Why college education may be obsolete in near future


This is an article by Sampad Ghosh (Dos of Class 12, 2019) about how the three main purposes that colleges serve – filtration, education, and placement – may become obsolete in the near future. 

College education is thought to be the ticket to a higher level of life. Most people even define their identity based on their colleges — IITian, Stephenians, Xaverians. During class XI and XII, millions of students all over the world slog, worry, and cram ceaselessly to get into the college of their dreams.

But we must pause to think — is it really worth it?

Before you attack me for uttering this blasphemous thought, let me clarify that I am one of you. I am in 11th standard, and have recently given my SAT for admission into US universities. I am also currently studying for my AS and A levels, taking numerous AP (advanced placement) subjects, in addition to preparing for SAT subject tests. All this workload often makes you quite philosophical, and you end up thinking — what’s the meaning of this all?

It is that introspection (and a bit of analysis by my teacher) that led me to the conclusion that the college education is possibly going to be obsolete, in not so distant future. To understand why — let us think about why colleges exist in the first place.

You might think that the reason for their existence is obvious — why, they provide education, you might say. But it goes deeper than that. Colleges actually provide three different services — filtration, education and placement.

By selecting students through their various selection procedures, colleges act as a proxy for quality. You know a typical student of, say Princeton University, will have a SAT score of 1500+, which means he/she is proficient in reading and basic problem solving. You know that IIMs have a group discussion and interview process among their selection criteria in addition to an aptitude test — so you might assume that a typical IIM student may be able to orally communicate well. In addition, by knowing the pecking order (ranking) of the colleges, you broadly understand the pecking order of the students as well.

All that is useful information — because when companies hire, they cannot put all the billions of employable people in the world through a test or interview process. So when they look at your CV, from the name of your college they can make certain assumptions about what sort of capabilities you have. Though it’s stereotyping, and like all stereotyping, it often gives wrong information, but still it helps them to sort out a huge mass of probable hires into a manageable few.

Colleges also provide education — you learn some general and specialized skills, depending on what you major in. This is the role which is the least useful one, because colleges in most part of the world has not really moved in sync with the changing times. Most colleges have curriculum that’s not directly relevant to what’s needed in real life and workplaces. For example, most colleges (even the best ones) do not train people much on ‘soft’ skills. Rather, they prefer ‘hard’ academic disciplines, which have less use for most people.

The third function that (some) colleges perform is placements — helping the students and the potential employers connect with each other. This stems directly from the filtration function — companies know the kind of talent they want to hire, so they can swoop down on a certain set of colleges and finish their hiring process by selecting among a shortlist of eligible candidates.

Now, if you really look at the technological trends over the last couple of years, you will see that all these functions may soon be performed better by other entities.

Let’s take filtration first. Currently the college rank, your IIT-JEE rank, CAT percentile, GRE or SAT score, CGPA — a combination of these variables quantifies your capability. But very soon, better measures may be available. For many jobs, internet is already making it possible for us to rate providers. If you see an Uber driver with a 3.9 rating, you might decide not to ride with him. Before buying products from Amazon, you check the seller’s rating, not his CGPA. In many freelance work platforms, rating matters more than the college degree or SAT score.

Now these ratings or scores are scattered among various places — your academic scores, your business ratings on Google app, your credit score, your seller-rating on Amazon etc. But very soon — all these may be integrated into a single score — indicating your competence and trustworthiness. An episode in Black Mirror, called Nosedive, shows us how such a world would look like. But you do not need to really look at a futuristic TV show for such a world — China is already implementing such a social credit scoring system on a vast scale. If such a comprehensive, precise score is available, who needs poorer substitutes like your college name or SAT scores?

Let’s now talk about the second function colleges provide — education. In most ways, this has already been obsolete in most parts of the world. People learn through on-the-job trainings, through coding boot camps, through online courses and apps. Colleges might teach you Physics, Chemistry or History, but what’s truly needed in the jobs are being taught in the companies themselves, or in apps like Udacity or Duolingo, or in a coding boot camp in California.

The third service colleges provide — placements — may also be obsolete as online job aggregators become more efficient and ubiquitous. In the future, even the concept of permanent jobs may not be there, as we move to an economy where people get paid for pieces of work that they do: the gig economy. Our networked world and vast computational abilities make it possible for projects and people to be instantly connected. In such a world, colleges being the intermediary between people and jobs will be a quaint idea.

All these thoughts make me quite unenthusiastic about all the studying that I need to do — not just to get into colleges, but also inside the colleges!

What should you do with your life?


On the occasion of Children’s Day (2018), Sir wrote a very valuable piece advicing the students to choose their careers wisely, instead of just crazily running behind glamour and money.  

This children’s day, let’s talk about a time when you will no longer remain children.

Some of you dread this possibility. However, most of you are eagerly looking forward to it. After all, your education has been a preparation for adulthood — and you are excited that you will finally be able to reap the benefits of this investment: this unique education that you received.

Your talk and writings reflect this hope. You anticipate being leaders of corporations, famous movie directors, top bureaucrats, celebrated authors and successful entrepreneurs. Nothing will please me more if many of you indeed attain such glory and success. After all, that will provide the most convincing proof that our unconventional education is what education should truly be.

However, what I wish for you most is not success and glory, but happiness and contentment. And I am worried that with your sky-high expectations, you are setting yourself up for a life of misery and dissatisfaction.

It is time to remind you of the three basic rules that I discussed in the common meeting:

1. Life is suffering.

2. Extraordinary success is rare.

3. We all are grains of sand.

No matter how talented, wealthy or powerful, no one is going to escape misery. Being children, with your whole life ahead of you, you are understandably hopeful about your future. But tone down those expectations. Expect difficulties instead. Failure, disappointment, disease, bereavement, conflict — these are sure to come in everyone’s life. If you expect them, you will be more prepared to deal with them.

You not only do not expect much difficulty in your life, most of you expect to reach dizzying heights of success. At this point, it is important to remind you that out of the 7 billion people on earth, only a minuscule percentage become CEOs of big corporations, successful entrepreneurs, famous authors and movie-directors. How small is the percentage?

1%?

No. Think smaller.

0.1%?

No, think smaller still.

0.01%?

That’s 700,000 people. Do you think there are that many top CEOs, movie directors and famous authors? Not at all. Let’s take CEOs first.

I presume you don’t want to be the CEO of a company where you are the only employee — you want to have some employees to manage! So let’s talk about a reasonable size: a 2000-strong company. In the US, there are only 4794 companies with more than 2000 employees. So we can say there are only about 5,000 attractive CEO jobs in the US, and possibly 20,000 worldwide.

How many famous movie directors do you think are there in the world? This is an even rarer breed than CEOs. Again, given that you don’t want to be a movie director who did not ever commercially release a movie, less than 1000 will be a reasonable number here.

How many successful authors are there? Again, numbers are difficult to come by, but Wikipedia’s list of notable 20th century writers contain a sum total of 1113 names, most of whom you have not heard of. That’s only about 1000 reasonably successful writers over a century.

Well, let me not belabor the point. We are not reaching anywhere close to that 700,000 figure. With all the extraordinarily successful people combined, we might just reach around 70,000, if we are lucky — 0.001% of human population.

No matter how much I believe how special you all are, how very talented, I will be astonished if there is even one such success story among the 120 students that attend the common meeting every morning. Because that would mean our common meeting room has a 1% ratio of extraordinary success: 1000 times more than the rest of the world. Even with the great education we have imparted, I think that’s highly unlikely.

Let’s face it: SUCCESS IS RARE.

In addition, success is often counterproductive! Not all of those ‘successes’ that we discussed — the CEOs, movie directors, authors made the world a better place. Some exploited workers to amass wealth, some fed us simplistic stories to perpetuate harmful myths. Many of those who ‘changed the world’, mostly changed it for the worse. Only a rare few left a positive imprint in addition to being successful.

So success, in itself, may not be something to aspire for. In any case, extraordinary success is unlikely to come to you.

It is time for a bit of humility.

It is time to acknowledge we all are grains of sand.

It is time to note that most of you will just ‘get by’.

However, ‘getting by’ itself is an achievement in a world where more than 4 billion people live on $10 or less per day. That probably explains why a lot of you, and your parents are so excited about the possibility of studying in a top university. Though the graduates from even those top-50 universities of the world only command a mediocre $6,000 a month salary, that’s an exciting number compared to the abysmal $10 per day, which is the level most of the world population is at.

We live in a world where barely getting by will earn you bragging rights among neighbours and family members. You don’t need to be super-wealthy, you don’t need to achieve anything of note. The education that we provided you will equip you to get into one of those universities, get a mediocre job, earn a moderate sum of money, and that will put you above most of the humanity. That is the root cause behind the feeling of superiority most of you are going to experience even after leading a mediocre life.

You have the extreme poor to thank for this feeling of superiority. It is they who would give you the bragging rights without achieving anything of note.

Now, does that sound too inspiring?

Now that I have put your ‘success’ in perspective, perhaps you can try to aspire for what truly counts: happiness.

Let’s get this clear: happiness comes from work. It comes from being in the ‘zone’, it comes from accomplishing something challenging, it comes when your work makes a difference.

True happiness does not come from recreation. You may argue that you may feel happy at the company of a friend, but true friendships are also forged while working for a common cause.

Happiness is when what you love to do, what you are good at, and what the world needs are in harmony.

The Happiness Diagram

Happiness comes when you are in the overlapping area in this Venn Diagram: let’s call it the ‘Happiness Intersection’.

Now, if we reverse this diagram, this is what you might get:

The Pain Diagram

If you are at the intersection of work that you don’t like, work that you are not good at, and work that the world does not need — it’s guaranteed that you will be miserable.

Let’s call this the ‘Pain Intersection.’

I see that a lot of you are running fast towards this intersection. You are not thinking deeply about where you are going and whether you really want to go there.

To earn some minor bragging rights (relative to the abysmal standards of the most of the world), you sometimes feel pressured to do things that are conventional. You want to study, give exams, get a job. If the job sounds good (say, investment banking, or consulting), and if it’s in a place whose name sounds good (New York, or London), then you think you will be happy. But what will happen is this:

You will do work that you don’t like to do: Building spreadsheets with fake numbers, cold-calling, attending boring meetings, commuting long hours, having soulless conversations with colleagues will be the main components of your day.

Not just you, no one likes them. That’s why the world is full of dissatisfied employees.

You will do work that you are not good at: In this school we did not teach you the art of flattery. We did not teach you unquestioning obedience. We did not teach you to be a hypocrite. We did not teach you to accept the ways of world, no matter how nonsensical it seems.

Well, those are some of the skills that you have to be good at to survive in the world that you covet. But sadly, we are sending you out there without much training on those areas.

You will do work that the world does not need:In this world that you are thoughtlessly running towards, you will try to prove your identical soap or shampoo is superior to another. You will try to pitch to a client to raise capital that he does not want. You will sell yet another civilization game to bored teenagers. You will manage money for people who have plenty.

Having reached this Pain Intersection without much thought, you will then wonder what went so wrong in your life. Why are you so miserable? Maybe a job-change is in order? Or maybe you should leave this city and relocate elsewhere? Maybe you just need a vacation?

Well, none of those will provide you with any succour. Even after the job change, the relocation, and the foreign vacation, dissatisfaction will continue to reign.

Because you are firmly lodged at the Pain Intersection. And it’s almost impossible to get out of. By then, to earn further bragging rights, you have bought a car and spent a fortune (according to your standards) furnishing your house. You have to think about your child’s education fees. You have to send some money back to your parents.

No matter how much you hate it, you wake up on Monday morning and board that transit, with thousands of others who are in a similar mess. But that’s cold comfort.

It is at that point probably you think about those common meetings long time back, where you were warned about precisely this fate. Those days seem to be from a past era, a time of happiness that you can never touch again.

You think, how did it ever go so wrong? In those idealistic times, you did think about writing stories, analyzing movies, opening schools, spreading awareness about evils of technology. What happened to all those ideas?

Probably they were not very well thought through. They were fashionable at the school, so you parroted them. You did not think deeply about what made you happy. You did not think much about what you may be passionate about, what you are good at, and what the world needs.

We did lay out a path for you which incorporated these three areas. We knew that you love the school and would be happy spreading the kind of education it imparts. We knew that you would be good at it, being the products of this very place. We knew this is the education that the world needs.

In Path 1, you could have done all these that you dreamt of. You could have been an app developer, a movie critic, an author, a social commentator, an entrepreneur, an activist, a teacher, a psychologist, a leader — all rolled into one.

In the school, we developed more apps and softwares than many technology companies. We showed you, and the broader world, that movies can be educational. I personally wrote many articles which were instrumental in changing the mindsets of people. At every common meeting in the morning, I explained our society and the world to you. As I ran this school, I understood the finer points of business that are not taught in MBA schools. As I spoke to your parents in large gathering, I led them to dream bigger.

I have been an app developer, a movie critic, an author, a social commentator, an entrepreneur, an activist, a teacher, a psychologist, a leader — all rolled into one. Because I chose the perfect path, I have contributed to the world, I have been happy, and I have been successful.

You could have been all of those too.

More importantly, you would have been valuable to the world, you would have lived among people who you love and who love you.

Though happiness is always elusive, but maybe, just maybe, you could have found it.

***

Thankfully, this future is imaginary. You are not yet in the Pain Intersection, and it is within your power to prevent it from happening to you. After all, it’s your life, why should you sacrifice it for minor bragging rights granted to others?

You must aim for happiness. You must aim to be at the Happy Intersection.

All of you cannot choose the perfect path. We do not have that many positions. But you must aspire for it. You must work towards it before it’s too late. You should acquire skills, be responsible, be kind, and work actively to be the ‘chosen ones’ when the time comes.

Those of you who will not get the perfect path must also think deeply about what you like, what you are good at, and what the world needs. Maybe you will be able to create your own perfect path, like I could.

I wish you all the best.

Why you should not cheat


This is an article written by Vulture of Class XI (2018) on why nobody must cheat.

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Just like charity begins at home, corruption begins at school.

While we bemoan the numerous scams that the politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen indulge in, we forget where it all started — in the humble classroom in our schools. At that time, it is apparently innocuous — passing a chit, going to the toilet to talk to a friend, sneak a quick glance at your friend’s answer paper during the exam.

Of course, since the advent of technology, things have got a bit more sophisticated. In my school, which follows the CIE (IGCSE and A levels), the pre-board exam is often conducted using past question papers of those board exams. Now, the students, instead of treating the pre-boards as an opportunity to evaluate their own preparedness, prefer to cheat by downloading question papers and marking schemes.

Well, it is time to make it clear that I am not some holier-than-thou saint. I have a long history of cheating. In fact, the internet-download method that I talked about the pre-boards, I myself employed that last year before my own pre-boards. I was duly caught by my teachers, who proved to be smarter than I was.

However, having this background makes me uniquely qualified to write this article — as I understand from personal experience why students cheat, and now, on reflection, I also understand why they should not.

Cheating in the exams is somehow thought to be a harmless activity. It has the micro-cultural support — in the sense that your immediate community, your friends, classmates — do not look down upon it. The reason behind that is probably most exams are thought to be a sham, rather than a true benchmark of our performance. Just like people subconsciously justify not paying income tax because government waste our money anyway, some people justify cheating thinking that exams are worthless anyway.

However, most students do not think so deeply. For them, there is a short-term, opportunist outlook that’s at work. When I did it, I felt that I did not study enough for the Biology exam, and there was not much time left to do so. Scoring poor marks meant some dire consequences — scolding from teachers and parents, lack of respect from friends, and may be even not being allowed to sit for the final exam. So the decision was simple — I chose to take what I thought to be a small risk over certain failure.

But now I understand that this line of thinking makes little sense. The pre-boards were an opportunity for the school to know where I stand. If the school felt I was doing very poorly, it could have taken remedial measures — improving my scores in the final exam. In the final board exams, there would not be any scope to cheat anyway by downloading the question paper — and my real levels will be known to everyone, so why postpone the inevitable? Thinking this way, I understood that cheating was just a myopic decision which causes long-term damage.

I have seen others cheating who were not at risk of failure, but wanted to get better marks than their preparation would have given them. The driver here was probably some additional praise from teachers and look of respect from classmates. But this too makes little sense — because this is temporary. You cannot always cheat, and the only way to consistently do well is to prepare well.

Cheating is not a friendly act. When I did well by cheating in the biology exam, a few of my friends, who normally score more than me, got lower marks than me in that exam. They were demotivated as a result. This is one of the normal outcomes of cheating — that it demotivates your close friends and disincentivises honest work. It breeds an arms race, where others may start cheating to remain competitive. If cheating is undetected, it might give honest ones a false sense of inferiority which may dent their long-term confidence.

There is a long-term consequence as well for the person who cheats. If not caught, he may be emboldened to continue cheating. At some point, his actions may catch up with him. The consequences are far worse if the comeuppance comes in the adult life, where you may have copied someone’s work in the office, or stole a code, or revealed a trade secret.

If caught, then the cheat remains under a shadow. Once a criminal always a suspect. In recent times, once I scored very well in a math test, but my teachers looked at me suspiciously. It is because of my history that’s not yet erased. Your genuine achievements may come under cloud due to your past wrongdoings. Reputation is what counts in life, why give it up for minor gains?

Cheating (or any act of dishonesty) imposes a lot of costs in society. I remember my teacher explaining that they have to conduct repeat tests, have special seating arrangement, many invigilators — all of these are costly affairs which can be avoided only if the students follow an honour code. But instead if we want to game the system every time there is an opportunity to game it, it just makes life harder for everyone.

SAT or IIT? A student’s viewpoint


An article written by Koka (Aranya Pal of Class XI, 2018) about how it would be better if India had only one exam after 12th, instead of a multitude of exams that stress out the students.

I have just finished my 10th standard board exams, and have just started my classes for 11th standard. In addition to my A-levels which is due in two years, I will also sit for SAT for an admission into a US university. It’s some work, but it’s nothing compared to what I see around me.

I stay in a thermal power township – it’s a closely-knit community of around five-hundred families. Even though many of us study in different schools, given the intimate nature of the community, I know most of the students who are of similar age as mine. And I am not envious at all of their situation.

Many of my acquaintances from the Township have been attending private tuitions and have been going to well-known IIT-JEE and medical coaching centres right from class VI! After the 10th standard, the pressure multiplied. A friend of mine, who sat for board exam this year, was never seen in the Township after the exams – I hear he has taken a permanent residence in Durgapur, a nearby town, a hub for such coaching centres.

Some are preparing for IIT-JEE, some for NEET, some for WBJEE – but some – and this is the most important part – are preparing for all of them. This intense preparation for a multitude of exams, in addition to their 12th standard boards, takes a toll. I do not see them any more in the Township park, playing badminton, as they used to before. Neither are they available for a friendly chat or a leisurely walk in the evening.

Some, in addition to these exams, sit for the gruelling entrance examination for Indian Statistical Institute, focusing on pure mathematics. Some study for CLAT (a common law entrance), yet some others prepare for the aptitude tests needed for IPM-AT (for IIM-Indore), and some of the general college entry tests.

This plethora of entrance exams is not only meaningless, but also harmful. Because it is difficult for children to study for so many different examinations, they have to make a career choice early in their life, knowing nothing about the relative merits of the medical, legal or engineering professions. This leads to many years of dissatisfaction later on. In addition to that, their childhood is sacrificed at the altar of constant pressure of coaching and tuitions – often on areas which will bear no relevance in real life in the future.

I am lucky; I will be taking SAT after 12th. This is an exam that does not require me to take special coaching and prepare for it. The preparation is more long-term; as a result, the exam cannot be gamed easily through coaching centres and exams. Since my childhood, I have been interested in reading, and that is one skill that is tested in SAT. In addition, SAT tests reasoning and problem-solving skills (based on the foundations of basic math) – that too requires no coaching and last-minute preparation.

These skills come in use not only during the exam, but also during the rest of the life. Reading comes in handy every day not only for students like us but also the adults that I see around. Ability to reason is also a useful life-skill. So none of this preparation is actually ‘wasted’, in a way most of the rote-learning driven exam preparations are.

Moreover, having one uniform entrance examination means students can get into any college and make their career choices at a later stage of their life, when they are more informed.

Looking at the state of my friends, I wish India also had just one entrance examination for all the colleges, which would both reduce the pressure on the students and allow them to make more satisfactory career choices. An exam like SAT will be the way to go.

Our economics textbooks are mostly flawed – here’s why!


Vulture (Debarghya Deb of Class XI, 2018) talks about how our economics theories are little too perfect for it to perfectly work in the real world. 

Let me make one thing clear at the outset – I am a mere student, studying in class XI, and I am not here to talk about the flaws in the economic theories propounded by the great economists of the past era.

The theories are all perfect — a little too perfect — and that is precisely why some of them do not work well in a nation like ours.

Most economics books talk about economics from the point of view of developed countries. In the developed countries the law and order works; the countries are normally stable and peaceful, and there is very little corruption in the government. This makes the environment quite conducive for the economic theories to work perfectly.

But most countries don’t have the necessary environment for such perfect economic theories to work. The laws of supply and demand are not allowed to work without government intervention, property rights are not respected and there is corruption in every step.

Now let’s take some theories and see how they work differently in underdeveloped countries.

The first thing taught in economics is that prices of goods are determined by the forces of supply and demand. But things are very different in underdeveloped countries.

Instead of the invisible hand, is often the guiding (or misguiding?) hand of the government that sets the prices. For example, a few years back in Kolkata, a limit was put on the price of bus tickets. Bus owners started making lesser profits, many buses went out of the market creating a huge shortage. The remaining buses were not maintained well (because it was unprofitable to maintain them), so public transport became much worse.

As a result, many people had to pay a lot more money to travel in a cab or autorickshaw. The policy which was supposed to ‘benefit’ the common people left them worse off.

Mind you, I am not talking about public transport here – these are privately operated buses that the government sought to regulate. Similarly, the government often seeks to regulate fees in private schools and hospitals – as a result, the benefit of the invisible hand of the market does not reach the people.

As a second example, let’s consider how government contracts are won in underdeveloped countries. According to economic theory, the suppliers who provide a service at the lowest price are able to sell the service.

In underdeveloped countries, however, contracts are often won by a different process; there is often underhand dealing between policymakers and suppliers.

The politician is happy to earn money for a future election campaign, the contractor recoups his bribe by cutting corners in materials and quality, and in the end, it is the people who suffer.

They get pothole-filled roads, collapsing bridges and other poor quality infrastructure.

Textbook economics also claims governments can improve market conditions by stopping a company from becoming a monopoly and increasing competition.

But most governments in underdeveloped countries do the exact opposite. Most of the monopolies are created and supported by the governments. The governments make sure that no other companies join the field and increase competition.

But what do the governments get in return? Simple: election campaigns cost a lot of money and these election campaigns are funded by these monopolies which help the government to remain in power.

You might argue that at least the chapters that do not deal with policy but deal with measurement are correct. For example, we had several chapters on measuring key economic variables like GDP, inflation and unemployment. Alas, there too, our textbooks fall short.

Data does not lie but it can be made to lie. Most of the data that comes out of underdeveloped countries are not trustworthy.

Half the economic activities happen in the underground economy and as a result are not recorded. Some governments use accounting tricks to improve their numbers.

Often governments manipulate data is by changing the way something is calculated. Such differences are too subtle for common people to notice – who celebrate a year of great GDP growth, or record low inflation.

Another big problem with our economics textbooks is they focus too much on finer debates.

For example: ‘Does minimum wage laws end up hurting the people it is supposed to serve?’ or ‘How much government intervention should be there in an economy?’ The books forget that in most countries the condition is so sub-normal that these debates don’t make any difference – they are mere academic debates.

Minimum wage laws might be put but in most countries but they are not enforced. We might endlessly debate whether an import quota or import tariff is better – but then we have a president who wants to put up a wall between two countries!

The list does not end here. For every economic theory that’s out there, you can find examples of real-life situations where it’s subverted by governments. I hope that someday, somebody will write an economics textbook which will reflect our reality more accurately.

The School of Tomorrow


This was a very popular article written by Sir published in The Hindu.

Forest photo.jpgIn the whole of your adult life, how many times did you use the Avogadro’s law? During your entire work life, did you find any use for the date of Battle of Panipat? How many times did you have to recall the formula for Barium Hydroxide?

If you are a school teacher or a professor specializing in those subjects, it is possible that you used those facts. But that cannot really be classified as a real ‘use’. If the final product itself is not useful, and if you are providing inputs to that useless product, that input clearly cannot be called useful either.

Yes, there is a small minority of specialists, may be less than 1% of the population, who are really using some of the subjects that we learn at school. Those specialists (physicists, mathematicians, biologists et al) use this knowledge as a foundation to learn even more specialized stuff.

Obviously, we cannot ignore their contribution. They expand the frontiers of knowledge with their experiments and new discoveries. Because of the scientific and technological progress gifted to us by that small minority, rest of us can enjoy a higher standard of living.

But for the remaining 99% of us, busy in our mundane jobs, struggling in our relationships – that specialized knowledge is utterly useless. We have no use for Ohm’s law. We do not use trigonometry in our daily life. The foundational courses of Physics, Chemistry, Math or Geography – taught relentlessly during our school days – are really a waste of time for most.

If we are to design a ‘School of Tomorrow’, we should throw out most of the existing subjects in our curriculum. Instead, we should focus on four subjects which all of us truly use in our adult life – work, relationships, society and technology.

In the subject of ‘Work’, we should teach skills that are needed in today’s workplaces. We should teach our children how to use computers to write, present, calculate and communicate. Instead of holding ‘mock’ parliaments or giving them copy-paste projects, we should give them real responsibilities inside the school.

In the school I run in rural Bengal, we get the students to manage the school canteen, maintain the school blog and Twitter handle, take care of the school’s IT infrastructure, mentor younger children, and fully take charge of the annual events. Through all these, we guide them about how to behave in a team, how to coordinate a meeting, and how to resolve conflicts.

In the ‘School of Tomorrow’, we should teach our children how to approach external organizations – maybe to raise a small sum of money for a school event. We should teach them how to write an effective resume and a persuasive email. Given the importance of social media in today’s world, we should train them on how to use it effectively for work – not just to post selfies, forward inane jokes and circulate fake news.

Other than work, our relationships with our friends, spouse, parents and children form a critical part of our life – one that determines how happy we are. Yet, how little we are taught about how to handle those! We are never told that marriage is going to be an all-important decision in our lives, and we should not jump into it in a youthful impulse.

We are not taught to listen with empathy. We are not taught that building friendships in schools and colleges is more important compared to hiding that notebook containing teachers’ notes. Yes – we may pay lip service to some of those values through subjects like ‘moral science’ – but that’s only theory, not practice.

You may question, how can you really give practical lessons on relationships? In a classroom setting, surely nothing more than theory can be taught? We need to be a little more imaginative here. Movies and literature, if chosen well, can be useful learning devices. Movies let us see issues from different people’s points of view, teaching us empathy.

A movie like ‘Revolutionary road’ may be shown in high school classes to dissect marital conflicts. ‘Twelve angry men’ can help us understand group dynamics. A movie like ‘Hotel Rwanda’, where the protagonist painstakingly cultivates relationships in anticipation of tougher times, can help us understand the value of building friendships and networks.

In addition to ‘Work’ and ‘Relationship’, the subject of ‘Society’ too, is becoming all important in today’s world. Earlier, in a disconnected world, we were subject to only local influences. Now, people can spread their prejudices, hate and bigotry through social media. Schools must teach our children stop believing and start thinking.

We need to teach our children how religion came from our fear and our inability to explain the world through our limited knowledge in an earlier era. We must teach them that whites are white because they are adapted to a colder climate, not because they are superior. We must teach our children not just to read newspaper, but also to spot fake news.

We should ask our children to take an active part in building our society. They don’t need to do anything too complicated here. Maybe they can start by asking their parents not to forward that hateful WhatsApp message. Maybe they can teach elders about how to use their smartphone to do more than pressing the like button in Facebook or to play games.

Movies and literature can be useful here as well. A movie like ‘The Pianist’ can show us, from a victim’s point of view, how it is like to live in a society when a minority group is persecuted. A book like ‘Animal Farm’ can tell us that often promises of a new world are only that, a promise.

Rohinton Mistry’s ‘A Fine Balance’ can teach us a lot of about the evils of caste-system and poverty. And Yuval Noah Harari’s ‘Sapiens’, which is a compulsory reading in my school in Class VIII-IX, can really give us an all-encompassing view of how our society came about.

The fourth subject, ‘Technology’ is inextricably linked with ‘Society’. In not-so-distant future, technology is going to reshape the society. Most of the current professions may not exist. Our current way of life may undergo such transformation that it may be unrecognizable.

Yet, our schools hardly deal with this all-important subject. They do not teach the students how to apply technology and how to code. They do not talk about how technology is going to impact society. They do not teach children about how to be safe in a connected world.

In the ‘School of Tomorrow’, these subjects cannot have fixed boundaries. Our relationships are shaped by societal myths and rules. How hard we work, which jobs are glamourous – such questions are also determined by the prevalent culture in the society. Technology is impacting relationships too. It fast-forwards our romances, making them stale within months. Technology is changing our workplaces and the society itself.

Not only these subjects cannot have fixed boundaries, they cannot have any fixed syllabus as well. The ‘School of Tomorrow’ will be characterized by its quick response to the changing world. To be so agile, it must be very decentralized – which means the teachers in the School of Tomorrow will be empowered to design the curriculum and constantly revise it.

Which brings me to the final point – what kind of teachers do we need in such a school? We need teachers who can blur the boundaries of subjects and the real-world. We need teachers who are not limited by specialist subject knowledge. We need teachers who are insightful, wise and experienced in the ways of the world. We need teachers who are not just dispensers of instruction, but a source of inspiration. In short, we need teachers who are the most talented, wise and experienced members of society.

If you think that’s a utopia – you are mistaken. In the past, the teachers were indeed creative, talented and wise. Legend has it that Vishnu Sharma, the creator of Panchatantra, created the whole set of fables to teach three princes about life and society. The great Greek philosophers, Plato and Aristotle, founded their own schools, where they taught the kings, among others. Closer home, Tagore founded his own school in West Bengal.

Ironical though it is, to build the School of Tomorrow, we really need to take inspiration from the schools of the past.

Why India’s obsession over engineering as a career must end


This is an article written by Sir which was published in the Hindustan Times.

Sample the following news:

  • 800 engineering colleges have recently been closed down for lack of admissions and poor quality
  • A McKinsey study estimated that only about 25% of Indian engineers are employable
  • Studies indicated that less than 6% of the mechanical engineers end up doing anything with mechanical engineering

There is something deeply wrong with our society’s curious obsession with the engineering profession. Each year, we see full-page ads by numerous coaching agencies, proclaiming most engineering toppers as their own. The coaching for engineering entrance exams sometimes begin as early as class VI, with relentless teaching of physics, chemistry and mathematics at the expense of social science and language subjects. Given that many engineering colleges are unable to place their students and hence unable to garner enough admissions — why is our society still so obsessed with this career?

To get the answer, we have to go back a few decades, to the days of license-quota raj. In the 1970s, when the economy stagnated, there were only a few jobs. With India’s socialist focus on building state-owned factories, engineering was one profession which guaranteed a job. Those days there were scant opportunities for languages or humanities graduates.

After studying in an engineering college, very few students actually work in the field of engineering

 

However, after economic liberalization, the situation changed radically. Many new companies, particularly in the service industry, set shop. Private companies offered unprecedented opportunities for jobs and career growth. Suddenly, you one could become a journalist in one of the numerous media outfits, a banker in one of the new banks, a telecom professional in the sunrise industry of mobile telephony or a software professional in the booming IT industry.

None of these career options require you to study engineering. Contrary to popular belief, IT companies do not only hire from engineering campuses. Even when they do go to engineering colleges, they test for aptitude, logical reasoning skills and articulation. Most of the other professions (banker, journalist, sales etc.) which flourished due to liberalization, are of course open to liberal-arts graduates, provided they can speak well and have a logical mind.

But the minds of the parents, who double up as career counsellors for our children, have remained stuck in the 1970s. There is still the mistaken belief that engineering is the only profession that guarantees a job. That statement is wrong on two counts: one, engineering does not guarantee a job — as the placement records of many engineering colleges will tell you. Two, there are many, many more job outside the engineering profession which are open to normal graduates and post-graduates.

Because of this obsession, many students are pushed towards careers they do not want to pursue. Some bright minds in those campuses are lost due to suicides. Some bright minds are lost to drug-abuse. After all this sacrifice, very few really work in the actual field of engineering. Some become MBAs. Most become software professionals. None of these fields require an engineering education.

Even the few who do work in a mechanical engineering or electrical engineering firm generally do not use much of their engineering knowhow. They operate, repair and maintain things. Some work in the sales function, some move on to managerial positions. The reason very few engineers actually stick to engineering shows that their original career choice was not made out of strong love for the subject, but out of peer pressure.

At school level, most students’ supposed love for ‘science’ subjects comes from a desire to please their parents and sit for these entrance exams. I wonder, how many of those parents who profess love for science subjects care for truth, evidence and objectivity. Their love for science comes from herd mentality, which is which is the antithesis of science.

All parents want the best for their children, but they may not always know the correct path. Sometimes the correct path is obscured by their mind which is rooted in the past. Sometimes, the path is obscured by their own unfulfilled ambition, which they want to fulfil through their children.

But a parent who wants to fulfil her unfulfilled ambition through her child, fails twice over.

Trivia is indeed trivial


Sir explains how the respect for memorizing trivia is connected with India’s obsession with rote-learning. 

Quiz shows like this glorify the rote-learning culture

Which is the largest living species of tortoise in the world?

Damascus is the capital of which country?

…and so it goes on, questions from a celebrity anchor to the contestant on the hot-seat, aided by four options. Parents of eager schoolchildren allow them a break from their evening study routine to watch the programme. Quiz shows, after all, are educational. Doesn’t the school also have a subject called GK?

Quiz shows are everywhere. From the highly popular KBC to the highly rarefied Mastermind — they have invaded and conquered our living rooms and schools. With high-stakes prize money and prime-time visibility, the masters of trivia are now celebrated like never before. And so it should be, as the argument goes, because we are living in the information age. Knowledge is supreme. The bearers of knowledge must be feted.

But isn’t there something fallacious with this argument?

In this information age, chances are that Google will know more than the champion of a quiz show. And with the proliferation of smartphones and tablets, the power of internet is always with you. If you want to know the weight of the earth in kilograms, you don’t need to memorize it. If you want the capital of Angola, you can have it at your fingertips. Though you might ask yourself, why would you want such information in the first place?

In schools, in popular media, and in the minds of the parents of our schoolgoing children — there seems to be a strange respect for trivia. Schools want the kids to memorize capitals of all countries. Parents gift their child ‘The best of Bournvita Quiz Contest’ on their birthday. On the web, a website containing a collection of various quiz show questions is called IQ Garage. Aren’t we more than a little misguided here, equating intelligence with the ability to collect random facts?

Facts themselves are less useful compared to what we do with them. Making sense of the facts is more important. Instead of memorizing capitals of countries, we can try to discuss with our children why a capital city is needed, and why capital cities sometimes change. Instead of talking about dates of battles, we can explain why battles happen between countries. Instead of asking kids the weight of the fattest tortoise, we can teach them why some animal species grow very big, and some are very small. Instead of asking them to memorize the minimum age requirement of an MP (Member of Parliament), why don’t we discuss with them why some countries of the world have democracy, and why some others veer towards military dictatorship?

The respect for memorizing trivia is connected with India’s obsession with rote-learning. No wonder some of our top quiz-masters are also revered educationists! We score towards the bottom in international tests which evaluates reading skills or problem solving. We do not teach our kids the ability to communicate well. We do not instil in them the curiosity to explain the world around. We do not want them to analyse current affairs and have opinions. However, we celebrate acquisition of useless facts and unconnected trivia.

Coming back to the weight of the earth, I once met a child who knew the exact figure. I asked him, ‘So, the weight that you are talking about, is it with all the people on the earth, or without them?’ He was a little confused, but he replied that it must be with all the people in it. Then I asked him ‘When a person is born, does the weight increase, then?’ He was thoroughly annoyed with me by then.

But those were not really funny questions, and my objective was not to irritate the child. I only wanted to check if he blindly memorizes facts, or he applies his mind as well. Obviously, the weight of the earth has to be with all the animals and trees in it, because they grew out of the absorbing food materials from earth itself. They did not fall from the sky. And by the same logic, the weight cannot increase when somebody is born — because a baby grows by absorbing food materials which come from earth anyway.

In the information age, trivia is indeed trivial. In the information age, there is no point competing with Google. We must do what we can do better than Google — making sense of the information.

This Children’s Day, let’s pledge to eliminate rote learning


Rote-learning goes deeper than what most people understand. It is not just about memorizing dates of battles and formulas of science. Sir’s article in the Hindustan Times.

If your child knows the names of the capitals of countries, but do not know why countries need capitals, then it is rote-learning.If your child knows the names of the capitals of countries, but do not know why countries need capitals, then it is rote-learning. 

 

Every year on Children’s Day, we talk about how special our children are – how innocent, how curious, how creative, how full of possibilities.

Then, during the rest of the year, our school system works relentlessly towards destroying the same curiosity, creativity and immense potential. This happens due to our system’s emphasis on memory-driven learning – called ‘rote-learning.’

You may think that memorizing was something that was done in the past era. In our generation, we eliminated it. We have repeatedly said that learning must be joyful. Our educationists have routinely theorized that children must think for themselves.

Why is it then our education system is still not teaching our children to think? Why do we rank at the bottom of international tests like PISA or TIMMS? Why do most of our young population remain unemployable?

It is because rote-learning is a widely condemned, but poorly understood evil. We may pay lip service about eliminating it, but it is still very much present in every classroom, textbook, and exam paper.

Rote-learning goes deeper than what most people understand. It is not just about memorizing dates of battles and formulas of science. Whenever we switch off our brains and perform an activity without thinking, it is rote-learning. When we recite facts but do not question them, it is rote-learning. When we can only solve specific problems that we encountered before, but cannot draw a general lesson from them, it is rote-learning as well.

Right at the KG level, if you teach your child to copy numbers neatly in good handwriting – it is rote-learning. We see a lot of children of age 4-5 who can spell ‘forty-nine,’ but cannot tell if 61 is bigger than 49. In most schools, numbers are not taught as quantity – but as pictures or words.

At the primary level, the same problem continues. Multiplication tables are memorized as rhymes. Memorizing three times four is twelve is same as memorizing Baa Baa Black Sheep. In English too, students can read the stories that came in their textbooks, but cannot read unseen passages of similar difficulty level.

If your child knows the names of the capitals of countries, but do not know why countries need capitals, then it is rote-learning. If your child can read ‘Elephant’ because that word came in her alphabet book, but cannot read a simpler phonetic word like ‘Just,’ that too is a sign of rote-learning.

When you are celebrating the winner of a quiz show, you are in effect celebrating rote-learning and glorifying the tradition of memorizing trivia. When a parent asks his four-year-old to recite a poem to impress the relatives who came for a visit, we are subtly furthering the rote-learning culture.

Rote-learning goes beyond memorizing facts and figures. We see a lot of parents obsess over their children’s handwriting. Handwriting is a repetition-driven activity that does not require thinking – so that is rote learning as well.

More importantly, in future we may not have much use of that skill, so why obsess over it?

Just as rote-learning has many facets, it has many types of ill-effects. Killing the joy of learning is the most obvious one. But more importantly, unthinking, memory-driven learning rusts our brain – and the society pays the cost.

When we grow up and become part of society, we unthinkingly believe in prejudices. When we join the workforce, we do not think and innovate. When we become parents, we subject our children to the same unthinking quest for marks and degrees – because we never learnt to question established practices.

We get easily brainwashed by media, advertising and government propaganda – because we have been told in our childhood that printed words are sacred, not to be questioned, but to be committed to memory. As a result, we live in an era of fake news and WhatsApp forwards. We cannot become meaningful participants in a democracy, because we have learnt to follow, not to question.

Often our young are unable to join the workforce because their formative years have been wasted in unthinking memorization and not in gaining useful skills. Poverty and large-scale unemployment are often causes of social unrest and petty crimes.

To counter those, we must promote thinking and skill building in our curriculum. The first skill we must prioritize, at our homes and in schools, is reading. As teachers and parents, we must encourage our children to read widely.

Instead of reading a 50-page textbook many times over the year, let them read 50 different story-books throughout the year. We have all learnt to read by reading newspapers, magazines, novels – why not replicate that process in schools and at home?

In math and science, we must stop pushing laws and formulas down the throat of children. We should rather teach them to think. Why not get them to solve Japanese puzzles like Shikaku and Nonogram which can stimulate their brain? The focus should be on solving new problems every day, rather than practising routine problems for exams.

Whatever be the subject, we must teach our students to question, rather than memorize facts. Instead of talking about dates of battles, we can explain why battles happen between countries. Instead of asking them to memorize the name of Russian currency, why not tell them how currencies evolved, from gold coins to bitcoin?

As adults, we learn a lot from good literature and great movies. We learn from other people. We learn by travelling to distant places. Why not replicate some of those processes? Instead of using boring textbooks, why not use movies as a learning tool?

Textbooks are the enemy of true learning. While teaching Indian history, why not show our students ‘Bharat Ek Khoj,’ the celebrated series made by Shyam Benegal? While teaching about Russian Revolution, why not use George Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’?

If schools refuse to be creative, parents should take the lead. Instead of taking your child to another private tuition, talk to her about today’s news, watch a movie with her, or read a book together.

This Children’s Day, let’s pledge to be more aware of this evil. Let’s work towards eliminating it. If schools are not doing their job, we as parents must do it ourselves. We owe it to our society. We owe it to our children.

What’s wrong with our learning apps?


Most of the EdTech is dead wrong. Sir explains why.

If you go to the Google Play store and search for the top education apps, you are unlikely to notice anything unusual. But delve deep into the top apps and read their description, and you will see that they contain marketing pitches like:

  • Complete syllabus coverage for classes 4–12, Chapter wise tests
  • Preparation for IITJEE, CAT, AIPMT
  • Mapped as per the CBSE, ICSE curriculum
  • Best app for exam preparation
  • Current affairs and GK for IAS and SSC

Technology-driven education is supposed to be the future of education. But do these apps sound futuristic at all?

We always complain about our ailing education system which does not prepare our children for life. We complain about our obsession with exams, our rigid boards and obsolete curriculum which put India at the bottom of the international tests like PISA. After all that whining, it is indeed sad that the future of education — technology-aided learning — is also firmly rooted in the past with its unthinking focus on curriculum, boards and exams.

Technology puts more power in our hands. It enables us to do anything faster, smarter and better. But the question is — do we want our technology to help us do the wrong things faster and better? Do we want our educational apps to help us run even faster in the backward direction? Do we want our technology to deliver the same content that put us at the bottom of the world education rankings, creating a pool of unemployable youth — so much so that our PhDs sometimes apply for peon positions?

Most of the educational apps and software available in Indian market now have the wrong focus. They are often an online, self-learning version of the textbooks — helping our children to memorize better, prepare for the exams better. Most of them do not focus on skill-building, which is really the need of the hour.

In addition, most of the apps do not even exploit the full power of technology. Most do not feature adaptive learning — where the app figures out the skill level of the student continuously and serves problems of appropriate difficulty. Most of the math apps have pre-fed, limited number of sums, rather than exploiting the ability of technology to generate unlimited sums algorithmically. Almost none of them use big data to benchmark performance and skill levels of the large population of students.

We do not need those textbook replicas, masquerading as apps. We must have cleverer, smarter educational apps that address the skill-gap in our curriculum, rather than mapping themselves to the outdated syllabus. In 2018, let’s hope to see some great apps/software in some of these areas:

1. Logical reasoning: Japanese puzzles like Sudoku, Shikaku, Nonogram etc. can help build logical reasoning abilities in children. In addition, they are a lot of fun as well! While the app stores are full of Sudoku apps, there is almost no Sudoku app focusing on children, serving Sudoku in smaller, 4×4 or 6×6 grids.

Similarly, puzzles like Multiplication Kakuro can really help children learn calculation along with improving their reasoning skills. I hope in 2018 we get to see a lot more apps in the Play Store mixing calculation and logic.

We must have apps that help skill-building, rather than exam preparation

 

2. Reading: Reading is the most elemental skill, but I see almost no app/software in the market that focuses on development of reading skills.

Reading is very amenable to self-learning. Most of us developed reading skills by reading books, magazines and newspapers. I can imagine an adaptive program using the same principles cleverly. It can have a large number of stories and passages of varying difficulty, along with exercises and hints. The stories and passages can be served to the students based on the skill level of the student, which is constantly gauged by the program. Instead of addictive social media apps, it will be great if we have an addictive reading program!

It is not just our technology that needs to get smarter. Our educators need to get smarter as well. With all due respect, a lot of the principals are not particularly tech-savvy. Sometimes the old-guard masks their lack of comfort with technology with a holier-than-thou approach. They take a stand that all technology is harmful, and we must have a teacher-centric education rather than technology-aided education.

But it’s not really an either-or debate. We need teachers who can be mentors to our children, who can interpret the complex world to them, connect concepts and diagnose learning difficulties. But such teachers are rare breeds. Most teachers spend their time doing repetitive tasks — checking homework, giving sums on the board, giving ineffective explanations. Those tasks can and must be replaced by technology. In the future world, you should be a teacher only when you can do tasks that an algorithm cannot.

If we have principals who are more technology savvy, they will do more than turning their classrooms into so-called smart-classes. The true smart-schools must teach their children how to communicate through email, how to create and deliver presentations using PowerPoint, and how to do research using online resources, rather than just submit copy-paste projects. Those smart-schools will also talk to their students about the evils of technology: the ills of social-media addiction, the spread of fake news, and the danger of online trolling and harassment.

The true smart-schools will also go beyond learning-apps and will embrace technology in numerous other ways. Maybe they will have a Twitter handle for each student and teacher, which could become a lively forum for exchanging ideas. Maybe they will encourage the children to maintain their personal blogs for expressing opinions. Maybe they will have their students manage the school’s technology infrastructure. Maybe they will even teach their children to code, right from the middle school itself.

Technology is going to transform our lives, and education is a preparation for life. So we cannot have a limited vision of how technology should be used in schools. As we usher in the new year, let’s bring in a new mindset towards technology too, a mindset that goes beyond the learning-apps and smart-classes.

Building scientific mindset in kids more important than pushing them to study science


In order to make the world kinder, we need to encourage kids to question everything and not blindly believe what they are told. This is Sir’s article which was published in The News Minute.
 Screen Shot 2018-02-26 at 12.05.37 PM 

We Indians are curiously contradictory: We want our children to be scientists and engineers, but, at the same time, we do not do much to nurture in them a scientific mind.

We ask them to do bow down before gods prior to exams, we make them wear astrological gems and charms to ‘improve’ their health and school performance, and we teach them to unquestioningly obey authority, be it teachers or elders.

As a society, we are crazy about ensuring our children have a career in science and engineering. But this is the same society where rationalists are killed, riots happen over religion and marriages are fixed based on the alignment of planets.

We must understand that the first step in learning science is to evaluate everything through the prism of evidence – starting with our deepest prejudices and beliefs, and, yes, also our religion.

Rather than asking our kids to memorize the laws of physics and symbols of chemistry, we should teach them to think rationally and logically. Building scientific temper in children is far more important than teaching science ‘subjects’.

In the school I run in rural Bengal, our first science lesson in Class 6 begins with a letter that celebrated evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins wrote to his then ten-year-old daughter asking her to believe only in evidence, and not in tradition or authority.

In that letter, he traced the root of a lot of our prejudices to our childhood, by writing: “Millions of other people believe quite different things, because they were told different things when they were children. Muslim children are told different things from Christian children, and both grow up utterly convinced that they are right and the others are wrong.”

Too many people all over the world are too willing to be influenced by a passionate appeal made by religion, race and other prejudices – precisely because these beliefs are firmly put in their mind when they were impressionable children. Later, as adults, they are willing to kill for these ideas.

The world will be a better place if our children grow up to have a rational an questioning mindset, shorn of these beliefs. And this counter-effort too must begin in the childhood: at our homes and in our classrooms.

In this, we can again learn from another father who wrote letters to his daughter.

Jawaharlal Nehru, in his letters to Indira during her childhood, talked about how religion came from our fear, and our inability to understand the world based on our limited knowledge. Like him, as teachers and parents, we too must explain to our children how religion originated, and, why in the current world, it cannot dictate all our actions.

We should also talk to them about how our skin-colour is not a determinant of our superiority or inferiority, but a reflection of the climate in which we have evolved. We should show them the ridiculous caste-based matrimonial ads, and talk to them about how the caste-system was a tool for maintaining a cruel hierarchy of power.

In a society which goes crazy over babas and charlatans every once in a while, it is also important to talk to our children about people who claim to know our future and can perform miracles. We should tell our children that our lives are determined by a complicated interplay of our genes, environment and circumstances – and it is so complex and random that no astrologer can ever predict the future and no miracle worker can magically transform it.

These topics may seem a little too grown-up for teachers to discuss with children – but they are not. Contrary to our belief, children do not need a sanitized ‘kid-friendly’ version of the world. They are more eager to listen to rational explanations than fairy tales.

Building a scientific mindset is not the only way to eliminate prejudice and hate. Rationality can also come in through the back door – through empathy.

If we feel empathetic towards the ‘other’ we start questioning what was it about them that made us hate them so much in the first place. That may prompt us to examine our deep-rooted beliefs, leading to a scientific mindset.

The correct sort of movies can be effective tools to build empathy. Great literature can also help. Maybe we should expose our children to such movies and literature in our classrooms. That might go a long way in countering bigotry and hatred, leading to a rational mind.

We can also show them movies like The Pianist to make them understand how racial prejudices, taken to its extreme absurd conclusion, can ruin everyone. Maybe we can show them Hotel Rwanda to show how rulers pitted Hutus and Tutsis, similar people with shared history, against each other for their own selfish interest. Maybe we can make our children read Rohinton Mistry’s ‘A Fine Balance’ to understand the plight of untouchables.

Instead of obsessing over their scores in the science subjects, we should first try to build scientific temper in our children. Only then we can build a kinder world, which is less prejudiced, less bigoted and less violent.