Nandkumar M Kamat
Goa is reluctant to study the social pathology of higher education because people get carried away with results, percentages, marks and grades. Goa has excelled in contributing armies of students who have excelled in answering countless examinations based mostly on direct questions. Earlier they used to memorize from books or notes. Now its digital reading despite strain and pain to the eyes. These answers are ritualistically drilled in the minds by the teachers as ‘model’ answers. It is painful, pathetic and tragic to encounter students who come out of 10 plus and two plus three system and know nothing about basics nor can answer any indirect questions.
Teachers are being paid handsomely to teach answers to direct questions like “where the Sun rises” or “what is shape of Earth” but not to teach “why Sun rises in East” or “Why Earth is an oblate spheroid”. The message from Goa’s failed higher education system is -our success in gifting the society students without understanding the basic concepts, those who have no depth in anything and who cannot without looking at smartphones or Wikipedia independently articulate anything. My simple definition of higher education with teaching experience of 25 years and research experience of 35 years is holistic engineering of a student in the most sensitive and impressionable age group of 17 to 22 for assuming the role of a self-confident, honest, fearless, enlightened autonomous global citizenship and for those who aim to found families getting ready for responsible parenthood.
Every student that I teach gets a free self-development toolbox for lifetime. My definition of higher education clearly distinguishes knowledge from information, pretensions of learning from the matrix of understanding, rituals of completion of curriculum from ignition of creative impulses and draws a lot of inspiration from Greek philosopher Socrates. My entire teaching career and encounters, interactions with students, often painful and humiliating were governed by this definition.
I have never enjoyed teaching because students sent to me do not understand the culture of knowledge besides they are absolutely scared when they discover that they have wasted 15 years doing nothing in the name of education. Many of them have read almost nothing serious since leaving the high schools. When I look at a student in a post graduate class, I project him or her as a global citizen and a responsible parent in future. When the student looks at me as a teacher he or she thinks only about less burden of study, less work, easy to answer tests and getting higher marks with minimal efforts.
Every day, every entry in the class makes me feel that invisible burden the constitution of India has put on my shoulders. But all higher educational institutions follow the law of averages in mass education. There is a pathological obsession with numbers and statistics. The results of any public examination are very deceptive. We have numerous post graduate students who cannot write a single sentence properly claiming to have first class or distinction at graduation. The post liberalisation generation of parents (PLGP) in Goa is interested only in the final marks and grades. It doesn’t matter to them what their over-pampered children do for two years in higher secondary schools, three years in the colleges and minimum two years during post graduation.
The new trend in Goa popular with academic decision makers, PLGP and majority of teachers is minimalist higher education as if the physiognomy, brain structure and IQ of students in Goa is different. PLGP demand everything to be cheap, simple and easy. Their children see payment of tuition fees as investment which should automatically return them rich dividend in terms of more marks in every subject with no or less efforts. Ask PLGP exactly how their children manage their time. They would discover that the 17 to 22 age group learns only during residual time left from doing non academic pursuits. There is a race to extract sometimes by bullying the authorities, as many exemptions and concessions from the system as possible and these demands range from lowering the attendance to number of attempts to pass an exam. But when was it that we heard demands from students to teach state of the art syllabus or increasing library hours?. Minimalist teaching, minimal syllabus, minimalist learning is a fast spreading disease which is decaying the very principles of higher education. I have been noticing that highly urbanized and affluent Goa is rapidly marching towards a techno-savvy, gadget friendly but basically a dumb society.
It is amazing to encounter dumbness at every level. This dumbness indicates a dangerous social disease. It’s outcome of malparenting by PLGP. They worship short cuts to success in a competitive and globalized world. We have been encountering a new generation of parents who dismiss reading habits and stress more on entertainment, fun and fashion. The impatient and volatile PLGP has no idea what higher education means. No wonder the demand for books like “How To Get Rich Quick” is very high in Goa.
We once thought that higher education was aimed at studying with understanding, gaining fluency and proficiency, developing leadership qualities and independent thinking, boosting creativity, upgrading and expanding various skill sets, learn team work etc. But social pathology of higher education shows complete and irreversible corrosion of the system. There are countless Board of Studies (BOS) from Xth standard to University level which have completely run out of ideas. Despite having statutory powers and immense freedom to innovate and reform these BOSes without any exception have destroyed the very soul, spirit and purpose of higher education system.
There is another palpable threat- which would spell doom of higher education in a few years- admission of anti-knowledge candidates in B Ed colleges based only by written tests and degree marks but without any confidential background checks to verify their track record and behaviour as students. It is painful to see that many students who were disruptive in class, poor learners, often making mockery of teaching and teachers joining B Ed colleges to continue their anti-knowledge crusade in future by malprinting the future generation. Who would weed them out? Goa’s pretentious higher education field would be exposed in future in an increasingly talent demanding economy. Minimalist culture has infected our campuses and we seem to be proud of it.