Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A letter to an Editor

The following is a letter(email) which I wrote to an editor of CNN-IBN, in reference to an article written by her.

Respected Madam,

This is in reference to your article dated 17th January, 2010 which appeared in the ‘Hindustan Times’ newspaper.

For once, I was glad to see someone cover the ‘other’ aspect when it comes to the success of ‘3 Idiots’. You have given quite a different view, regarding the film and its impact on the modern day youth. But I would like to put my own counter-arguments for the same.

You have gone a tad too extreme when you proclaim that the film tells us that India’s system of education is idiotic, teachers are brutes, rote learning is always bad, etc. I don’t think that the film takes up such an extreme viewpoint. If you do look at it, our education system has quite a few major flaws. Personally, as an engineering student myself, I have come across very few talented or resplendent teachers who are ready to teach for a cause besides their own material gain. And most of them get into the teaching line because they don’t get a job elsewhere (a few were audacious enough to admit this fact explicitly). According to a recent newspaper report, 1 out of every 3 IIT faculty seats lies vacant. Not to speak of the other institutes.

The eminent IIT alumni you speak of, such as Nandan Nilekani, Narayan Murthy, etc have become famous not because they were IITians but because they dared to do something different from the rest, and their ideas were mostly original. You can also take the case of Chetan Bhagat or Harsha Bhogle, both IIM-A pass-outs. We know them not because they were in IIM, but because they followed their passion and came out as successful human beings(and not brainless machines) rather than following the traditional path. This is what the film is all about- Following one’s passion rather than giving in to someone else’s(parents, peers, etc) desires. This does not mean that Wildlife Photography requires no effort, or that you are better off singing songs than reading books.

In our country, every good student is encouraged to become an engineer and join IIT, even if the poor child has absolutely no interest in engineering with minimum inclination towards Science. As a result, he dislikes what he studies, and loses his faith in the education system. Over 90% of my school-mates are currently doing engineering, though I can say with perspicacity that less than 10% take any interest in their engineering subjects, simply because they were never meant to be engineers in the first place. If someone wants to do Arts or Commerce, he is looked down upon as a poor student. The main reason for this(which I feel) is that we do not have any Arts/Commerce college at par with the IITs. Why cant we have IIAs(Indian Institutes of Arts), IILs(Indian Institutes of Law), IICs(Indian Insitutes of Commerce), etc?

Moreover, I am sure you must be familiar with the contemporary trend of an average Indian male(youth). Most of the engineers(around 65%) end up taking IT jobs, irrespective of their disciplines. Thus we have a serious shortage of skilled engineers, as far as Core Engineering jobs are concerned. Moreover, the best students opt for Management and rarely do anything which is related to their engineering course. Isn’t that simply a wastage of a degree? This proves that for an average Indian student, all that matters is the degree- along with Fame of course. Nobody is bothered with obtaining knowledge. Otherwise, how can one account for the fact, that a Chemical engineer, doing an IT job, shifts into Management and finally join a Bank(for the sole reason of earning more money). If he wanted to work in a bank, why did he do engineering in the first place? (As clearly mentioned by Aamir Khan in the film).

You have pointed out quite unequivocally, that majority of the educational institutes have too few seats. Should ‘High Quality’ education be reserved for only the ‘Best of the best’ students- a miniscule minority?

I do not think that the film states, implicitly or subtly, that students should abuse their teachers, hate their books, etc. Your last sentence is somewhat fallacious as well - ‘…We are in no mood to study and delighted that idiocy is at last legitimate.’ Even the worst of the students in our college studies before the exams. I do not think that anyone wants to ‘screw’ or execrate the education system as such. The atrabiliousness in our youth is caused mainly by the fact that they do not like what they study, and as a result fail to get a job, due to inadequate skills. There is a huge gap in what we are taught (plain bookish/theoretical knowledge) in college, and what is actually required in the industry. However, very little has been done about this so far. One such initiative has been taken by Infosys to provide a Campus Training Programme for college students to bridge this gap.

What India really needs is young, dynamic entrepreneurs who are ready to follow their passion and work for a greater cause- which will act as succour for India’s economy. Whether they are from IITs or IIMs is inconsequential. Many such initiatives have been successful. To give a few examples: Mr. Car Wash(a car washing scheme), Calorie Care(for the calorie conscious), Adwallz(which advertises via Wall Coloring), Sacred Moments(distributes Puja Kits) to name a few. We need to promote innovation and creativity, something which is inconspicuous by its absence in the education system(of course there are exceptions, I know a few people who are making brilliant innovations, like cheap techniques of purifying water, saving the environment, micro-satellites, communication, etc). People who do ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking are looking down upon with disdain, rather than being encouraged. The ever increasing avarice in a rapacious lot of people, is simply promoting the rat race. Can one answer a simple question- Why do we have such a competitive MBA entrance examination(CAT), but we do not even have a national level examination for BBA? The answer is simple enough; we do not have any renowned institution for BBA. People will gladly sacrifice their interests to be a part of the rat race. No wonder we have so few Nobel Prize winners- a fact contributed to the lack of willingness of Indian Students to pursue research. After all, that is a tedious job which will not giving you instant riches, and requires loads of patience. But for an average Indian youth, all that matters is making fast bucks. The film highlights all these aspects.

Anyways, on the whole, your article made for a nice read. I am looking forward to reading more such articles in the future.

Thanking You,
Yours faithfully,
Satwinder Singh,
(3rd year Engineering student)
West Bengal.


Prerna Munshi said...

I agree with what you have said..... The points are quite valid..... Once, I was going through Mr.Arindam Chowdhhry's article where he had mentioned that the Government undertakes a big expense for educating a single graduate from an IIT, with a hope that the student shall serve the country in the future but how many of such investments turn fruitful for the nation? Most of the IIT graduates are either prone towards management or they just want to stuff their pockets with money & fly abroad. But at the same time, I would also say that researches are not encouraged in India.Money is also a big factor (if not the biggest) ,how many students pursuing a PhD are paid well? Why isn't their work recognized on a larger scale?
A country can only progress if it has a well built brigade of intelligent & innovative researchers & the fate of research scholars in our nation is quite well known! :-|

I wonder why this article of yours went uncommented.... why don't people take interest in these serious areas? Had this been some kind of a love story, they would have been all-praises for you!
I really liked this article! Keep it up Satwinder! :):)

Raghu V N said...

Great!!! Very impressive!!

"And most of them get into the teaching line because they don’t get a job elsewhere" they disgrace the most responsible job in this world, teaching!!!

@ Prerna

I got a reason for this post being uncommented!! People always want to get entertained, they are busy with their entertainments!!

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