NEW DELHI: ‘Education is not the learning of facts, but the training of minds to think.’ -Albert Einstein

A girl of six years was in a drawing class. She was listening to her teacher very carefully. Then she started drawing. After some time, the teacher asked, what are you drawing? She replied I am drawing a picture of God. Teacher said, but nobody knows how God looks. The girl said no problem, in sometime you will know how God looks.

Every child has her/his own creativity level. They have their own powers of invention and innovation. But they refrain from using their potential due to the fear that they might fail. The ability of a child to innovate and learn is at its peak from the age of 13 to 19 but by that time they are completely subsumed by the load of school work, and this prevents their minds from functioning independently. Or at least the extent they should.

A teacher for forty years and former President of India, the late Dr. Radhakrishnan said, “what I am today is due to my teachers”.

India has the highest young population in the world, we have a plethora of great scholars ranging from the great mathematician Aryabhatta to Missile Man Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, and from math wizard Ramanujan to Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore, but the education system that has produced such scholars is right now facing a crisis.

India has one of the highest suicide rates in the world where every hour a student dies. In 2013 alone statistics show that 2471 student suicides were due to failure in examinations. But there seems to be no concern, and little effort to revamp the system keeping this in mind.

The Constitution of India provides Right to Education Under Article 21(A) which says ‘the state shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of 6 to 14 years in such manner as the state may, by law, determine.’ In addition to this governments, have over the years, announced any number of schemes supposed to aid education. But despite the jargon, in reality we are just spending around 3% of the GDP on education which is laughable when compared to the countries like Cuba and Denmark that have been spending around 12% and 9% of their GDP’s respectively.

The condition in India is getting worse day by day, where we even don’t have a good infrastructure. The conditions in our public schools are so bad that sometimes they don’t even have urinals and toilets. When it comes to higher education there are only 760 universities and less than 13,000 colleges. School dropout rate is around 17.6% in secondary classes and increases at every next step.

In addition to this there is another huge problem of good teachers. Teaching in India is a lowly paid job and does not attract talent. It is at best a cursory exercise with the one time when a teacher told a class, if you don’t want to study, don’t, I will get paid anyway.

Countries like Denmark, Finland which have free education till the university level are happier and more developed than India. The fees in erudite Indian institutions like IIT’s, IIM’s and many more institutions have increased heavily in past few years. There is vast dearth of teachers as well with any number of faculty positions in government schools not filled.

Introducing the Indian education system Lord Macaulay in the British Parliament said, “We must at present do our best to form a class who may be interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern; a class of persons, Indian in blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinions, in morals, and in intellect. To that class we may leave it to refine the vernacular dialects of the country, to enrich those dialects with terms of science borrowed from the Western nomenclature, and to render them by degrees fit vehicles for conveying knowledge to the great mass of the population.”

Our education system should create critical thinkers who can understand the problems and help in discovering solutions with the diversity and pluralism of India in mind. We should initiate reforms, increase spending, and take education to new innovative levels.

The government should establish high level institutions for training teachers, with the efficiency of the IITs, so that the studies are specialised and only those who want to be teachers go to such institutes and become the finest teachers. Even after the government of India introduced Right to Education school dropout rate has not diminished. There should be Recruitment board similar to UPSC so that crème de la crème should be selected to teach the future of this country. The board should ensure that the teachers are selected and tested on the highest levels. Also government, NGO’s and media there should come together on this noble cause and help in the strengthening Indian education system on the grass root level. NGO’s should work in the field so as to make sure that the girl child should be encouraged to go to school and further encouraged to attain higher education.

India should bring such changes in the education system so that children shall be able to think critically and bring new ideas to the world. There should be such methodology of teaching so that children can go towards inventions and innovations instead of only trying to earn a livelihood. The role of teachers has to be redefined as the creators of our future generations.