15 days


I want to link to this series of tweets by V Vinay on twitter. I am not sure how long twitter links function, so I will summarize. The 12th board CBSE paper was tough. There was a hue and cry about it. And as a friend of mine used to wish, a tough paper is better because it is tough for everyone. It can differentiate those who actually know the answers from those who were lucky and read the right books/guides/question papers. But, as he points out (I know little math but this is what I understand) the questions don’t do that either. They are just lengthy and complicated and not really interesting.

This is a territory I wanted to stay out of. I think I have said this before, this blog is public because everything is eventually public anyways and I plan to keep away identifying information. If I do that, maybe the following paragraphs will not make much sense- or maybe they would make too much sense- so, fair warning to you, dear non-existent reader.

Many years ago, one day I decided to stop studying. It was a very interesting, engagingly written and beautifully illustrated book, which was the “syllabus” for those exams. THe book presented huge amounts of information. It certainly was humanly possible to mug them up, people I know did that year after year. But if you read that book, you got the feeling that the authors would be bemused if they found that was what we were doing. The huge amounts of information was there so that it could be a reference book, but also to show the reader how complex and complicated is the subject matter in question. I am not saying that the information was irrelevant. Only that it was inappropriate to mug it up as a part of undergraduate syllabus. Anyways, these lofty thoughts did not motivate me to stop. I stopped because I figured out that there is more to life than undergraduation, and that with much lesser effort, I would not be first in class, but I would be in the top 5, and would have time to read other things. So I wheedled a laptop and a net connection from my father, and here I am. And after all, what do they know of cricket, who only cricket know?

All this was in the past, and also in the future, as I must put my child in a school. Which school? How much mugging up should I tolerate from a school? Are the fancy new schools which promise a new kind of pedagogy, actually teaching critical thinking? From the experience I have in my own field, I cannot but doubt it. We have terrible quality in India, and we have the great. Unfortunately, our greats are not even close to the basic minimum a European or American would expect from their own systems. We manage with individual greatness. There are places where the great are many, and can deliver world class quality, inspite of the systems. And then there is everywhere else. Even in those great places, not everybody is even good. And there is no way of finding out, unless you are deeply embedded in the system, who is bad and who is good (the great are easier to identify).

This too must be true of schools. So, should I offer my child expensive, erratically good education? Or should I accept that a child I bring up will learn to think critically, and can save us some money? They say that children who are in the IB system cannot adjust to the Indian university system. But what if the university system changes? It must, the only question it faces is when. Anytime in the next 15 years? Almost certainly. Tough question this.



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