It’s exam time in India. A time of deep tension for students and parents. All that you’ve learnt in a year will have to reproduced in a two hour written exam and the student will be assessed by what she has written in those two hours. If you fail to answer a few questions you’ll be at a loss and may even fail the exam. Result time is even more distressing. Students who didn’t score will be devastated. Some even commit suicide.

It’s quite apparent that there is something very wrong with our educational system. The whole school year, students are cramped with ‘knowledge’ and this knowledge is tested in the two hour exam. It’s only the ability of students to memorize certain thing is tested. Human beings are not only memory beings. There is a whole lot of potential in human beings. From arts, literature, music, innovation, entrepreneurship to finding path breaking discoveries that’s needed to save our planet from its myriad crises. Are we equipping our students for this mammoth task that’s their destiny?

Our education system is outdated. Look at our schools. Don’t they look like barracks or factories? Yes they are. They are the legacy of our industrial revolution. When the industrial revolution wanted to mass produce workers who  have minimal understanding of the world around them, our modern school system began. We are still stuck in the early 19th century. Our schools, classrooms, syllabuses, examination system haven’t changed much from that of the 19th century system.

Our education system is totally out of sync with the current political, social, cultural, scientific, environmental scenario our children are living. Our syllabuses do not touch upon the gravest issues that are threatening our planet. Our youngsters are the custodians of our future. They should be equipped to tackle our future, which, frankly speaking doesn’t look so bright.

How do we change that? First we have to modernize our syllabuses according to current world scenario. Schools should not be a place to cramp knowledge, but should be a place where they should have enough knowledge to deal with life situations. We should do away with the archaic examination system. The syllabus should be modeled in such a way that students should be able to apply their knowledge in the classroom itself. Situations should be simulated in the classroom that they shall test their knowledge in the class room. We also should do away with the archaic examination system. Students should be assessed by the skill set they develop to create, construct, model, cooperate and finding solutions. The assessment can be on a continuous basis. FINAL EXAMINATION  which hangs on the students like the Damocles Sword should be done away with.  Instead, let them write poetry, short stories, essays, novels, paint, do craft, do modeling, take photographs, make films, do drama, do scientific experiments!

My 11 year old son has joined a ‘robotics project’ in his school.  In this project they learn some programming.  The students brain storm about what to create.  Every day they create something new. There is no pressure of an examination. He says in the final project they will create something BIG! Whether they create something big or not, he surely has fun and learns something new every day. That should be the basis of modern education. Have fun and learn something new.

Finland has done away with examination system, at least up to 16 years. That’s a good beginning. However, we’ve a long way to go in modernizing our educational system.

Disclaimer: I’m just a parent of an 11 year old. I’m not an educational expert. Things I’ve put together here are the result of my experience. I look forward to hearing from the experts on how we can go on with this project. Let this be the beginning of a debate.

Binu Mathew is the editor of He can be reached at


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  1. RAJEEV RAJ says:

    Our Education system right from play school to higher education Varsities and Research Centres are rotten.Educational process is just Data Collection & Reproduction.

  2. Gary Corseri says:

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts here, Master Binu. I’m no “educational expert–any more than you claim to be…and probably that is the best thing about 2 chaps like us dialoguing on the subject! The “educational experts” often get it all wrong! They are the inheritors of a “modern” system whose roots are closer to the 19th Century Prussian-militaristic model than they are to the dialogical, humane Socratic system of a couple of millennia ago, or to the Hegelian dialectical model of thesis-antithesis-synthesis that honed intellects like Marx and Engel, Freud and Jung, Planck and Einstein.

    It is, as you assert, far too much about memorization and testing! IQ tests measure a certain kind of intelligence! They do not take into account “creative intelligence.” They do not recognize real science behind brain functioning: our “left” brain and “right” brain dichotomy; i.e., our analytical mental apparatus and our creative wiring!

    It’s said that Picasso, looking at those IQ-test boxes and symbols and arrows going this way and that way, asked to determine which proposed answer was “the next way,” got so caught up in the design of the boxes and arrows, he started doodling his own images on the paper, lost track of the time, and failed the test! (I like to think he was preparing the way for “Guernica” a couple of decades later.)

    We need to focus on how people think at least as much as what they think. (Probably more!) We can teach logical fallacies from first grade; e.g.: “Kids, today I want to talk about ad hominem arguments!” [Teacher writes “ad hominem” on board, accompanied by groans of young students! Then he or she continues….] “It’s a big idea that goes back at least to those Roman folks, and it means ‘to the man’ exactly, but it basically it means this: Concentrate on the idea, not the appearance or tone of voice, or manner of dress, of where they come from, of the person presenting the idea. If Mr. Teju or Ms. Jackson is “ugly” and he or she says something that doesn’t make sense, forget about the “ugly” part of their appearance and tell me WHY it doesn’t make sense. Let’s try some examples….” [In that modality, the teacher can advance with glittering generalities, poisoning the well, reduction ad absurdum, and other basic logical traps. And, once this approach is mastered, start with basic syllogisms! “Kids…all human beings are animals…. Mr. Jackson is a human being…. Is Mr. Jackson an animal?”

    We need a revolution in the way we think and the way we teach. Too many teachers (and their unions!) are wedded to the moribund system that butters their bread and closes the minds of their students!

    Education can be playful, but, more importantly, it should be meaningful–enabling the younger generation to grow physically, mentally and spiritually; to become more human (and, add an “e” for “excellent”), more humane!

    “Where can wisdom be found?” Job asked a few thousand years ago…. We are still wondering….

    • Thank you Gary for your wise words and also for taking the debate forward

  3. weekendlearn says:

    India’s education requires a radical change inside out. The system was created to produce clerks, today India boasts of producing Administrative Clerks, Political Clerks, Engineering Clerks, Medical Clerks and even Architectural Clerks.

    India needs to come out of the system of literacy certification. Indians are good at cramming historically (Indian society is also skewed towards promoting cramming society). We have to choose analytical skills promoting syllabus, practical orientation syllabus, assignment based syllabus, skills improvement based syllabus, industry based syllabus, moral and ethics based syllabus, political awareness based syllabus, civic responsbilities based syllabus, scientific temper and applying thought and mind based syllabus, rational thought and forward thinking syllabus. Else we will have Indian PhD Science scholars who muster enough stupidity and confusion to speak mythology as advanced science in public arena.

    As a country of 130 Crore population, we are extraordinarily behind in Basic Science, Classical Science Research and Scientific Inventions. Let us forget pure Science it needs dedicated Science students which India lacks in totality. We Indians have not even thrived in Innovation. South Korea is a glaring example for Indians on how Innovation has developed this country. South Korea didn’t had education, nor English and was in poverty even till early 1960s, by that time India had its IIT.

    Indian education is a fraud system which prepares literates, not the educated. Since Education is all about adaptation of what we learn and what systems we in India have developed to adapt. Immediately we can incorporate these 7 basic necessities to improve Indian education

    1. Scientific Temper, Rationality
    2. Ethics, Moral Science
    3. Regional History, Local Culture
    4. Regional Language, Local Dialects
    5. Learn Science Through Scientific Experiments
    6. Learn Arts, Crafts With Skilled Artists/Craftsmen/Artisans
    7. Develop Individual’s Child’s Unique Talent

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