I introduce myself as a third year student of the Dept. of Electrical Engineering, enrolled in the four year B-Tech program in the School of Electrical Sciences in Indian Institute of Technology, Bhubaneswar. My audience is mesmerised, I am after all a student from the elitist league of technical institutes, the best they say, I say, the country offers. I am proud, my family is, and my friends are. They have always been, because I maintained the “elitist” record all through my formal education. Competition is a word I learnt before I gathered confidence, and learnt the word success before I figured out what I wanted to do with my life. Had to outdo the rest, had to covet the Outstanding Student Award every session, and had to be the best; I understand now, it was what you would call the local best. I marked my own fence peering at how others did theirs. I thought I was gritty enough to sustain the competition, I understand I just had been lucky the competition sustained me.
Life within the hall of fame is a disappointing study; cracking the Joint Entrance Examination was a hallowed ambition, yet here is the first time most of us debate our education system. Here is when we peep into the “pen-sieve” and often find, we have not asked ourselves the right questions. On one of my regular visits to a nearby school, I come across a sulking girl, who on other sunny days is as exuberant as kids should be. She tells she is ashamed to go home because her scores have been poor in a paper; her marks have always been her confidence. I then come across a chattering bunch of todds, and begin a conversation on what they want to be when they grew taller, stronger and sharper. It’s a mix of answers, one who fancies being a geek and work as a scientist, one who wants to paint, one an engineer. These were answers me and my friends gave too, back in the days of tiny benches and building blocks. I am sceptical, how many can cling onto their interests where it is a daily struggle to fight for more marks. Then the bell rings, everyone is reluctant to leave their game and go back into classes. They all sigh, I sigh too. All this when children are the most receptive to learn new things and the best ones to ponder. Show them foam or bubbles from a boiling tube, you can feel their awe. I say this because we felt it too.
But why do we suddenly have something to say in the new found debate of our education system, why now? The early years of our technical education is spent by most waddling clueless, because our coaching institutes did not encourage us to ask ourselves, “What after?”, and we did not ask. I bet a lot of us have lost our inquisitiveness, or for that matter the very interest in technical education. May be because we don’t have a thing to die for now. And, unfortunate that only a trophy will incite us, if at all.