TECH TALK: Multi-Model Minds: The Early Years

To understand why we do not easily open ourselves to multiple mental models, it is necessary to for us to understand the education process of our formative years. In school, we are taught many different subjects ranging from languages (three in my case English, Hindi and Marathi) to maths, sciences (physics, chemistry and biology) and the social sciences (history, geography and civics). Yes, there was also some exposure to things like baking (!) and PT (physical training). On paper, it is a broad education. But in reality, it is narrow and deeply flawed.

For me, much of the focus of my school education was on ensuring that I learn to do well in the exams. After all, the tenth standard results would determine my future I had to get into a good college. After that, I would have to take the various entrance exams in two years which meant that the first year junior college was an easy year. So, the emphasis was more on cracking the exams in school, college, and in my case, IIT. (That I gave up trying to crack the tests in IIT is a different story!)

From the generation that I talk to today, things are even worse. Coaching classes have created a parallel system to the schools and colleges. I too had joined coaching classes in 1983-84 but it was only for the twelfth standard and preparation for the IIT exams. I recently saw an ad that advertised coaching classes for students in hold your breath the seventh standard. Every vacation from the tenth standard on is used to attend coaching classes preparing for the twelfth standard entrance tests. Even for that rare student who does not want to join the coaching classes, a combination of peer pressure and lack of quality teaching in schools and colleges (because the best teachers are now mostly to be found doing the coaching) can cause even the bravest of students to wilt.

The result is a double-whammy: not only have we taken away free time from our younger generation when they need it most to explore and learn in their own way, we have also strait-jacketed the teaching process along a very narrow, one-way street. Little wonder that we then end up becoming a nation mostly of outsourced service providers than the innovators. (Well, admittedly this is a distant conclusion to draw, but I cannot help thinking that the education that we are increasingly getting in India is closing minds rather than opening them.)

The education we get or put ourselves through determines for the most part how we think and act later in our lives. While it is possible to undo the effects of a limited education, it is not only difficult but during the process we end up impacting many others with a set of possibly flawed decisions. [To a large extent, the poverty and abject infrastructure that we see around us in India is the direct result of two results of inadequate education both by people in position of authority in India since Independence, and the largely illiterate masses who put them in their positions with their votes.]

Tomorrow: My Mind

TECH TALK Multi-Model Minds+T

Published by

Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.