The Purpose of Education

The Purpose of Education

“I was thinking about education and schools. Long back, may be fifteen years ago, I went to the school in London. It was a primary school. When the school was over, the children came out and kept playing in the park. Their mothers had to persuade them to go home with them.”

Lulu, my parrot, hopped closer. Anything about education and children interests him. “A school is a great place for the children; they just love it. Unfortunately the playground and education have vanished from schools. There are many schools in Mumbai which do not have any playground.”

“True. Fierce competition has taken the toll. Increasingly there is a tone of disappointment about school education. Hasn’t Mark Twain said ‘I have never let my schooling interfere with my education’?”

“Trust Mark Twain to make such crisp statements. Can you really blame the school? You were such a bad student…..”

“Shhhh…. Speak in a low tone, my children will hear it! Yes, I never enjoyed school education. I once asked a question to my teacher which annoyed him.”

“What was it?”

“He was teaching Geometry. I asked him how this will help me solve some real problems in life. He was upset. Most probably he did not have an answer to my question. That question has bugged me always while learning.”

“But you studied Botany.”

Lulu, my parrot

“Oh, yes! That was the only subject I studied with a lot of interest. It tells you so much about plants and nature. I wanted to study Biochemistry, but fate intervened. I studied Personnel Management and Labour Welfare instead.”

“That’s a good course. A professional qualification.”

“I handled employee relations; those were the days when unions were strong, militant and difficult to handle.”

“Education removed that innocent question from your mind, right?”

“What’s that?”

“You asked your Geometry teacher how studying geometry will help you solve some real problems in life.”

“Yes, I did.”

“Did you ask yourself how studying at post-graduation level will help you solve peoples’ problems?”

“Hmmm… No”

“Were you preparing yourself to solve the problems of the organisation or of people? Such problems exist at various levels. At individual level. And at the family level as well as at group level, and also at the level of larger societal level.”

“I really did not think…..”

“Heard of Dunu Roy?”

“No. Who is he?”

“He is a great man. Several achievements are to his credit. He passed out from IIT completing his B Tech and M Tech in the sixties. A report tells us that spent the better part of the next two decades repairing bicycles, water pumps and tractors!”

“Don’t tell me. Why would an IITian do it?”

“That’s the difference between him and you!”

“Oh, shut up!”

“He worked with the World Wide Fund for Nature where he created a cell to monitor the effects of pollution on habitat. Then he set up the Delhi-based Hazards Centre, a research group that “helps with anything that’s difficult or dangerous”. In Gujarat, his small group of researchers assisted communities in making claims under the Tribal Rights Act. It’s all there in the story published by Livemint.”

“Crazy! This beats me completely. Why would a highly qualified IITian do such work? He could have gone to USA. Or done his MBA to become a top level manager.”

“When he was asked that question, he said, “The IITs were meant to create solutions to national problems, which is why they were called Institutes of Technology and not Institutes of Engineering and Management.

“Wow! That’s insightful. He is saying education must help us solve national problems.”

“Yes. You got it right. Education must help us solve national problems. You had come very near to this in the Geometry class as a thirteen year old boy. But when men grow up they allow schooling to interfere with education. So the purpose of education is lost.”

“Hmmm… I feel I have wasted precious years of my life.”

“You have many years to go. Refocus now. There are many problems to solve. Move fast. Do you get me?” Lulu fluttered his wings, looked at me and flew away.

Vivek S Patwardhan

“What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.

“Aroehan: Creating Dream Villages in Mokhada by 2025: “No Malnutrition Deaths, No Child ‘Out of School’, Reduction in migration by 50%.”