We are building an alternate education system. And here is WHY!

If the schools and universities don’t offer what you need to learn, it’s time to explore other ways of learning what is really necessary.

Why are we here?

The current education system is redundant, outdated, discriminating and exploitative by its very nature. And we mean it.

1. The Design of our Great Education System

The current factory education system was designed to serve the needs of British colonies in different parts of the world. In the context of India, the only way for Britishers to rule the people from such a rich and spiritual civilisation was to cut them from their cultural roots. By imposing a foreign language, and making it seem superior to the mother tongue of thousands of Indians, the British successfully colonised the minds of Indians. They established universities and schools that teach western history, languages and cultures with no regard for the context and culture of the learner. And to date we continue to do so. Quite a few of us still want to send our children to convent schools where they begin their day by praying in a foreign language.

Macaulay- the designer of the current education system Quoted:

It is, I believe, no exaggeration to say that all the historical information which has been collected from all the books written in the Sanscrit language is less valuable than what may be found in the most paltry abridgements used at preparatory schools in England. In every branch of physical or moral philosophy, the relative position of the two nations is nearly the same.

2. Real learning takes place on the Job!

The pedagogical approach widely used to teach is Chalk and Talk — a passive teaching style where teacher talks and students listen. Questions are rarely appreciated. Students waste pages and pages copying assignments and mugging concepts developed a century ago that finds no practical application today. Ask anyone where they learnt what they know? And you’ll hear something like : On the job, by doing it, from my peers.

People learn on their job. It’s a malpractice that a student has to pay a hefty fee to colleges, where they do not teach anything meaningful to their students. And companies have to pay salaries to train these graduates.

3. Student-Debt is for real!

Each year we produce thousands of unemployable engineers. The few who are employable choose to work at financial banks, run businesses, or apply for civil services. Only 8% of the engineers are employable for core engineering. With other undergraduate degrees (medicine being an exception), the story is even starker. A vast majority of youth end up with an unusable degree(which comes with a debt)

The employability of Indian engineers continues to be painfully low with more than 80% engineers unemployable for any job in the knowledge economy, reveals Aspiring Minds’ National Employability Report.

4. Education is a pill that doesn’t work!

Here is some data that shows that 5% of the children have college degrees. And the majority of them are still unemployable. According to another global survey, 85% of the people actually hate their jobs. So you can do the math, it adds up to .045% people who actually like what they do. Rest of human creativity and potential is just lost.

As per the 2011 Census, about 8.15% (98.615 million) of Indians are graduates

Education thrives on human fear and not on the results it produces.

The fear of being left behind — A fear created by fake advertising and narratives.

5. English is not our mother tongue

We as a nation value the ability to speak English over any other skill. And in this process we cut our children from the indigenous wisdom of Science, Math, ancient literature and so much more. Several studies show that people learn best in their native languages. Undue importance given to English makes it extremely hard for the majority of children to learn even the simplest of concepts. At the same time, it limits their interaction with a large majority that doesn’t speak English.

6. We Never prepared them for Democracy! We were so busy jumping the hoops

We kill creativity in schools by putting our children under immense pressure of a curriculum that we as children also could never fully understand. Even today we fail to find the relevance of the what is being taught. Children learn one subject after another with no time left to go deep into any one subject/topic/interest. We train them to live in a dictatorship for 17 years of their lives where someone else (school and parents) decides their entire time-table.

7. Where do we learn labelling?

We measure our children’s worth on the basis of the marks they get in a few subjects. In this process we not only put them in a race but also create biases in their minds. Anyone who has gone to school knows that there are three categories of students in each class: toppers, the average and the backbenchers. This develops a certain kind division between children, and thus sows the seeds of discrimination at a very early age.

8. Education disables a child to deal with the real world.

The teacher centric learning systems kill the ability in children to self-learn. They learn to depend on someone else to teach them and don’t identify their own learning styles. It also kills intrinsic motivation and individuality and produces children who are carbon copies of each other. It doesn’t prepare them for the future, rather it worsens an individual’s ability to survive in an uncertain future, by killing innate creativity and curiosity.

The education system substitutes an individual’s unique talents with a set of clerical skills. It shatters an individual’s self-worth and agency and replaces it with blind obeisance to the growth of the global economy.

9. Is all the stress worth it?

In the name of educating our children, we kill passion, self-belief and self-worth of our children who were born for greatness. We steer them on a path to a mediocre life devoid of peer community, love and passion.

A global poll conducted by Gallup has uncovered that out of the world’s one billion full-time workers, only 15% of people are engaged at work. That means that an astronomical 85% of people are unhappy in their jobs.

The huge majority of so-called successful youth today lives an isolated life and suffers from high levels of stress, anxiety, quarter-age crisis, depression and a range of other problems.

The list goes on and on, but I want to stop here and talk about what we can do!

In action for a better tomorrow!

We envision a world where each individual finds deep meaning in their work and is driven by passion and sense of purpose. We want our children to live a fulfilled life on their own terms.

The future is actually not that blurry though it’s pretty scary! Covid being just the tip of the iceberg.

We don’t exactly know what the future will look like. What the jobs of tomorrow will be; what challenges will we be dealing with. But if we pay attention to our present situation, we have some sense of the skills needed to live in the future:

  1. Creativity
  2. Collaboration — with each other and nature
  3. Ability to learn and adapt
  4. Decision Making
  5. Thriving in uncertainty
  6. Community Problem solving
  7. Relationship building

To thrive in the future our children need:

  1. Some practical hard skills which make them independent and capable of making a living without depending on corporate slavery.
  2. Self-belief in their own capacity and tools to learn new knowledge needed to solve problems
  3. Understanding of their own interests and learning patterns
  4. Exposure to the real world; experience of actual practical problem solving and application of their knowledge
  5. Community — A community of mentors, supporters and peers which gives them a sense of belonging; where they feel secure, loved and supported.
  6. A clear WHY — A clear understanding of the world and what they want to do in it.

We need an education which prepares our children to take an active part in society and not function in silos. We need to help them discover the virtue of collaboration.

The fact is that given the challenges we face, education doesn’t need to be reformed — it needs to be transformed — Sir Ken Robinson

And hence we built Pitaara, where we put Choice, Exploration and Community at the centre of everything we build. We are building learning programs which:

  1. Expose children to different forms of art, skills and knowledge bodies that exist
  2. Help them see the the universe of possibilities and decide what would they would like to explore
  3. Dive deep into an interest area and apply their learning to create something that exhibits the skill they learnt
  4. Help them find peers from around the country(sometimes globe) and form deeper meaningful connections

“Literacy in itself is no education. Literacy is not the end of education or even the beginning. By education I mean an all-round drawing out of the best in the child and man-body, mind and spirit” — M.K. Gandhi

We are exposing children to an alternative way to learn and tools to design their own learning and life.

You can take a look at our work here: https://www.pitaara.org/. Also if you ever want to talk more about the idea of Self-Designed Learning, feel free to write to us. We love to talk about it.

P.S. — If the thought of what the future of a self-designed learner will be is still bothering you, look out for my next post. I will share real stories of self-designed learners; details on what the future of work could look like and how we can pave a path towards it.

References:

  1. http://www.columbia.edu/itc/mealac/pritchett/00generallinks/macaulay/txt_minute_education_1835.html
  2. https://www.business-standard.com/article/beyond-business/97-engineers-aspire-for-a-job-in-it-and-core-engineering-but-only-18-43-employable-in-it-7-49-in-core-engineering-114071400834_1.html#:~:text=Of%20the%20six%20hundred%20thousand,90%25%20aspire%20for%20such%20jobs.
  3. https://www.aspiringminds.com/research-reports/national-employability-report-for-engineers-2019/#:~:text=%22The%20employability%20of%20Indian%20engineers,related%20jobs%20at%20start-ups.
  4. Statistics on education and employability — https://wenr.wes.org/2018/09/education-in-india
  5. Research Paper indicating that children learn best in their own native language — https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED394301
  6. https://news.gallup.com/opinion/chairman/212045/world-broken-workplace.aspx
  7. https://www.dreducation.com/2014/06/graduate-data-india-student.html
  8. The data in point 4 is estimated data based on the following report by DISE, CENSUS 2011, and news piece by The Federal,
  9. http://www.schoolreportcards.in/Media/m102.html#:~:text=The%20data%20which%20has%20been,11.03%20percent%20of%20total%20134.38
  10. https://www.ugc.ac.in/pdfnews/2519852_UDI10.pdf
  11. https://www.cry.org/statistics-on-children
  12. https://thefederal.com/news/over-62-of-dropouts-in-education-happens-at-school-level/

Prachi is co-creator at Pitaara and is a propagator of the idea of Self-designed learning!

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