Friday, February 16, 2007


If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things through' narrow chinks of his cavern.” – William Blake.

The future, they say, cannot be predicted. It has never been. Never will be. I started my schooling in the year 1989. The last 17 years of education I received is supposed to be in preparation for my career which will roughly last between 2010 and 2060. In short, I have been preparing for a future without any idea what challenges it holds for me and for the human race. Isn’t it surprising?

The current education system in India as well as throughout the world is rooted in a nineteenth century mindset. The whole approach was such so as to meet the steady demands of industrialization. No wonder topics like mathematics and science are right at the top of the subject hierarchy. And dance and drama right at the bottom. And this trend continues even today. Especially so in India, where the insatiable hunger for manpower from the services sector results in the churning out of thousands of engineers and IT professionals. Among these thousands are quite a few brilliant dancers and actors and artists whose natural urges of creativity have been stymied by the narrow minded perceptions of their elders and society.

If we continue on this path, we stand to lose an unimaginable amount of human capital. More people are graduating now than ever before in the history of the human race. Academic inflation is rampant. Suddenly degrees have become worthless. It’s high time we move away from the present system of education as evidently it is not suited to the needs of the twenty-first century. Now we must value creativity at par with literacy. The current system is such that the worst thing one can do is to make a mistake. But how can one dare to dream and try something new if the constant fear of being wrong lurks round every corner. Children have an extra-ordinary capacity to be inventive. We adults have lost that capacity. Right now we are educating people out of creativity rather than it being the other way round. The current system rewards one’s academic ability. In that case, the superlative human would be a university professor. But we know that’s not the case.

We have to stop equating intelligence to academic ability. There are innumerable cases where brilliant and highly talented people think they are not so. That’s because what they are good at is not valued by their schools and teachers. We need to reconstitute our view of education which should be based on harnessing the immense human ability which surrounds us. We need to incorporate the fact that intelligence is diverse, dynamic and distinct. The current system mines our mind for something very specific. This method will not work for the future.

Let us create a new concept of human ecology which celebrates human imagination. Let’s work towards a system where a child can dance and sing if he wants to. Instead of suppressing his natural talents lets educate his whole being. Let’s open their doors of perception. And then as Blake mentioned, the possibilities are infinite.

Every child is born an artist. But very few remain one as they grow.”- Picasso.

* I am thankful to Sir Ken Robinson’s TED Talk for giving a proper shape and direction to this train of thought.