I would like to put forth some general observations related to the Quality of Education in India. Specifically the Science and Engineering streams.
It is true that we have millions of Engineers and Science students graduating out of the various Government funded and Private colleges across the country. However, barring a few, the large majority requires a huge overhaul in terms of the Quality of Education.
The poor quality in teaching Math and Science at High school level is the main reason why we are unable to churn the best Engineers and Scientists right here.
We need to fix the way Students are taught Mathematics and Science and their general ability to use Math in solving real world problems. Unless Math is taught as a powerful tool that can be used to express the physical models conceived by the human mind in the world of science, the idea of Math will simply remain as memorizing formulae and applying them to solve tons of questions to ace competitive exams.
We will produce students who can use a hammer and hit the nails if they are told where to hit. They will just be an user of a tool waiting for instructions without any idea of why they are doing it.
This is very much seen with the way we teach another powerful tool like Math which is Programming. We have thousands of Engineers waiting for precise instructions so that they can Google and generate code to solve problems. They have the least idea as to how they can visualize problems and model them so that programming can be used as a tool to solve real world problems the way a trained artist uses his brush and paint to create the image in his mind.
Imagine we as a civilization produced this marvel thousand years ago. And there are thousands of such examples all across our country.
The free spirited independent problem solving mind is completely killed by this obsessive focus on getting the highest scores in exams. We blunt the very tools that are supposed to give us that enormous power. Scoring high in exams is a different goal than becoming a master in a subject and it should not be a goal at all.
Fixing the quality at the School level in STEM will automatically release the steam out of the competitive exams and the unnecessary pressure to enter the top tier colleges. When we improve the baseline quality, the top tier will have to raise its level by catering to bleeding edge research which will elevate the overall quality.
The number of imported goods that we use in our daily lives is a testament to the quality of our Education. We are still new in the nation building process as a democracy. But unless we take a serious look and build our foundation strong, we will continue to depend on other countries to fulfill even our tiniest need. No wonder we raise our kids always in awe of anything foreign and a perennial inferiority mindset that prevents them from going full steam with their ideas.
We need the best of physicists, best of mathematicians, best scientists working for this country to solve the enormous challenges in infrastructure, agriculture, industry, health, energy, space and so on.
For that we need to focus on bringing quality in our teaching. Today students learn more on their own than what they get to learn attending school. But this is very hard. It cannot be done by everyone and it doesn’t scale uniformly.
We need to leverage our existing infrastructure of Schools and Colleges, ramp up additional capacity, but all of this with Quality in mind. People who run Education institutions should focus on the Quality of teaching than anything else.
Today unfortunately because most of these institutions are run by Businessmen and Politicians, Quality in Education has gotten equated to money similar to the goods they buy and sell. There is no correlation between good quality education and millions spent on building high tech classrooms or lecture halls.
Walls and Rooms cannot teach. Only humans can. Those who run colleges have to understand this point and ensure the best quality teachers are available either permanently or on a visiting basis. Either offline or online. Quality is the only thing that has to be relentlessly focused and nothing else. When you fix this one thing, the leverage we gain is enormous.
If we improve the quality, we don’t need to send our students to Universities in foreign countries. India can produce a thousand MITs and Cambridges right here in this land with the kind of human resources we have.
All of this can be done if our Educational institutions overnight change their attitude from looking at it like a business that spins money and increase the Quality of what we teach 10X, 100X higher.
It is time the entire country with its Students, Teachers, those running Educational institutions, Industries and Government take this as a serious goal and sow the seeds for a revolution of a high quality STEM education. When we raise the quality several notches in one area, it has a cascading effect in other areas as well like Medicine, Law, Finance and so on.
Improving this is a pre-requisite to transform our economy for the next fifty years from where it is now.
Unless we wake up now and begin to work on it as a nation, we will continue to fix lofty targets to grow our economy in trillions of dollars and we may also achieve it. But in a largely Science and Technology driven world of the future, India will just be a market place for foreign goods and services devoid of the pride in this great nation of ours with two classes of people. One the Labor pool and the other being the Manager pool for foreign businesses that tell us which nails to hit with our hammer.