"It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it". – Aristotle
A school or college is a place where new ideas germinate. It is a unique space which covers the entire universe of knowledge. It is a place where creative minds converge, interact with each other and construct visions of new realities. Established notions of truth are challenged in the pursuit of knowledge. It must be clearly recognized that there is no conflict between the two-fold functioning of a schooling, i.e. to educate its members and to advance the frontiers of knowledge. The two functions are, in fact, complementary. Unless high standards of teaching and examinations are maintained, education will suffer. If our education establishments are to be the makers of future leaders of thought and action, as they should be, our degrees/ mark sheets must connote a high standard of scholarly achievement in our students.
A prudent question is one-half of wisdom. So is this standard achieved? No ladies and gentlemen. It's not. Many of our witnesses have expressed the opinion that the average standards of our teaching and examinations are low and one principal of a degree college maintained that an average graduate of an Indian university was not very much superior to a matriculate of a British university. This may be an exaggeration, but it is true that many of our universities even do not compare favorably with the best of British and American universities in respect of their teaching and examination standards.
The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet. And how we achieve this route is the matter of personal choice. The slow but increasing democratization of education in India has meant that the educational opportunity is no longer the domain of the children of the elite, or of the educated/professional middle-class. As more youngsters from a different segment of society enter the institutions of learning, they look at education as a means to transcend the class barriers. Consequently, education is no longer viewed as a good in itself, but also as the stepping-stone into a higher orbit of the job market, where the student expects a concrete monetary return, and consequently in this perception, the education of today is expected to be in tune with the emerging needs of the society. "The whole purpose of education is to turn mirrors into windows".
So should a student stick only to the level of education he receives in school or should he opt for private coaching which is readily available!!!, and gets the required knowledge and expertise to reach a standard level of education which benefits him , whether to pass a qualifying exam for a professional degree/ or a job later. The education has got highly competitive and those who fail the process suffer. If the Romans had been obliged to learn Latin, they would never have found time to conquer the world. So choosing the right centre is important.
The most important thing is ensuring students receive the decent education and get what they want which they have a right to – something that, with its resources, experience and expertise, the private coaching are best placed to do. High minded arguments about 'ethical and moral obligations' are all well and good, but if things go wrong, it's impossible to make up for lost time and bad practice in a students education. What if a school is deficient in providing the educational process, but the authorities fail to spot it? What if they are satisfactory upon inspection, but in the end do not really help the students? What if the student passes the internal exams of the school, but fails miserably in the competitive exams of the year? A system can try to cater for these problems but it will frequently fail, not least because those it tries to monitor will often willfully mislead it. To the uneducated, an A is just three sticks. The only person who is educated is the one who has learned how to learn and change.
I firmly believe that education provided by coaching, by personal interactions and attention is by its very nature far less likely to make mistakes than school teachers not interested in teaching due to lack of initiatives or salaries or non competence.
The large number of students enrolled in schools and grossly disproportionate student teacher ratios will compound the problem and fail to achieve the primary goal. Given that it is the state's duty in liberal democracies to ensure children receive a decent education, the state is entitled to take positive steps to reach that end – but is it possible? Is it therefore much safer to have children educated by the school, where observation and review can't frequently occur, than in the coaching areas where review is necessarily frequent and representative. Teachers in both coaching schools are within an environment we can subject to quality control, and are employed to do their jobs and therefore have a driving interest in ensuring it's done properly. No doubt some teachers at schools have good intentions but others do not, and we don't have the same kind of immediate control over them. It is a thousand times better to have common sense without education than to have education without common sense. Coaching schools may not be perfect – but they will only get worse as those who can afford to opt out in order to educate at traditional places. No doubt there has been a mushrooming of these centers but one has to identify the genuine ones by seeing their previous performances and asking the successful candidates about their methodology. In today's we need the best brains. Our economic future depends on education and technology. Coaching schools do this by allowing bright children from all social backgrounds to get a high quality education. They can then become the researchers, engineers, doctors and business leaders of the future. This also creates a more mobile society in which your ability matters more than how well-off your parents were. Not life, but good life, is to be chiefly valued. I would like to conclude that a perfection of means, and confusion of aims, seems to be our main problem. But Intellectuals solve problems, geniuses prevent them, rightly said by Albert Einstein.
So coaching seems inevitable to the present standard of education.
(Dr Abdul Munnon Durrani is Junior Resident, GMC Srinagar)