Rethinking Education

A few days ago, Atanu and I spent a full day meeting with people who are in the education space. We discussed a diverse set of topics around education. What came out clearly was that there are two distinct approaches.

One approach is to work within the current system and see what best can be done. It assumes that the legacy that exists will be very hard to change — everyone has a vested interest in keeping things the way they are. Parents are not keen to take risks with their kids, the ones in the education business would prefer to stick to the status quo since they are already in the business, the government seems to be quite happy with the way things are, and the kids don’t have much of a choice anyways.  So, even as some of us believe that the current education system needs a dramatic revamp, it is not easy to figure out where to begin. (Perhaps, there isn’t an entrance at all for those not already in.)

The second approach, advocated by Atanu, is to create a parallel system from scratch — encompassing K-12 and beyond. This thinking starts with the belief that the current education system is fatally flawed and there is no way to apply band-aid. What is needed is a new system, a new standard. And there will be early adopters among parents and kids who will be drawn to this new system.

My personal vote goes for the second approach. The world has changed a lot, especially in the past couple decades, and the simplicity that needs to be there in the education system has vanished. One hears of kids as young as two and three years going for coaching so they can get into the preferred school of their parents. IIT coaching now starts in the sixth standard. It is reaching ridiculous heights (or lows). And then look at  the quality of the product that comes out of this system.

Education needs disruptive innovations if India has to benefit from its demographic dividend.

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