Sundar Pichai, Radhe Ma and Education Policy

20 Aug

Sundar Pichai and Radhe Maa — both a success in their own way. They are rich, famous and have a following. Both are in the news in the same week, Sundar Pichai for being promoted to the head of Google and Radhe Maa, well, for being discovered to be ‘herself’ by TV channels. One does not need to take bets about who got more coverage this week. But for us what was more interesting was that, even in satire, Radhe Maa inspired thoughts of an alternate career in becoming a ‘guru’ or a god person. One would have expected Sundar Pichai’s achievements to have inspired such articles but no, that credit too went to Radhe Maa.

Both are products of the same education system and yet their achievements could not be more disparate. One barely crossed class X and found a vocation for herself. The other climbed the conventional route out of the country and achieved greatness through education and application. Completely different pathways. Then why the comparison? Because from an education system point of view, both of them are equal data points. When a child enters the schooling system, we have no idea whether there is a Pichai, or a Nadella or a Sukhwinder Kaur (Radhe Maa) in there. We drill them all the same, each learns their alphabet and their numbers and they all sit in straight lines. Some rebel, some drop out, some are brought back kicking and screaming and many others submit to the system. Excellence is not necessarily a goal, competitive success in a linear, conventional pro-curricular manner is clearly desirable. The system has rewards for a few and is little help to others. Yet it is a system that has been built for all — to help each child achieve their potential.

If the Indian education system takes credit for Sundar Pichai, it must take credit for Radhe Maa too. Both come from the same system. If we want more excellence to emerge, we need to know what to honour and what to change and these individuals are an excellent test case so start building our question bank. Both model success in different ways. And yet, so utterly different that they stand testament to the fact that universal education cannot be standardised education and that clearly one size does not fit all. One cannot imagine a Radhe Maa and a Sundar Pichai reading the same book for leisure or learning in class VII or class X. Then why would we prescribe the same books for all?

One cannot imagine a Sundar Pichai and a Radhe Maa needing the same kind of skills. Leadership, the ability to persuade, the ability to take a team along, to negotiate a fair exchange and more. Do our schools teach these skills? Every move in a successful career is about dealing with the new and unfamiliar — where do our schools prepare us for this? Repeating the same experience in the same location just with new content is clearly not the education we need to prepare for success.

If we are to seek a new education policy that serves all, then this is our challenge. To prepare both little Sundar Pichai and little Sukhvinder Kaur and others who look up hopefully into a teacher’s face each morning, prepare each one of them for their own success, whatever form it takes. It is stupid, even cruel to expect every child to be a Satya Nadella, or a Sania Mirza or a Saina Nehwal. And yet, one must at least prepare the ground for each of them to leap and then to leap again and again till they have done their best. Whatever their best is – we have to be there till they get there. This is what the ‘New Education Policy’ is really — the mechanism to create the ground and the scaffolding, so that every child in the country can reach out to be the person of their own dreams.

http://blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/educable/india-needs-an-education-policy-that/

India needs an education policy that helps each child achieve their potential

August 14, 2015, 10:07 pm IST in EduCable | India | TOI
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