THE BLOG
07/31/2013 05:35 pm ET Updated Sep 30, 2013

What Is the Biggest Challenge In Indian Education?

When we were young, we had so many aspirations of becoming doctors, engineers, astronauts, etc. Whenever we used to discuss the various career options with our parents, we only heard one thing: To become what we want, we need to work hard and specialize. For example: If one wants to become a neurosurgeon, he/she must finish MBBS first, then MD and maybe a degree further before they can be called a specialist in neuroscience. It is true that to become proficient or making a significant impact in a one field, one must have a background or experience relevant to it. Sadly, that's not what most people think when it comes to education.

I believe education is the one of the most pressing problems in India and education is also the easiest to access sector. In the past few years, the role of non state stakeholders in education has been phenomenal. Many investment bankers, engineers, private equity analysts, consultants, hedge fund managers, etc have left their careers and ventured into education. But it really amazes me is when some of these people who have never been a teacher throughout their life or even taught in a classroom are given awards like Best Education Leader, The woman/man who will change the landscape of Indian education, etc. We have heard a lot of challenges that education is facing but this one challenge has been undermined: The so-called education leaders not having any experience/background in education.

Sector leaders should be persons who have been there on the ground for long, have experienced real challenges by working in a school setting or a classroom and have worked with children directly for a long time. The biggest myth flowing across all education sector enthusiasts is that being on the advisory board of few non-profits / education organizations will make you understand all about the real education problems in-depth. Many of these education conferences and events that happen all across India invite big company CEOs, MDs of banking companies and Investment Bankers who have just ventured into education to speak on real education problems, landscape of education in India, education reforms our country needs ,etc.

I really want to tell them that I respect and truly admire their decisions to leave their careers and work in education but their knowledge about education is not as deep as it should ideally be, given that they are termed as education leaders. I say this based on doing a keen research of all written articles, blog posts and talks given by CEOs and MDs who have ventured into education recently. Their view of education is based on a generalist view rather than an expert view. The disturbing part is that on reading quite a few of the large-scale research reports prepared and released by top think tanks, I noticed that even these reports missed vital issues and made their reports on the basis of the marketed data instead of digging deep.

Let me compare the scenario to an Indian family. In families, parents work hard and sacrifice their savings so that their children could achieve and make it big in life. But that doesn't mean that we don't recognize the parents' hard work and efforts. We always do. Similarly, people who have been on the ground for a significant time, have taught in a classroom setting for a few years and have dealt directly with the kids should be the kids in a family. The CEOs, MDs, investment bankers, policy associates, hedge fund and PE managers should be the parents supporting their kids (the teachers, activists, grass root level workers and principals) with their support and experience and their hard work and efforts would indeed by recognized.

The real education leaders and decision makers of education should be the ones who have spent a significant time working in schools and classrooms directly. It's a great disservice to passionate teachers and principals who have spent their entire lives working with children but are never recognized, whereas people without any real experience get awarded just on the basis of their fancy degrees and impressive credentials. I have always believed that if you want to work in education, just go and teach in a classroom. Teaching Grade 3 in a government/ private school in New Delhi for 1 year would give you more in-depth knowledge about educational issues than sitting on the advisory boards of 50 different education NGOs of the country. As a conclusion, I respect and admire every person who dedicates their time to improve the education scenario in the country but sometimes, we miss out on a lot of aspects due to sheer ignorance. Although I have just taught for a mere 2 years, my advice to all education sector enthusiasts is that a classroom is the best advisory board and the kids are the best mentors/advisors for anybody who wants to improve the education scenario of our country.