Wednesday, September 9, 2009

A multidimensional education system in India – Need of the hour

Educational reform in India has remained one of the oft spoken about topics ever since independence. However, much of the debate has always been centered on topics which have high relevance in the political circles, such as, bringing more children to schools and on reservations of various kinds. Amidst these debates, one very important issue has remained in the sidelines for a long time; the predominantly single dimensional nature of our education system.

It has become an accepted fact that the students in India lack choices, a fact that the student community has resigned itself to. Not many students pause to think about their career when they complete their higher secondary. It has almost become a natural choice that people with good marks choose between the professional courses of Medicine and Engineering and the students with not so good marks choose the less rewarding Arts/Commerce stream. In essence, the marks and the available choices determine a student’s career rather than his/her passion.

The impact of this saddening situation will be clearly visible in the years to come. This prevalent lack of choices has created an education system, which does not scale and is predominantly single dimensional. It is a pity to see a country of such multidimensional talent, reduce itself to so few choices. The rewards for choosing the road less travelled by are too few and far between.

This scenario has significantly narrowed down the mindset of the student right after their schooling. A person with high grades along with an interest in fine arts or a penchant towards a bachelor’s in management is really not allowed to follow his heart due to monetary as well as societal pressures. The result is a large number of people, especially undergraduate students, pursuing something that they are not passionate about. The amount of career switches happening is increasing by the day in India. Let us look at one of the relatively recent survey results to understand what this is about.

A recent survey by EMA Partners International shows that 50% of Indian business leaders are from IIT’s and IIM’s. On close analysis of this data, 13% of the CEO’s in India have an IIT-IIM background, indicating a career switch. 16% of the CEO’s with IIT background are in financial services companies, while 5% are in management consulting. One has every reason to be skeptical about the role of the IIT education in the makeup of these leaders in financial services and management consulting. The fact that these figures throw light on is that a lot of people studying technology even from premier institutions are not working in technology after a while. Or in other words, students who did not have a vision towards a long term career in Technology took up to bachelors’ education in Technology.

I believe that this statistics can in part be explained by the ‘The best minds get into IIT’s’ mindset that we Indians have developed and sustained for a long time now. An excellent student invariably thinks of getting into the IIT’s even without proper introspection of whether his heart lies in technology.

The avenues available for a student to pursue bachelors in Management are far less compared to those available in the technology domain. Even the IIM’s aren’t providing undergrad courses in Management. The care and efforts taken to build undergrad engineering institutes of repute is clearly missing in the other streams of education. The benefits of such an effort go much beyond what is visible. It will enable students to pursue what they really like. One can be sure that there will be a lot of takers for Bachelors courses in Management if reputed institutes like the IIM’s offer them. And it will also ease up the pressure on the technology institutions created by ‘The best minds get into IIT’s’ mindset, mentioned previously, that has already crept into our subconscious mind.

The illustrations I have used on Management education is only a tip of the iceberg, and when extrapolated will remain true to almost all spheres of education in India. In a lot of foreign countries, it is not uncommon to see someone with a high degree of expertise in fine arts, without any great academic record pursuing an MBA from a reputed institute, and earning the respect for his/her personal identity. It is common knowledge that such a scenario would be highly unlikely in India. Our academic orientation is too high that we seldom respect people with high industry experience, individuality and expertise in their own domain.

This alarming situation has to change and change soon, if we have to take advantage of our demographic dividend, which illustrious industry people like Nandan Nilekani have been highlighting for a while now. The demographic dividend generally occurs once in the life time of a country and the aspirations of a large number of children along with that of the country is at stake. We are in dire need of a multidimensional education system. We can’t afford to keep producing more and more engineers and rely on IT services alone for our growth anymore. It is high time for the government and NGO’s to take significant steps in this direction for the betterment of India. The alarm bell is loud and clear!


Word'sTunes said...


Also, we cant keep servicing somebody, we need to produce something, we cant keep buying and selling , we need to create something - courtesy - wall street(Movie)

We need people who have genuine interest in their chosen field.

Number of people in the country will be increasing exponentially,if not,at least by some function which takes the curve to north. The employment cannot be created in the industry at the same rate. Only people with genuine interest can create something, and only that will server the employment problems as well.

Good Sri... I am expecting some more thoughts on this same issue, or on related stuff.

King Vishy said...

You mirror my thoughts.. Have had this kind of a discussion with many folks in the last couple of months.. 'Social acceptance' is intrinsic in our communities.. And the fear of failure adds to that..
While I don't agree that we need good bachelor's in management (Management is only an enabler.. it's not a skill in itself.. I feel it's better if one learns a core skill, and also learns management on top of that).. But agree totally to your underlying thought..

R Srikkant said...

@Word's tunes:

Thanks dude! I like that statement from wall street movie!


While i agree that management is just an enabler, subjects such as 'finance' is a specialization. No point in doing a BE ECE and then MBA finance and working in financial services, dont u think? I agree that a BE Mech and MBA SCM is a killer combo! I m only talkin abt the former!

alpine path said...

Succinctly said! Do you have any proposals as to how this could be achieved? Or what directions the society should take in order to start this one?

R Srikkant said...

@ Alpine path:

That is a big question that u have asked. Society is us. First of all, we allow our children to follow the heart instead of pushing him/her into a BE degree just because he could pay the fees.

Govt can do a hell lot if it decides to do one thing properly and privatises the rest. If it keeps meddling with everythin, quality will only be as low.

This is a big discussion.. rest some other time, probably..