My second daughter is doing her Ph.D. in UCLA and is happy with her set up. She would like to do a post-doctoral work after she finishes. No saturation or satiation seems to have set in. She had a friend over for dinner one day. A young boy of 27, waiting to finish his Ph.D and get back to India. He spoke of a dream that he had for his motherland.
“ I want to do something for the youngsters in India. As a kid I was scared of my Chemistry lessons. We should have interactive sessions that make the subject interesting. I want to join an organization or body that could make this possible.”
I had no heart to discourage him and I kept mum. It is easier said than done. I was reminded of a professor in our own university. He had done his research in Japan and was the HOD of the Botany Department of a college in Jamshedpur. The college had been recently granted permission to start PG courses in a number of subjects including Botany. The professor in question wanted to revise the syllabus for ecology and environmental studies. He wanted to include applied aspects keeping in mind the industrial nature of the township we live in. He had several meetings with the powers that be. They would not budge an inch and the reasons they gave were as outmoded as the syllabus that was being followed. Finally the professor had to withdraw his syllabus to pamper a few inflated egos. He did whatever was in his power. He refused to allow his students to offer Ecology as special paper. What a paradox! It was the students who suffered in the end. If a HOD, a person with a standing of his own in society, is treated in this manner, can we blame students for not wanting to do PG courses and take up research projects? The curriculum should appeal to students whether they are in grade I or X. The syllabus was revised five years down the line but care was taken to keep our professor out of the whole thing. The attitude was –‘ So what if you did your research in Japan, I did mine in Germany.’ When do we grow up as a society? How do we learn that knowledge is meant to be shared and sustained?
Then comes the question of getting good teachers for our children. Teachers in government schools and colleges get a decent pay but there is no accountability. Those in private schools and colleges are badly exploited and are a frustrated lot. Either way students are losers. Parents dare not question the teacher - they prefer to send their wards to private tuitions paying a hefty amount as tuition fee. Gone are the days when only the weak students took tuitions. Parents are no longer as confident as before. As I said before the blame game continues, with one group blaming the other.
Let us not, however, lose hope. These questions are at least being raised now. We have a small but significant group of youngsters wanting to do their bit for society. And they are the ones who will make a positive impact. We cannot influence policy makers. We cannot stop the trend of the majority in society. But here are things we can do.
Let us appreciate one who out of choice or otherwise returns to his motherland instead of saying ‘he must have been thrown out.’
Let us not laugh at the research scholar saying ‘may be he didn’t get an IT job or for that matter any job’. I have a nephew who did his doctorate out of choice. He got a good rank in the common entrance test and could have become an engineer or doctor. He took up microbiology, qualified for the prestigious UGC-JRF and has several papers to his credit. His mother wanted to get him married. She couldn’t find him a girl! He finally married another research scholar because she was the only one who could understand his passion for research work. The couple is managing well with their scholarship money but in the eyes of the world they come across as fools. His younger brother has followed his footsteps and parents are okay with it. It is the so-called ‘others’ who make life miserable for them.
Let us teach our children to love and respect their teachers. Society will automatically respect them.
Teaching and learning go hand in hand. One cannot teach if he is not willing to learn. Let's not look down upon the kid who didn't make it to the IITs or other engineering colleges. Even if by default he may become an excellent teacher and may end up teaching our own grandkids.
I am done with my bit and I welcome inputs from all of you.