OPINION

Education: Arindam Chowdhury's Paradigm

July 07, 2007
Shantanu Dutta

I recently came across an article by Arindam Chowdhury that talked about the pressure that parents put on their children to get high marks when that is not absolutely necessary. He talks about many students ho performed hopelessly in school and yet went on to do well in their lives. True such examples exist and they are by no means rare. Besides as one moves on in life, your high school or college grades become more and more irrelevant. People begin to look more at what one has done in one’s career, what have been the accomplishments and contributions to one’s employer, to society and to the nation; these become more and more important.

A gold medal earned decades ago in some college sports meet or university examination may provide one with a slight edge and a few brownie points and that is about it. All these aspects are true and are worth their consideration. However it is not that most parents are not aware of these things or are indifferent to their children’s woes. Arindam Chowdhury says that Indian parents are obsessed with getting high marks and percentages for their children. I don’t quite agree. Yes parents are concerned and worried about the marks that their children get and this is not unreasonable because most doors in higher education seem to open only when either has loads of cash to buy seats in private institutions or ring in high percentages.

 

Certainly a great many parents want their kids to get into IITs or the IIMs or these elite institutions because that is the only way they know to ensure that their kids will have some prospect of a bright future. If being a barber or a butcher or a bus driver or the other vocational options available in India were able to generate enough of an income to live comfortably if not luxuriously, most parents would spare themselves and their children too of the torture and the agony of being a part of a rat race that one would so desperately love to avoid. Where such income options exist like in the BPO industry or the Call Centres, people are chucking up conventional careers and picking up alternate vocations.

 

 Middle class parents (and those are the ones who are the most fearful and obsessed) don’t often have the luxury of offering their children second chances. And so they are forced to put all their eggs in one heavily over loaded but time tested basket in spite of the fears and the insecurities that the basket will spill over. I remember my own childhood. I so badly wanted to be a journalist or a broadcaster. But in those days of socialist India with only the dour All India Radio and Doordarshan ruling the air waves and careers in the media notoriously unstable, my father deterred and guided me along the safe middle class pasture of medicine. I resented it then, I did not understand but I do understand today the compulsions of a middle class parent and their fears. 

 

Arindam Chaudhary has got many things right. Yes, education is not about getting 90%. It’s about being a great son, daughter, wife, husband, mother or father. It’s about reading books and becoming more cultured. It’s about being a positive influence in the society. It’s about being constructively employed and creatively spending your energies. It’s about the will to achieve and succeed. Chaudhary rounds off his piece by saying that he gave all this nice advice when he went to see the Principal of the Sri Ram School about his son’s admission. And he is happy that the school has apparently taken his advice and that it is giving his son freedom to nurture his creative and human instincts. One thing Arindam has neglected to say however. It is that those parents who send their sons and daughters to Sri Ram School and its like often have trapeze nets in place to break the fall if the nicely composed fairy tale goes awry. But most of India doesn’t send their children to Sri Ram School. And they don’t have trapeze nets in case some thing goes wrong. Hence the worry, the obsession, the rat race and the fatigue that goes with it. Unfortunately Arindam Chaudhary never got that bit right.

 

 

Shantanu Dutta is a medical doctor by training and a development professional by vocation. His writings mostly deal with change, complexity and conversion and tries to look at a changing world through heaven's eyes.
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