Tell Me About It is a podcast series initiative by Debjeet Majumdar where a group of friends discusses important issues and what can be done to improve over them. The nine people participating are Aayush Gupta, Anamika Dhar, Ananya Raheja, Anukriti Gupta, Arihant Jain, Debjeet Majumdar, Gunkaar Singh (me), Khushi Jain and Sameer Kumar.
The format: Host Debjeet asks questions for discussion and each person shares their views on the same. The host elaborates their queries further to bring out the best answers from each person.
Each horizontal line represents the fact that the answers and the discussions are being done for a different person’s answer.
Question 1: What is the thing in the education system which you found to be messed up for you personally? Anything which made you think that “If I had been outside this country, I would have never faced this problem.”
Arihant Jain: The grading system. When I saw my FAs(Formulative Assessment) and SAs(Summative Assessment) results, I realized that it was holding me back. I felt like I knew the answers but grades were less than my expectations. Due to the same, I was unable to participate and explore more extra-curriculum activities.
If there was something that could implement this system better, I wouldn’t have faced these challenges.
Debjeet Majumdar: Yeah, the grading system is made to pressurize. Since childhood we have been taught alphabets A,B,C,D etc. and we are graded accordingly like A is good and the rest is bad. But what people don’t understand that if I am scoring a C on a subject I am not interested in and not bad for my career, that’s completely okay because I am not going to pursue the same ahead in my lifetime. But we have been taught since childhood about what’s bad and what’s good, which leads to further complications.
Aayush Gupta: It’s like the system should be made competitive, but at the moment our system is a complete rat race, not a competitive system. We have been taught since childhood that you have to stand 1st in class no matter what.
Arihant Jain: Yeah totally. For example, my Maths and Science in 9th class were really good but my Hindi and History were equally bad, so instead of polishing my strong subjects, I ended up improving my weak subjects forcefully. I feel if I had focused on Maths and Science back then, I would have been a more knowledgeable person.
Debjeet Majumdar: Majority of people before doing any tasks or job count out their strengths and weaknesses to work on them accordingly. But our education system does not support that. It is like you are weak in one subject, and if you don’t work on it, you might end fucking your strength subject as well.
Anukriti Gupta: Talking about the grading system, there was this intelligent, studious guy in my class. I was always weak in Maths. One day, we had a maths test. My test went okayish but I believe since I had a positive impression on the teacher she gave me a few extra marks just to increase my grade, so I and the class topper ended up getting the same grade which is so unfair. The topper called his parents and they complained to the teacher how this system is unfair and doesn’t do justice to students.
Debjeet Majumdar: Now that think about this in retrospect, let me tell you. When we are in class 5th, no one knows what their life goal is. Our parents are preparing us for a competition which will happen 7 years later, but no one knows what competition would it be. Your only reward for 12 years of schooling is your 98%, which gives you validation. Who doesn’t love validation? Everyone loves it. We wanna score because we want validation. Our parents scold us and want us to score good marks because they seek validation from friends and relatives.
Sameer Kumar: I believe parents are also to be blamed here. See, we Indians have a lot of time. So, parents end up over-focusing on their kid by telling him how to do each and every tiny thing in their lives. This is because they see other parents doing the same. This whole thing multiplies and multiplies and now has become a huge problem with our education system.
Debjeet Majumdar: If we look into it, most of our generation has the best educational background as compared to our parents. There was this quote that if we educate ourselves, we educate our upcoming 7 generations.
For example, our parents won’t understand what depression is but we do. This is because we have been educated and have the resources while they didn’t. Parents act insecure because they want us to have things that they didn’t have at their time. Like have you seen those kids and parents participating at Dance India Dance where parents tell that their daughter is participating to fulfill their own dream of becoming a dancer? So dancing could be fun, but studying 5 subjects isn’t.
Parents also get to deal with a lot of pressure. For example, if my parents gave me a chance to do whatever I want for a year and then I failed, my parents still might not have any problem but the society will pressurize them into thinking how they are bad parents for not saying anything to their failure kid.
Khushi Jain: Also, our parents value the things we have more than we do. Because they did not have access to the resources we have today. For example, better books and internet.
Debjeet Majumdar: I would say our generation also has a problem of efficiency and optimization while our parents’ generation cited lack of resources.
Gunkaar Singh: I think my school did try to sort the problem of interests in students but it backfired. They announced a new stream called Mass Media, which consisted subjects of journalism which seemed like a really cool thing to me. It had subjects like creative writing and journalism. The problem started when the school graduates couldn’t get admissions in Delhi University because the subjects did not match the admission requirements.
Also, my maths has always been weak. But I have had a passion for computers since forever. So when it was time for admission in class 11th, I had to choose Science Non-medical because it was the only subject which had Computer Science. So because of Computer Science, I had to carry 3 additional subjects i.e Physics, Chemistry and Maths. I also realized that Chemistry is even tougher than Maths.
Question 2: What are the two main problems of the Indian Education System currently and how can we improve it?
1. Lack of subjects
“Like I talk to my friends living in Canada/America at the moment, and they tell me how they are studying Business Management and Humanities together. I wish I could have studied completely unrelated subjects together, but I was bounded with a set of subjects just because I liked one of them.”
2. No retry chances/Societal pressure
“If I am unable to deal with one subject, there’s literally no solution to it. I cannot drop it, neither can I get much help since I am just not able to understand the subject. You get less chances for retrying. I was lucky I got chances but most students don’t. Also, failure means you’ll be rejected and treated as a failure by the society. More than you, your parents would be blamed. I don’t like the way this works, it could be much better. Failing in one subject doesn’t mean I am supposed to repeat a full one year to cover up for the same.”
1. Lack of psychological subjects/More discussions
“There should be a mandatory subject where you teach students about mental health. For example: How to deal with mental problems, how to share your problems with your friends etc. I think the subject should start from 7th-8th when the kid is growing up and discovering so many emotions everyday. Maybe they should talk about religion as well. First students are taught in their childhood that “Hindu-Muslim Bhai Bhai” and then they grow up to see the two communities having such heat between them shown by the media. So they should be taught how to remain open-minded. There should be more discussions like this in classrooms, especially psychology related.”
2. Teachers trying to shame students
“My parents were supportive and did not bother if I scored bad marks in my weak subjects such as Maths. So there are some strict teachers, who try to embarrass in front of the whole class. Once the Unit Test notebooks were getting distributed in my class, she told no one’s marks while distributing except when it was my turn, she announced to the whole class I had scored 2/20. For no reason, she planted the thought in everyone’s brain that I am dumb just because I am weak in her subject. I feel that’s extremely wrong. I was in 8th standard and it affected me a lot.
1. Parents not letting students fail and learn
“I have a problem with parents always being overprotective of their children. I felt this because whenever I used to fail any subject, the solution of my parents to this problem was to just enroll me in a tuition for the subject. They always had these “quick fixes” such as tuitions for a failed subject, bringing me a new pencil box if I broke mine etc. (Bad example sorry!). I think they did not let me to fail and learn how I should have. The fail and learn thing happened for me between 12th and college.”
2. No practical learning, Just theoretical knowledge. Teachers not updated with their knowledge.
“There’s this thing I read about Elon Musk where he describes First Principle’s Thinking. This is something we lack a lot. When we enter college, we see everyone is coding so we try our hands at coding too. If the other students are creating something, maybe I should do the same. We don’t think where is it all coming from. For example, you are eating a sandwich or a pizza. You don’t think about the bread, the vegetables or the cheese. Everything is just imposed on us like here is the material, now you just learn this.”
“This is an example which took me four years to grasp. I was building this website called “IPU Search Result Engine” which would display the results of students. I found a problem that all the examination results were released in a pdf format. I always used to think that learning to code is the only solution. So I learned everything, the frameworks & all and I found the solution to get the search results via a web interface. No one told me that without code, this could also be done. I understood all this 4-5 years after graduating.”
“I also believe the teachers were not the best in their respective subjects in our college. Most of them were from B.Tech/BCA+MCA backgrounds, meaning they probably applied for teaching because some other career didn’t work or family problems. Many teachers aren’t updated with their knowledge then how are they supposed to help me?”
1. Lack of skill development
“Indian Education System does not have any resources for skill development, even if you consider IITs. They just teach you whatever is in the curriculum. They don’t teach us what am I supposed to do at a job. For example: In BCA, they taught us 3 programming languages, but we have no clue what to do if we ever get placed in some company. In a way, everything taught to us was a waste.”
2. Lack of subject options
“There are streams already decided for us by someone who doesn’t even know us which I find quite absurd. I would have loved to study history along with computer science, why am I not allowed to do so? Why do I have to study chemistry instead? And also, the chemistry school teacher is the guy who wouldn’t give me any marks because I don’t take tuition classes from him after school.”
1. Not respecting all jobs
“The Indian society revolves around this stigma that if you are a doctor or an engineer then you’ll get showered with lots of respect, but if a girl decides to open a parlour, she will be looked down upon. Due to this, there is too much crowd – excessive competition for no reason. I remember when I took science in 11th, most of my friends who took science alongside me aren’t even continuing in the same field, but they were pressurized by their parents to opt for science. For example, if someone wants to become a gardener or a carpenter, the system does not teach us these things and there’s huge focus and attention given to these so-called “high-profile” jobs.
2. Lack of good courses and teachers for the same
“Government tries to introduce new courses. Like they recently launched a course in government schools named “Entrepreneurship mindset skills”. But then there’s a huge gap between what’s written on the paper and what’s done. They introduce courses but they don’t have skilled teachers who can teach these courses in a way that students actually learn and gain skills from the same.”
1. Teaching environment is not competitive
“Increase the salary of teachers with an annual increment program. If you think about this deeply, this will actually solve 70-80% of our problem. An increase in salary will get them a great motivation boost. Teachers will actually put in efforts instead of just completing the syllabus.”
2. Interest clubs should be given higher priority
“My school once started clubs in zero period such as space club and GK club, but they didn’t really get successful. It was because they weren’t implemented properly. I think there’s potential over there. I believe schools should make this as a secondary subject and incentivize this program. If you are not performing well in some subject, the subject will be replaced with your secondary subject.”
1. Curriculum not updated
“I believe the root of majority of our problems is the lack of updated curriculum. They used to teach us HTML4 in college, no one uses HTML4. It is deprecated. They are teaching us such old curriculum that if we don’t know what will happen if we enter the industry.”
2. Lack of choices
“Not only they are teaching us the old curriculum, but they also expect to know everything when we apply for a job. Those who self-study will move forward but the once who stick to the college curriculum won’t amount to anything. We don’t have any choice.”
Sameer’s Reply: They are working on it. So there’s this thing called the Lambda School. I think this is restricted to US only but there are many clones bootcamps with the similar concept in India like AppraisePestoTech, Yuvafund AltCampus etc. They have programs ranging from 2-months to 1 year. You deposit a security amount and they guarantee you a job of atleast 5 lakh rupees per annum after you finish your course. You’ll be paying them 15% back every year instead of you paying upfront like in college without any job guarantee. Also, the people who teach you are much better teachers and also don’t show the lack of interest very reputed teachersas in the current scenario. This type of concept is getting quite famous these days.”
1. Add necessary subjects of Sex Ed and humanities (such as psychology and philosophy)
“There’s no Sex Ed in Indian Education System. It baffles me that no one is questioning the authority for implementation and neither the people are speaking up for the same. It’s crazy that no necessary actions are being taken after high number of rape cases and incidents like “Boys Locker Room”. If you get quality sexual education, probably the problem of poor people having 5-6 children instead of following government’s “Hum do, humaare do” would be solved. For this, the full curriculum of teachers might require a change sucha s implementing it as a subject in B. Ed. India is apparantly ranked 130th something in terms of depressive people. If people are made aware about the same, people will be less depressive and say out more about how they are feeling.”
2. More choices and make every subject like sports,music and dance of equal priority
“Clubbing Computer Science alongside History doesn’t get much attention because the school curriculum is designed according to the requirements of colleges. In my school, if someone used to play sports for 2 periods extra, they would be labelled a bad student by everyone else, even though they might become a good sportsman later. I think subjects like sports, music etc. should be given priority with no pressure of failure and a focus on enjoying and discovering a potenital hobby/career. These subjects should not be extra-curricular but rather be co-curricular subjects.”
1. More R&D budget for research
“The focus for R&D on university level is quite low. We see in universities like Harvard, Cambridge etc. Research a lot and discover a lot. In India, this happens less. Recently IITs have started, but still this isn’t implemented on a large scale. Most universities don’t even fund the researches. So, I believe this should be started.”
2. Subject freedom and focus on moral education
“I was forced to focus on maths. I was weak in that subject. Why are we forced to focus on a subject which not all students are able to cope up with? Emphasis on marks, emphasis on subjects which I don’t like. Students should be given the choice to study whatever they want and not just bound them to a set of subjects. Perfoming Arts and Visual Arts should be there as subjects starting class 11th.”
Some more interesting notes:
Anamika and her teacher’s experience:
“So, I was a very insolent student during my school days. So, there was this one teacher who was very annoyed by me, and she told me, “When you become a teacher, you’ll know what I am going through.” To which I said, “But I don’t wanna become a teacher.” The teacher replied, “No one becomes a teacher because they want to.”
Class embarrassment experiences:
Arihant recalls how his school medical staff used to call out girls from their classes because of pending dues and it was really embarrassing for the students.
Anukriti recalls how her maths teacher used to call her out in front of the whole class just because of her low marks in maths.
Gunkaar recalls how his chemistry teacher didn’t leave a chance to embarrass him when he failed his exams and used to only scold him rather than help him in how to actually improve in her subject.
Bottomline: There’s always a better way to deal with this known as kindness. An easy concept which just requires the teacher to politely ask the student what went wrong and at what point they couldn’t cope up with the subject. Shaming won’t help, kindness will.
Aayush shares his learnings about the Japanese Education System:
- There are no janitors, students are responsible for cleaning the school.
- Festivals organised by students, that too at a very young age.
- Cultural education is emphasised.
- Moral ethics is a compulsory subject.
Why do schools try to suppress love?
It is so funny that how schools have declared love as illegal at their territory. I am not saying to encourage relationships but telling them that love is wrong and forbidden in your age is wrong in my opinion. Love is a natural feeling that can happen to anyone so why don’t the teachers try to guide us better in this feeling rather than thrashing us for exploring it. I remember when a girl and boy were caught holding hands, parents of both parties were called and both people got thrashed by their parents as well for “loving” each other. I hope someday our system will get better.
What could be done?
Raising awareness about the mess this system has become. Explore more practical things. Code. Break applications. Live life. Play sports. Don’t listen to your parents for career advice, if you feel this is your thing, just go for it.
What were the problems you faced in school and how did you work on them? Please share in comments!