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Originality lost in exam race

Where are the innovative minds, ask academics

By Subhankar Chowdhury in Calcutta
  • Published 8.11.19, 3:15 AM
  • Updated 8.11.19, 3:15 AM
  • 2 mins read
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Some of the speakers at the panel discussion Bishwarup Dutta

School and college students are trained to chase marks, creating in them an aversion to pursuing the knowledge, participants at an education conclave said on Wednesday.

In the race for marks, most institutions end up producing students who lack analytical skill and original thinking, rued speakers at a discussion on “Higher education: Bridging the skill gap” organised by the Merchants’ Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Seema Sapru, the principal of The Heritage School, stressed the importance of teaching students to listen to questions attentively and start making effective communication.

“There are children who, before you ask a question, have pre prepared answer in their minds. So they are not listening to the question. That’s one thing that happens. Secondly, effective communication. You should be able to comprehend what I am trying to say to be able to communicate,” said Sapru, the inaugural speaker.

She also expressed concern about the tendency to plagiarise. “I know of students who have had to return from abroad because of plagiarism charges in their dissertation,” she told Metro.

Suman Kumar Mukhopadhyay, the director general of The Bhawanipur Education Society College who moderated the session, blamed tutorials for grooming students in a way that they can anticipate questions, thus killing ingenuity and thirst for knowledge. “That is why, the IITs, among India’s best institutes, have not been able to produce a Nobel laureate. Something must be missing somewhere,” he said.

Scientist Bikash Sinha told Metro how analytical skills suffer when a student is groomed on the straitjacketed idea that they have to somehow crack the exam to make it to the IITs and their social standing would drop if they fail.

Students would, till the Seventies, prefer pursuing science even if they secured a berth in an IIT, the former director of Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics said.

“But the pressure of securing a job changed the equation. Several institutes that are good in science, such as IISC, Bangalore, Indian Institute of Science Education and Research offer rewarding career prospects. So students should not always be under pressure to make it to an IIT,” he said.

Prashanta Kumar Das, dean of postgraduate studies and research at IIT Kharagpur, said students are obsessed with the idea of cracking the JEE-advanced, one of the toughest of examinations, by “hook or by crook”. Coaching centres that are doing roaring business arm the students with skills to crack the exam, but do not impart knowledge.

“What is being imparted: how you solve a problem by hook or by crook without understanding things.... When students come for higher education to the institutes, they are already burnt out and do not have the analytical ability to take up things that can bring laurels to the country,” said Das, a professor of mechanical engineering.

John Rafi, the principal of La Martiniere for Boys, cited statistics to suggest how the skill gap among students renders them unemployable.

Father Felix Raj, vice-chancellor, St Xavier’s University, called for more autonomous colleges and private universities so that “institutes can emerge as world class centres of knowledge”.