Tuesday , 25 September 2018
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Recognising Students’ Skills at Early Age

BINAYAK DATTA

Last week’s bombshell of all 8,000 graduates failing to clear recruitment tests for 80 accountants’ positions in Goa couldn’t perhaps demonstrate better the “symptoms” of a larger malaise sitting at the Goa education scenario. As a once, one of the foremost recruiters of youngsters in Goa and now, a member of guest faculties in various premier institutions in India and closely connected with education in Goa, I thought it best spending some time on this and to look at the following angles: a) The school education and profiles of our boys and girls in Goa b) ‘Stoking’ of ambitions, of competitive spirits and the joy of achievements and lastly e) The governmental initiatives desired in all of this.

Getting it right

I often wonder why we are frequently seen lamenting about the fact that our children do not make it to the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) examinations, or the BITS or the JEE (Mains) in good numbers. Although a senior executive of the system remarked on record “there was nothing wrong with the system – it was only poor preparations”, I say no; the point is one concerning aptitude. I’m a great believer in Sigmund Freud and in his view the basics of a child are determined when he is six. Do our children lack aptitude then? No. I think we expect often the wrong aptitudes from right children.

Take mathematics for example. I have seen our boys and girls generally (not all) have an anathema of sorts for maths. Yet we goad them towards engineering and chartered accountancy. Mug-Vomit-Pass is the mantra! We must realise all children would never have the same set of aptitudes. There are creative children, who are good at creating something, good at imaginations, at empiricals, at music, at fine arts etc. In the days that will come they will have immense scope in areas like Artificial Intelligence applications and in Internet of Things for example other than conventional fields that they have a passion for. There are analytical children who are good at maths and logics and in the days ahead they could flourish in say Fintech, Big Data Analytics and of course “Industry 4.0”. Then there are disruptive children, who have the courage to destroy the hackneys and rebuild in their own way. They will do much better tomorrow in say, Block Chain Technology, Drone Technologies and Quantum Computing.

Creative talents

In my study, I have found our children here more in the first category with good creative talents, good architectural eyes, good ears for music and performing arts, good in spoken languages and the like. I am only a bit puzzled that there are not many takers for professional soccer (Goa’s own game). Why don’t we recognise these skills as real, professional and economic value additives and therefore make professional opportunities for them to make it to the top! This will not still solve the problems of getting those 80 accountants but it will certainly help industries where Goa has inherent competencies like say tourism, fashion, architecture, performing arts – all these are lucrative careers today.

Why should every child have to be an accountant, why should every child be an engineer? Or a doctor! The minority of the analytical children here should be enough to take good care of these “analytical” professions in my view. Parents, teachers and government have immense roles to play in identifying and nurturing core competencies in children, which I’m sorry, but there is little evidence of this happening unlike in states like Andhra, Delhi, Gujarat and Rajasthan where schools have specialised counselling on core competencies (I remember having led a few of these discussions myself in some of these states).

Inculcating culture
of ambition

The next biggest agenda for us which is different from most other states is the lack of ambition. I find too less of ambition in our children, sadly. Parents and teachers, not so much the government, are the key players here. Our bringing up and our pedagogy MUST sow “Ambition” into the child’s mind not when he is doing his graduation but when he is in school much as perhaps Samuel Roffe would have blurted out in Sydney Sheldon’s ‘Bloodline’ “Because there was a hunger in me to see everything and do everything. I wanted to be everyone I saw. I wasn’t enough for me. Can you understand that?”

Are we doing enough of say competitive activities, participating in discussions on current affairs, quizzes, debates etc? Are we preparing our girls and boys for the “Industry 4.0” that is fast approaching? I think parents and teachers have a lot to do in this field.

Investing in education

My last point is on governmental interventions in all of these. We spend an abysmally low 2 per cent of our state GDP on education, where our government’s stated targets were 6 per cent. I think we are no better or no worse than most other states (except for Delhi, Andhra and Tamil Nadu) when it comes to our government schools and private charitable trust schools. But we do have very few of those “Corporate International Schools (with International Bachelorette (IB)”. I think the government can take this initiative and invite and enthuse top ten international schools to open campuses in Goa to start with. If five agree, it will be win-win situation for the analytical-minded little citizens at all-India levels. It would also attract expatriate managers to Goa whose one common grouse is lack of international schools. The government’s response lies in seeing citizens of tomorrow get opportunities according to their competencies today.

It is a paradox that Goa comes third amongst all states with 89 per cent literacy but 20th out of 30 in its Education Development Index (of the Union HRD Ministry). I think each of us have a responsibility to see the Goa of tomorrow growing with plentiful opportunities for its youngsters. This can only happen if citizens of tomorrow will be willing today to “hunger” to see everything and do everything to go to the top. And teachers, parents and government are willing to facilitate.

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