During an informal discussion with a group of young students [17-18 years] on Barack Obama’s remark that India is no more an emerging country but an “emerged” one, I mentioned that about 160,000 farmers committed suicide in the “emerged” India in the last two decades.
“Good,” said one of the students. I was not sure I heard it right since there were giggles from some other students. So I asked what he had said. One of the students who did not giggle repeated what the student had said. I was shocked and wanted to know why he thought the suicide of a large number of poor Indians good. “It’s a natural check on the emerging population of India,” was the answer.
Having been a teacher of young students for about quarter of a century, I have observed the emerging youth at sufficiently close quarters. The closeness stretches even to the dormitories of the students since I now work in a residential school. One of the things that I have noticed with some consternation is the increasing frivolousness, if not puerility, among the young students towards the society around them.
Today’s [22 Nov 2010] Times of India reports that many parents in Delhi and other cities of India are against the central government’s policy which stipulated that 25 per cent of seats in posh schools that had obtained the land for the school at a subsidy from the government should be reserved for students from economically backward classes. The reason cited is that the students from backward classes use abusive language and thus damage the standard of the other students. Why do the students from backward classes take recourse to abusive language, if they do so at all? Is it because they are ostracised on account of their poverty and consequent ‘freeship’ [the word used by Times of India] in school? What does the rich parents’ attitude reveal? Can we blame the children of such parents for harbouring anti-poor attitudes?
Children tend to carry attitudes bequeathed to them by their parents. How much difference can the school make? More importantly, how much difference do the schools want to make? The Times of India report also mentioned a few teachers who spoke against the poor students. [The Times of India has its own axe to grind.] Of course, the school has become a commercial enterprise now, even as the hospital has. No commercial enterprise wants clients who dig into the profits.
What is worrying more, however, is the attitude of the rich youth, the future bureaucrats and decision-makers of the “emerged” India. The students I spoke to belong to a school whose annual fees are higher than the annual income of more than half of India’s population. They are students who throw away the food given to them, better as it is than the food that the majority of Indians can afford, and go to the canteen for fast food and Pepsi. They are students who carry – clandestinely, of course – mobile phones with internet connections. But they are also students who use the internet facility only for logging on to Facebook or such other frivolous accounts where they make frivolous comments.
They are students who seldom care to use the school’s library for reading books or magazines or even newspapers. They are students who tend to cheat in their exams. Cheating in exams has become so common that an invigilator who forbids it is made to appear like a fool.
The Central Board of Secondary Education [CBSE] has introduced, under the leadership of Kapil Sibal, a system called CCE [Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation]. It is geared to change the entire approach to the current education system. It seeks to make researchers out of the students. Theoretically it is an ideal system. The students have to do their own research. The activities conducted in the classroom with the help of the teacher will spur on the curiosity of the students. If the students take this seriously and if the schools can provide the necessary infrastructure for the research, it will be a wonderful revolution. How many students will care to do the research, how many schools will care to provide the infrastructure, and how many teachers will care to be good guides?
I keep my fingers crossed.
I wish, however, that the parents of today – I mean, the rich parents – had not saved so much money for their children. I wish the parents had let the children earn their future. Then CCE – or any system, for that matter – would have worked!