Monday, March 22, 2010

Wasted Education?

Only at IIT Madras could you have a crowd made up of venerable professors, a PhD student in Nanotechnology, a CAT 100 percentiler and other brilliant people discussing a topic such as ‘Wasted Education’.

This was the topic for a panel discussion held on 20th March 2010, Saturday at IC&SR Auditorium IIT Madras.

The moderated panel discussion tried to throw more light on issues like societal pressure on students, student burnout, balance between academics and extracurricular activities and more flexibility in choice of courses.
Opening comments by the panellists were ample evidence of the incisive thinking on display and also brought out the different hues of thought due to the fact that the panel was fully representative. It had males and females, old and young, arts and engineering, traditionalists and modernists – it was a treat for the audience. Prof. L S Ganesh defined the terms wastage and education, and the talk progressed based on this foundation of a shared understanding and agreement on the clarity of these terms.

The students presented their take on things which included a review of the credit system in place, the counselling process during JEE, the pressures which force them to compromise on what they really want to be doing with their life and making learning enjoyable.

The professors were compassionate in their views. Prof. Hema talked about how the grind children are put through in terms of engineering coaching was just another form of child labour. Prof. Suresh recounted his days as a student and how admin decisions, review committees have over the years shaped the current system. There were insights provided as to how the BTech as a course has transformed itself over the years. The audience reserved its heartiest applause for the soft spoken but razor sharp Prof. G. Srinivasan who commented on the issue, not as a panelist but as a member of the audience. It really put the much badgered ‘Instititution’ – a euphemism for the system and bureaucracy – in a very different light, where it was possible for everyone to understand how enormous and challenging their task is.

There were fervent responses from the audience when they were asked to participate by commenting on various aspects. There was a general feeling that students cannot know what they want at the age of seventeen when they are asked to make a decision impacting the coming four to five years of their lives. There were questions raised regarding how free students are – from parental pressure, from societal pressure and from peer pressure.

What was evident from the discussion was that the love for learning is sacred and it should be protected from the debilitating effects of intense competition. It was also evident that the existing system was not flawless and needed improvement, so that we can ensure that the young bright minds which are the future of our country are treated not like battery cells, but like flowers that need to be given space and care to flourish and bloom. To sum up, in Prof. L S Ganesh’s words, “you can waste time, but you cannot waste education”. And this is the combined responsibility of students, parents and educational institutions.

Contributed by
Edwin Antony, MBA 1st Year

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