is: ‘What kind of changes do you wish to see in the education system in India? Learning cannot work like an assembly line. Why can’t children choose in high school their focus subject and graduate with that? Share your ideas and vision about education.’
The prompt asks: why can’t children choose in high school their focus subject and graduate with that. Well, in my opinion high school is too early a time to go for specialisation.
In High School (upto class X) let the children taste all the different branches of knowledge. It will help them, first of all, to know for themselves where in lies their strength or weakness. It will also help them to discover their own inclination for particular fields of study.
Secondly, specialisation cannot happen in total isolation. It can happen only after a certain degree of generalistion. An engineer needs to express his thesis in proper language. All subjects are somewhere interconnected. A scientist should have a little background in humanities and ethics so that when she goes for scientific inventions she does not ignore the potential harmful effects of the inventions on the civilisation. The scientist also lives in society hence must know the basics of social sciences to be aware of what does it mean to be a responsible citizen. And without history we would not know why a particular group of people behave today in response to different situations.
In ancient days, in the western civilization, all kinds of knowledge were bundled as philosophy which literally means love of knowledge. Of course now a days the word philospher indicates to someone who is devoid of all types of practical knowledge. There was no rigid partition. The greatest Greek philosophers wrote about science, poetry, drama and rolled out self help literature all at the same time. Pythagoras was not only a great mathematician, but also a great mystic. The works of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and others have stood the test of time.
In ancient India knowledge was divided into two broad categories: the para vidya and the apara vidya – the knowledge of the inner and the knowledge of the outer. While we need certain skills to make a living, we also need to learn certain skills to manage our own life, its ambitions and emotions. In the Gurukula both the branches of knowledge were taught to the children to make them complete human beings. Of course subsequently students moved onto their area of higher studies either on their own or under the guidance of specific masters. The universities at Taxila and Nalanda were famous for higher education.
Let me here clarify that para vidya is not religious knowledge which is all about a set of beliefs and rituals. Para vidya is more of kindling in the student a spirit of inquiry into the existential issues of life and giving them the tools to discover them.
In fact I would recommend that the curriculum of high school becomes more broad based to include subjects like elementary economics and accounting. It will also be good to introduce the students to alternate versions of History, rather than changing the history syllabus to suit the ideology of the party in power.
Maybe, the time has come in India now to go for cross-specialisation. I come across the profile of US or European students with a diploma in Art History and graduation in electrical engineering. Of course In India also students also go for cross-specialisaton after Engineering or medical they go for an MBA degree in Finance or Marketing. It is still not a culturally acceptable thing in India that someone is pursuing a serious academic course in a University in aesthetics after a post-graduation in in anesthetics.
Mad Charvak says cross-specialisation is the mother of all creativity.