August 25, 2013

Education, Life & Change.

When a student from Chandigarh won Singapore Airlines Youth scholarship, few years back, it made a news.Many other bright Punjabis head abroad in search of good higher education as well as to escape the cut throat competition in India. You would agree that many Punjabis go to study abroad with an aim of completing education in the place they wish to work & live. Many bright Indians who enroll in IITs also head for foreign shores for further studies or employment. It would not be out of place to mention that none of Indian higher education universities figure of world's top 200 anymore. Perhaps the decay in India is not limited to quality of education only.

Education has long been considered as the most potent elixir for social mobility in a hierarchical society of India. Therefore middle class Indians, spend huge sums on higher education with hope to improve their employment prospects and consequent standing in the society. Almost 15 percent Indians go for higher education, part of that, a small section, head abroad to all sorts of countries & universities. The reasons could be rational, emotional or social for deciding upon the country or university one may chose to attend abroad.

As a child i recall visiting uncles & aunties to our home as an annual feature. It would be joyous occasion for all children as every visitors would bring some gifts that were not available in India. Although visiting relatives from Europe would bring more gifts than those from Africa. Punjab may geographically lie in India & Pakistan but Punjabis are found in almost every nook & corner of the world, including fastest growing country on Earth, Mongolia. You would be amused to know people from a couple of villages near Phagwara Punjab go to Philippines in large numbers to work as Money lenders. Many of them have been killed due to the nature of business and other social factors.

Most Punjabi boys want to go abroad for studies & work and the girls prefer to marry such men over the ones left behind to sit idle in Punjab. Actually most Punjabi boys who head abroad for studies join nondescript courses in unknown colleges. People don't go abroad for education, neither the join colleges here for sake of studies. Most would prefer to avoid the 'burden' of studies if they could. Visits any college in Punjab and you would know the sorry state of education here. Private colleges & universities particularly prefer to entertain the students than give them an opportunity to master a field of study.

So most Punjabi youth end up wasting their education years in useless colleges within India and abroad. This has led to creation of huge unskilled work force in India with fancy diplomas & degrees in their name. Those who head abroad, struggle there, for long years before finding their feet and majority of those who remain here end up on menial call center or front end sales jobs. Govt of India has launched an ambitious Skill Development scheme to arm the youth with necessary skills need for work but such initiatives would also fall flat like the Industrial Training Institutes set up earlier.

Education has the power to open the human mind and make a person lead a purposeful life so that s/he could change the world in which we live.  But absence of good education leads to perpetuation of status quo and decay of a nation. Can the call for changes in education system become top priority for India? Can political parties make it an issue of national survival? Well my guess is as good as yours. India faces more challenges from within that externally and good solid education can save it.

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