It would sound difficult to believe but I was giving this “bhashan” to someone in my dream one of these days. Mostly my dreams are absurd, but this seemed to make sense even after waking up. So, I thought I’d just jot this thought down. Of course, I do not remember anything else from the dream – so it does not have much of context.
We have educational institutions and we have individual disciplines of education. The problem in our (Indian) system is that we are very rigid at institutional level – you decide or end up in a particular discipline and then you are stuck. The institution will not allow much of switching. Probably as a result of this, the rigour individual discipline can impose suffers. When the students don’t have much of a choice at the institutional level, the disciplines have to accommodate. So, the rigour they impose becomes less. You end up graduating in a certain discipline, when you understanding and knowledge is just not good enough.
The rigidity of institutions comes not only from the rules of the institutions, but also from the narrow point of view society takes with respect to disciplines. The point of view that put the various disciplines in a strict hierarchy and hence your family is happier at your being a mediocre engineer, but won’t give you a chance to come an extra-ordinary historian. So, even if institutional rules would allow you to have some flexibility, this societal pressure won’t. Overall, due to a combination of formal rules and informal society norms, we have rigid institutions.
Won’t it be nice to be able to replace it with a system where institutions are flexible, but disciplines are rigorous. Where you can experiment with and switch disciplines, but once you graduate in a discipline you have a level of understanding you can be proud of?
One of my friends is taking up a job at IISER Pune where she will be teaching and researching. These institutes are the result of a relatively new initiative by Govt. of India and MHRD to promote quality Science education. Unlike IITs, it seems that the departments of the students are not decided from the beginning. That sounds like a promising thing, even though the choices are still limited to only to Sciences. We might see more flexibility in the days ahead in our educational institutes. Let’s hope so!