In this age of information, education has truly regressed. One can know things simply with a keyboard and an internet connection but cannot gain the understanding of the same without an intelligent effort. Intelligence is not a measure of how much we know but how much we understand. The true sign of intelligence as per Einstein is not knowledge but imagination. Intelligence is often equated with a higher IQ and reflects the potential capacity to learn and implement. We can always apply intelligence to solve problems for which we don’t have a ready solution. Knowledge is wonderful, but it fades as techniques, and technologies come and go. Intelligence sustains because its borders extend beyond all knowledge and that makes all the difference. We may know of scores of highly literate people, yet not worth job market. A teacher may be found in every nook and corner but a plumber may be hard to find. According to John W. Gardener, the society which scorns excellence in plumbing as a humble activity and tolerates shoddiness in philosophy because it is an exalted activity will neither have good plumbing nor good philosophy: neither its pipes nor its theories will hold water.
A major chunk of the Indian society still pursues careers in theatre, art, music, dance, drama and literature. However, the 21st century demands to make scientific accomplishments for a vital and viable existence. Perhaps it was in the same wakefulness that Mr. Vajpayee had extended the slogan of Jai Jawan and Jai kisan to Jai Vigyan. A country sans the techies has to borrow technologies. Consequently the development process kick-starts at a heavy cost and is never able to keep pace with time. A look at the most livable countries in the world immediately draws us to conclude that their engineers have been the actual movers and shakers of the time. Unless the executive is more of a technocratic nature, nothing is going to work in the process of development. According to a recent study, India needs to improve its existing low skill levels which pose a challenge to its growth and global competitiveness. At the moment about 1.2 crore youth need to be skilled and by 2025, another 250 million youth are estimated to enter the Indian workforce. The proportion of formally skilled workers in India is extremely low, at 4.69% of total workforce, compared to 24% in China, 52% in the US, 68% in the UK, 75% in Germany, 80% in Japan and 96% in South Korea. According to Mr. Amit Agarwal, CEO Of Nasscoms IT enabled services, India is struggling to find skilled techies for 230k jobs in Big Data and Artificial Intelligence, and this shortage is likely to rise to 780k by 2021. If we look at the difference in investment in science and technology between India and China, it’s a stark difference even when we correct for the fact that China has a bigger economy. Here a student’s capability is still related to his fluency in spoken English, while as a child in China can’t pass the middle school without being able to design a Daniell cell. Unfortunately, the dominant education system in our part of the world only tends to further knowledge, hammering facts into our heads for years, endlessly. It is not as unique and experimental as it should have been. A good hand-writing, rote learning, enriched vocabulary and a good memory still play a key role in qualifying the otherwise prestigious examinations. However, over the years, significant changes have been introduced in the paper pattern of different national level examinations, shifting from factual to conceptual mode of questions. A significant portion is asked from environment, science and technology, numerical aptitude, logic and reasoning, polity and international relations especially the emerging world order. A lot of reformation has been done but a lot more needs to be done in the examination set up to filter out the rawly intelligent people and wake up to the call for competence at global level. Intelligence is all about the thought process. Thinking at a problem is more fruitful than reading about it because sometimes it may be so, that a wrong question might have been asked. Einstein says, if I am given 60 minutes to solve a problem, I would spend 55 minutes in thinking if the right question has been asked. After discovering gravitation, Newton had to once address a mammoth gathering who expected him to make a long speech about it. But when he was asked as to how he did it, he simply replied “by thinking over it.” On the other hand, there can be relaxed ways of gaining knowledge. As for instance, Jeopardy! is an American television show featuring a quiz competition in which contestants are presented with general knowledge clues in the form of answers, and must phrase their responses in the form of questions. Similarly, reading books can increase the quantity of facts we know, allow us to better identify the patterns and increase our empathy but may not be able to alter our baseline abilities. So there is no point in posing our representational pics on whatsApp and facebook with bulky libraries at the back. That may really not be impressive in future. The fact remains that, Jeopardy contestants are knowledgeable but astrophysicists are intelligent.
Dr. Qudsia Gani is Assistant Professor, Department of Physics, Cluster University Srinagar