Saturdays With Shivani- Let’s Stop Patronizing Mediocrity

The week that just went by was all about standard X and XII results and my timeline was filled with proud parents displaying their child’s marks with the mandatory congratulatory messages in the comments. There were some who called out on such parents because it endorsed the marks-are-everything dictum. I also spotted some heartwarming posts from ‘successful’ people who moved past their ‘miserable’ marks’ sheets and some equally endearing ones from the ‘not-so-successful’ people who were merit listers of yore. A few weeks ago, even I wrote something on failure and how to handle it.

I inwardly thanked God that there were no newspapers coming in and I was spared of the advertisements from the factories that manufacture ‘merit’ students. I hate those pamphlets falling out of the paper at this time of the year from this-and-that class claiming best results. Their cookie cutter model is reflected in the lack of originality of their ads. You’ve seen one and you’ve seen them all.

These classes are the manifestation of all that is wrong with our education system and while we may not be able to fight it all and set everything right in our lifetimes, I believe it’s time to question the system and change the way we have been made to think. Haven’t we all wondered why our country doesn’t seem to have more Vikram Sarabhais and Rabindranath Tagores? That’s because we insist on plugging individualities and cater to mass mentality. In the name of ‘we know what’s best for our child’, we have done a disservice to the society in general and to our children in specific.

The long-term effects of such hounding are already visible. There is no room for free thinking and philosophy. How many philosophers has this country produced in the last fifty years? For that matter, where are the proponents of art, music, literature, dance, theater and even sports? Despite our rich heritage, these fields are suffering because they are not ‘commercially viable options’ when it comes to choosing a career. The ones who pursue, do it on their own steam. That translates into hardships and requires a lot of courage and is impossible if we as parents don’t back our children.

Everyone cannot be a doctor or an engineer and everyone shouldn’t be either. With all the money and the mushrooming of private colleges in the neighbourhood, a lot of parents manage to salve their egos by securing a seat but let’s face it, how many of such professionals actually enjoy their jobs? Why just private colleges, the same is valid for the IITs and IIMs alumni as well. With the number of such overqualified graduates being churned out every year, the supply has far overtaken the demand. We now have a huge population of overworked, underpaid and disgruntled executive force that feels trapped in their 5-day 9 to 5 routines who often just live for and on weekends. Some ‘discover’ their calling much later but majority just drown with the millstone of such a qualification and job around their necks.

If Lord Macaulay created clerks, Indian parents have a huge hand in creating this workforce. I always blame the parents because our children are our responsibility. Schools, classes, colleges are eventually commercial establishments and let’s just accept that. Part of the solution is that we think beyond the obvious tried and tested methods. Let’s allow our children to explore the possibilities beyond the confines of ‘hobby classes’. This pandemic and the lockdown have seen so many of us gravitate towards our chosen art forms and lean on them to stay sane. Do we still need proof to tell us how important they are? Whatever energy and money we set aside for coaching classes and professional colleges; can’t we invest in honing their skills? Why are we patronizing mediocrity and for how long?

Let’s create a conducive atmosphere that allows our future generations to flourish and make better use of their talents. Let no parent try to make his/ her child like that proverbial Sharmaji ka beta. Trust me if you can that we would have happier and content individuals who contribute to a far more balanced society.

Dr. Shivani Salil

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