Education that is sought to be imparted and imbibed through compulsion not only instils fear in the young minds, but also creates resistance, often stoking rebellious feelings. And, in the best-case scenario, such education, churns out degree wielding knowledge warriors who are of no use to the industry due to a version mismatch. The hardware may be state of the art, but the software is antiquated, not industry ready, as the term goes.
Whatever is force fed to our students, is neither digested, nor does it lead to the enlightenment that is sought. We are in fact, encouraging our young to work towards improving their handwritings, even as we know that they will spend their lives, keying in. As the world strides towards Artificial Intelligence, we are turning inwards with a vengeance, stifling creativity, encouraging learning by rote and taking pride in making our young mimic robots. Deliverance lies, not in the tinkering, but a complete system reboot.
And for doing so, we need to do away with the compulsion, the fear that is ingrained in our education system and replace it with excitement. For excitement, will lead to empowerment. Excitement that comes when responsibility is delegated to the students, when they are encouraged to step out of the system of regurgitation and experience the lesson. A process, that the Bhawanipur Education Society College (BESC) is well on way to elevate to the level of a fine art. Mind you, it is easier said than done, one cannot force excitement down the collective throats of students in the same breath that one seeks to replace the compulsory – that will not only be self-defeating, but will be akin to replacing one evil with another. “The entire system has to be voluntary” smiles Prof. Dilip Shah, the Dean of Student Affairs at BESC, one of the key constituents, behind the evolution of what many academicians are hailing as the future of educating our young. The other initiator of this revolutionary system of Exponential Learning being the young and dynamic Miraj D Shah, the Vice Chairman of the Institution.
“As educators, as institutions, our job will be help foster the latent creativity in our students. In doing that, we should try to restrict our role to that of facilitators, wherein we provide the platform and allow students to share the arch-lights. Yes, they do face stage freights. They also stumble. But they are quick to regain composure, for they are secure in their knowledge that the faculty is there in the wings to stop them from falling. Their biggest success is in overcoming their inherent fear of failure.”
Prof Shah puts things mildly. Fact is, BESC, which organises an insane number of events in any academic year, has taken student participation to a whole new level, with every aspect of every event being organised – from concept to communication – by students, often greenhorns getting their first bites into the slice of life as it were. And what a slice – from Greek flea markets to the Model United Nations through signature events that are the crowning glories of the city’s event calendar – Umang, Communique, Dhamaal – events that would do any professional event company proud.
“There have been times when we have committed unpardonable lapses” says a second-year student, who is by now a veteran of many do’s. “And Dilip Sir has not even rapped us on the knuckles, concentrating on setting things right, on putting us back on track. Always taking the flak, even as he gives us all the credit. Academics, hardly. They are more of life lessons. Life changing ones, in fact.”
“Don’t read too much into what the students tell you about me” says the ever-affable Prof Shah, almost reading the student minds. “They have also learnt how to handle the media. The entire credit goes to the management, especially to the young and dynamic Miraj D Shah, our Vice Chairman, who does not only share this vision, but has also allowed me and literally been the Rock of Gibraltar. The connect that BESC is establishing with tomorrow, is thanks to the good work being done by him and the members of our faculty and non-teaching staff. It is not a sniper attack, my friend, what you are witnessing here is an army on the move.”
That is not to say that BESC students are let into the arena to fight things out without proper training. Quite to the contrary, some of the most revered names from their respective domains – be that industry or academia – are regularly invited to the campus to groom students in search of excellence. The number of sessions they conduct – as a rule as opposed to being an exception – is mindboggling. What is even more baffling, to the uninitiated that is, is the fact that attendance to these events are voluntary. “Don’t underestimate the intelligence of the young. They know how to differentiate the grains from the chaff” says Prof Shah, “if you are able to make them attain critical mass, the fission that follow is nothing short of nuclear.” And you thought BESC is all about an endless parade of film stars trying to promote their films and themselves?
This piece was originally written for the Financial Express BFSI 2017.