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The Ailing Indian Education System: A Diagnosis


By Shubham Goswami 

An old man is suffering from a severe ailment and requires immediate attention. Let’s look at his diagnosis  

Today we shall assume the role of a doctor. We have our stethoscopes and all necessary diagnostic contraptions in place. The patient is seated comfortably and our diagnosis is ready to begin. But first we need to get familiar with our patient.


The Patient

He calls himself Mr. IES. He is an old man, about 5000 years old, but young at heart. He has had a glorious past and can boast of several feathers in his cap like the invention of the number zero, the pioneering manufacture of carbon ink and the conception of carding devices before anyone else in the world. Quite an illustrious resume!

But currently certain unknown factors seem to be ailing him. Mr. IES reports of “a nauseated and claustrophobic feeling resulting from a stymied growth.” A high achiever throughout his 5000 year long career, he is palpably upset about his inability to excel to the extent he would like to.

If you haven’t guessed it already, the IES acronym holder is none other than the Indian Education System.

The Illness

When the Indian child is young he is a bag full of questions:

“Why is the sky blue?”

“Why don’t dogs moo?”

“Why is the Earth round?”

“How does lightning sound?”

And the questions don’t stop coming.


Credits: Ratish Naroor

Until He Goes To School

His questioning slowly reduces until he decides to retire from the activity altogether. Sadly, for most kids their marriage with school necessitates a divorce with that bag of questions.

A Deluge Of Coursework

Schools in India load the young ones with lots of homework, evaluations and examinations. Jack is bound to become a dull boy.


The Rat Race

By the time the average Indian kid graduates from high school, his questioning has stopped, his creativity ruined, his critical thinking demolished. What is left of him is a confused fellow who is afraid to follow his dreams. He is only comfortable in participating in rat races, and winning or losing in them.

The State of Higher Education

End of school. Enter the Indian colleges. And except for a few IITs, lIMs and a handful of other universities, the Indian higher education presents a largely gloomy picture. Shashi Tharoor very accurately described the Indian higher education scenario as “a few islands of excellence floating on a sea of mediocrity.”

World Class?

Even our premier institutions seem to be failing us. None of the IITs has produced a single path-breaking innovation. Among the temples of higher education, only IISc features among the top 100 globally.


The Malaise Lies In The Environment

Our scientists and academicians seem to be doing great work but an overwhelmingly small fraction of that happens on Indian soil. Clearly we lack the environment that can convert talent into productivity.

A Lack Of Well-Rounded Education

A science and an arts student rarely participate in collaborative learning. The lack of diversity of perspectives shuns creativity.

Too Much Theory

The system is the old, colonial one. The learning is too theoretical with very little stress on experiential learning. So, the malady is grim. But don’t worry Mr. IES, it can be cured. Here’s our prescription for you:

The Doctor’s Prescription


  • Give your kids a childhood. Stop burdening them with coursework. Encourage free thinking and creativity.


  • Stop indoctrinating. Encourage them to argue and to take risks. Stop punishing Failure.


  • Make ‘learning by doing’ your credo.

(Your Western counterpart, Mr. AES has been doing this wonderfully.)


  • Tell your kids that grades aren’t so important after all.


  • Teach them to follow their hearts, to choose the paths that they want to and not the ones they are compelled to.


  •  Allow collaboration between the sciences and the arts.


  • Regulate the quality of your universities. Only a good teacher takes a hand, opens a mind and touches a heart.


If you diligently follow our prescription sir, you will impart better learning. People will stop migrating to other countries for higher education. The population will be teeming with pioneers, academicians, innovators and entrepreneurs. Unemployment will be eradicated. Poverty will be reduced to a figment of the past. The world will seek inspiration from you, sir.


Remember the words of the great Martin Luther King, sir. All the best for your future endeavors!!!

Image Credits: Google Images


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