Sunday, 31 August 2014

The Woes of a Delinquent Overachiever - Our Education System

   Utopia, that is what I dream about, I'm a dreamer.and in the light of independence day and India on the verge of Modi-fixation, I figured this might be a good time to post something I wrote as a frustrated high schooler. Last year. Of course it required plenty of editing. And almost isn't what it started out as, But that's okay. 
   If there's anything this education system has taught me, it is the meaning of the refrain in Paul Lawrence Dunbar's,"sympathy"...,"I know what the caged bird feels". Of course the poem has to do with slavery and all that, and I'm not a slave and neither am I stupid, but how I understand it? it could be extrapolated by integration. its got to do with being limited, to be stopped by the ropes of institution and authority. Because in reality thats where the limits are drawn, most definitely, by a very certain someone.and whoever said the sky is 'the limit lied'. I would like to say that this person lied because the limit is beyond the sky, or rather that there's no limit at all, but if I said that I'd be lying, and I might be a lot of things, but a liar is not something that you'd find on my résumé, it's actually much shorter than that. Than the sky, that limit. There appear to be limits to what you can do, and achieve because it turns out you are not in complete control of everything in your life. and this scares me, because I'm a control freak. some of your life is actually controlled by governments and societies and systems and all that is around you  because even though you don't believe in politics or give a damn about the system, the system is affecting you. It believes in you. But it probably doesn't give a damn about you either. The truth is, I never liked that poem. Mostly because it felt way too real to me. And that was the hardest , scariest part, that I seemed to understand it and even relate to it on a certain level. I refuse rote learning. I refuse to be a nematode worm. There is nothing practical about a practical exam, and nobody cares what your project is really about. everybody is busy with bringing your confidence to sub zero levels. You are useless to the world. That's the simple truth they keep reiterating upon. and it is the truth,isn't it? fresh out of college, how many graduates really make it? How many of us even make it to college, really? Going through the education system was not pleasant. I was an enthusiastic enough three year old when I started school, but education clipped my wings and when I came out I felt like it was a miracle I had survived. 
Unfortunately, They would never let us leave.
 And I felt like the whole system was rigged against me. Rigged to blow up in my face. I began doubting myself, and a full year after finishing high school,and starting college, I still can't shake the insecurities. Am I really unworthy or is the system just seriously rigged against me?
I am sick of the corrupt politics here. And I yearn change. in the name of a "reservation system for the backward/scheduled castes and tribes", this country dismantles the entire idea of getting these people to fit back into the society, which was why this system was initially adopted. Don't believe me? thats fine. did you know that Gandhi, yes, the father of this nation, was against the reservation system? Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Ambedkar  had a massive brawl over this reservation system. Gandhi believed that this system would only serve to further isolate these so called backward communities. In his opinion, it wasn't going to help change anything for the better just cause you decide to be polite and decent and start referring to these communities as backward castes in parliamentary correct terms, instead of calling them Dalits or the untouchables. But, Dr. Ambedhkar argued Gandhi on this, he claimed that without economical and social support from the government, these classes would never be able to integrate themselves back into the rest of the society. They'd just get continually ill treated. And hence they settled it with a good old fashioned duel. Not. Just kidding. They compromised. This was called the Poona pact. Yes, I paid attention in history class y'all. And after long negotiations, I don't want to bore you with the details, it was agreed that the reservation system would indeed be adopted. But only for about 10 years. but this system is in fact still very much in order, 68 years after India's independence. Outstayed its welcome, hasn't it? 
This would come to mean that there would be a special reservation for members belonging to these so called backward castes everywhere, in the college admission process for government aided institutions , for government jobs, for seats in the parliament itself, you name it. Their community would give them a discounted ticket or even a free pass depending on how backward the community is considered to be, to an education, a job, a future. While the Rest of their forward caste peers would be robbed off the opportunities that they deserve. If you are a member of a forward caste and you'd like to become a doctor, you'd have to pay through your nose even if you scored 98%, there's even a pretty good chance you won't even get in through merit at all. But if you belong to a  backward caste or a scheduled caste or tribe, depending on how backward your community is considered to be, you might even get a full scholarship on med school, even if you only scored about 60% in your final high school exams. Your economic background is completely irrelevant to this.  Your peer who belongs to a so called backward community whose parents are also millionaires will have an edge over you. because he/she was born in a backward community or a scheduled tribe. If you still believe this reservation system is in fact necessary, why not change it and have the reservations for economically backward sectors of society instead? At least that way you would actually be helping a poor child who can't afford college education secure it. and people who don't need reservation due to their financial independence and liberty wouldn't be able to take advantages of the loophole in this system just because they were born in a particular community. we already have different ration cards that segregate citizens into those below poverty line and above poverty line, etc, so why not change the reservation system to be based on the economic status of a citizen instead. Because  isn't this community/caste based reservation system really just providing privileges by birth? how is it any better than the special privileges entitled to members of the clergy and nobility in france before the French Revolution. How is that secular? what makes it okay to call ourselves a secular state even while we still endorse this system? whatever happened to democracy and equal rights for all? 
This perfectly describes what I was feeling as I learnt all of this and asked myself all these important questions that the teacher couldn't answer.

To one up this reservation system, we have multiple boards of education here in India. We have the various state boards and we have the central board of secondary education and the ICSE board, and it is commonly agreed that all of these have varying standards, and levels of difficulty,  and yet most Indian colleges don't care what board you studied in or how much harder it was for you than the next person, they don't care about your story, your life, or your purpose, they don't care if you are a well rounded, multi faceted personality, they don't care about your co-curricular or extracurricular achievements, although most do have a small sports quota. They don't care if you come from an economically weak, forward caste household and can't afford to pay millions on an education. All they care about is your cut off marks. Marks, which a person who studied in a relatively easier to score, board of education might have got more easily. Universities here don't even offer part time work or scholarships that are not based on marks or community. everything about this system felt futile.outright stupid.

 I was going to have it blow up in my face. And it did. Blow up in my face. It actually made me cry. I don't cry very easily. You'd see me sweat and bleed before you'd see the tears. But I cried. I cried over how the system was rigged against me, Even before I faced my 12th boards. because I knew there was no getting away from this scot free. I knew I was going to get bruised and battered.  But I didn't stop. I couldn't stop. 
   In the end, I gave it my best shot. I studied in a school affiliated to the CBSE, a board considered to be relatively tougher than the state boards, I belonged to a forward community, I was a well rounded student who had absolutely nothing going for her. except for my wish to succeed. I wasn't even sure about what i wanted to do in college. I hadn't figured out things that far ahead. I was a just-a-little-above-average student who just knew that she was sick of being that person. All I'd figured out was that, I wanted to do something extraordinary, something that says I was here. Unfortunately, that wasn't exactly having much figured out. But before I gave this situation any more thought, the big exams came around, and I made an overall score of 86.4%. I am proud of that, but my cut off marks weren't even close to good enough in the system to get into any dream school. and nobody cared that I could play the keyboard or that I was on the organising committee for a lot of different events at school. I had been living a life of lies and false achievement...
 I wasn't going to get into any good schools without a little monetary aid from my parents. And that's what got me through the final push and shove. That's how I survived. And the education system does not help you in the slightest way to figure out what you'd like to with your life either. There's no career day at school, you have no first hand experience, or even information about off beat and not so regular career choices. There's no test drive. You just get on, gear up and hope to survive. And like many other Indian kids who have no idea what to do with their life, I picked engineering. Mostly because I was curious. I wanted to see what all the excitement was about. That's one of the reasons I picked engineering. The other was that I'd heard of plenty of people who'd studied it only to end up doing completely unrelated things in their life and even succeeding at it. I figured engineering would give me some time to realise what I really wanted to. And that's what I'm doing now. On surviving high school, I am surviving college, still waiting, wanting to do something extraordinary that says I was here. And the college system isn't proving to be very different in comparison to the school system. 
  Our education system is not teaching us moral values. It's not even career centered. I is syllabus oriented. It is all about learning a syllabus that we'll forget in the next few years. They say Education is what remains when you've forgotten everything you studied for the exams. because Education is about what you learn and what you discover, It is not about what you study. The previous governments have preferred to breed dull uneducated subjects that are content with election time freebies and rarely question its so called long term goals. All ideas borrowed, from the parliamentary form of  government of Britain, which has been slightly altered to ensure chaos by adding a multiparty system, it's all just been  inefficient. Inadequate. what our country requires is change, change and innovation. innovations are hardly ever welcomed and suggestion boxes, if they do still in fact exist,are never to be opened, because this is the real world. and I was tired, frustrated and angry, writing parts of this from a room 10 X 4, of a renowned coaching institute that's supposed to help you ace entrance tests to Indian colleges, a room fondly referred to by its proud students as the worlds biggest library which is in fact what the board in front of the room says. Not that its the worlds biggest, Just library. That was over a year ago. Initially, I didn't want to post this, and that is why, this has been a draft for over a year. Because I didn't want to crib and sound excessively negative. 
 But this has been bothering me for oh so long, that it had to come out. and I try my best to be an optimist about this and most other things, but unless we complain, talk, debate and discuss these things, They don't change, and here's hoping this does change, because it definitely needs to be MODIfied. Pun intended. Peace out.  And to keep things on a positive note, I am going to leave you with these two songs. Because music is positive.
How am I gonna be an optimist about this? I keep asking myself this everyday. And I keep struggling. and fighting because even though the system isn't making my life any easier, Its not completely to blame. I choose where my sweat and my blood will go, my hands, I'm accounted for. And some things are worth fighting for. 
P.s: I'm sorry that this wasn't exactly very funny. But I had to get my woes about the system out of my system.  get it? Never mind. That wasn't really funny either.

What do you think about our education system? What do you tell yourself everyday to stay positive? What do you think needs to change about the world? Did you like the music? what music inspires you? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.Also, If you were able to relate to  his post, Please do share it.

Like this post? Share it!