Fostering a Scientific Spirit and making Education a Tool for Learning – a Far Cry in today’s India

The country must “embrace science more fully” and “change its education system from emphasising learning by rote to gaining knowledge”, says a recent Editorial in one of the leading national dailies, “if it has to recover from the pandemic and to thrive again.” One couldn’t agree more. However, That’s a tall order for a country that is not even sure what ‘science’ means. 

In fact, the odds are too high to even talk about Science these days. First of all, our leaders are hardly sure as to what science actually means. And when the leaders are a confused lot, what can one expect from the ‘teeming millions’?

If the newspaper reports are not the handiwork of the sickular commies, scores of ruling party leaders believe – and have the ‘courage of conviction’ to proudly announce – that anything related to the cow – except for its flesh – is a panacia for all sorts of diseases. According to this school of science, drinking cow urine and bathing in cow dung water followed by milk is a divya medicine for COVID. And it works!

The whole world is lining up and getting shots of various vaccines as a shield against the pandemic. However, as reported in respectable Indian newspapers, some of them belonging to the Times of India Group, thousands of people in Gujarat are gathering in front of cow shelters for the urine-dung concoction. At least some of them should have had some education!

Other mass leaders prescribed that a dip in the Ganga will cure all diseases. The result is here for all of us to see.   Yet others have made a great research and have found the “frequencies of various diseases” as well as “frequencies of different acts of piety and positive thinking (that is the latest fad)” in Mega Hertz,  and have prescribed that raising one’s “positive vibrations” (what that mambo jumbo means only they know) beyond the frequency of the disease, one can defeat all ailments COVID included. 

Such research papers are in circulation among peers of the WhatsApp University and are being forwarded and re-forwarded with gusto.  I guess, since this “science” has so much acceptance, it will be much better – and cheaper too – for the government to import vibrators (don’t get me wrong – there are vibrators of types other than the intimate ones) rather than ventilators, which don’t work anyway. 

“Learning by rote”?  Well, our education system, at least up to graduation level,  is geared towards ‘cracking’ various competitive examinations – for admission into engineering, medicine and other professional streams, or to become – for those in the next rung – an officer of the Administrative, Police, Revenue or Foreign Service.  Yes, in that order. 

Go through the questions asked by young people in Quora.  Most of them are – “What’s the salary of an entry-level IPS officer”? “Who is more powerful, the SP or the DM”? “What are the allowances of a Foreign Service Officer?” “Is a District Judge equally or more powerful as a District Collector?” and so on.

Talks In social gatherings or over phone among moms and dads of college and university kids clearly signify that unless a boy or girl is a student of Engineering (software, preferably), medicine or at least is “preparing” for the civil services, he or she is considered to be substandard. A few years back everyone was pursuing Management courses. That passion or fashion appears to be on the decline.

As a subject, Economics or Accountancy is still ok, but a student of literature, political science, history, linguistics, etc?  “Poor guy. What will he do once he finishes studies? Research? Ultimately a college teacher? That’s a sheer wastage according to Indian moms and dads. 

In such a scenario studying has to be equivalent to memorising. Learning a subject well? That can wait. Meanwhile, there’s Google Master to get some “funda”.

Independent thinking? What’s that? Is it not a fact that our ancestors had given the world mathematics, astronomy, physics, chemistry, biology, and everything else?  Indeed they did; but what happened thereafter? Mostly regurgitation, with some notable exceptions. The launching of satellites, etc., have all been mere continuation of the work done in previous years and are part of the “exceptions”.

I may be lynched for saying this, but our most notable original contribution to science in the last ten years have been the decision to conduct a National Cow Science Examination and invention of cow urine therapy as a cure for Corona Virus infection. With such great strides in science we would surely thrive again.

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