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All fortunate kids have heard this melodramatic statement through their childhood ‘Padhai nahi karoge to naukri nahi milegi’ (If you don’t study, you wont have a career). And this came from both my parents, who otherwise had very divergent views on everything else. So I assumed it must be true, though I don’t remember studying as much as feeling guilty about not studying. But I managed to get good percentages, especially in Math and Accounting. I want to very proudly say 90% or so, but I realize these days there is no pride in getting 90% as Pammiji’s son would have also got that.

However after 18 years of working, I realize that I am doing better in my career than some of my class toppers and some of those who were behind me are making a fortune I can only be jealous of. Yet I see students, parents and teachers focusing only on exams and adding degrees to names and completely missing the big picture.

Education Institutes have an identity crisis

They seem to have lost the plot. They don’t encourage understanding of the subject. They want students to get good grades and get placed. And good grades = mug up. During my 3 year Part Time MBA, the subject I liked the most was Organisation Behaviour. It had case studies and I found it very interesting and applicable. However the OB exam paper literally took my breath away. In order to check if you had studied, the institute didn’t give details of the case; they referred to it as Harvard Case Study No 23. So if you had not studied and mugged up the case numbers, you would have no clue about what to respond. In the full young angry woman style, I gave a blank answer sheet and quit my MBA.

Institutes need to constantly upgrade their content. They need to encourage learning through discussions, debates and projects that require research and talking to industry experts. Some institutes do a good job of this and some need an overhaul.

Teachers or Antiquity

Recently, I decided to do Masters in a subject that has always interested me. My first day at college, the teacher opens the class by saying “I don’t know Statistics much, but I know enough for you to pass your exams”

Oh no. I wanted to learn. Can I get a refund?

Teacher’s pet

However I very quickly empathized with the teacher when I realized that all 100 students wanted just one thing.. To pass the exam. The most hilarious part was when someone asked Mam “Can you explain Standard Deviation” and to that she said “Don’t worry. That question is never asked in the exam”. While I was in shock, the students all cheered and applauded the teacher for giving away this very valuable tip that will always help them in their life.

The best part is that everything is looked at from an exam point of view. While the teacher was explaining a chart, one of the students asked

“If the scores are in the center of the Axis, what should we write in the exam?” And mam promptly responded with how it should be answered in the exam.

We were studying psychometric tests and the calculations for Male and Female were different. I was very intrigued and wanted to know what were the dynamics that impacted these scores and when I asked my Prof, I was very hurriedly mentioned “It’s like that only due to the gender”. What is the use of studying the calculation of a psychometric test? A mindless computer program can do it and make you redundant.

There is so much competition and pressure to put up your life’s achievements on Facebook, that it simply makes you want to complete the task without applying yourself. Degrees just become a tick mark.

Parents too are guilty of encouraging this system, though I do believe it’s improving. Have you ever heard parents ask their kids ‘What did you learn today?’ Invariably they will ask ‘What did you study today?’ Many home makers justify (to themselves) being home if their kids score high marks. Fathers can be happy as it makes them feel they have been a good father despite not spending much time with the child.

So I want to dedicate this blog to my dad who taught me Math & Science in school. He never allowed me to do a step without understanding why it was to be done. I though am guilty of mugging my other subjects without really trying to understand.

As Albert Einstein said Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school. So don’t just be the pappu that passed the exam.