Old School

I have never been an active consumer of branded goods. But this does not mean I’m no admirer of the exclusiveness that gives them their worth. Of course I am. Innate fineness and class define them significantly. And I’m not indifferent to this fact. Still, surprisingly enough, I’m not drawn to the said sanctuary, as a moth is to the flame. I sense a void—a lack of true feeling—a reason that makes me circumvent and sneak past, just glancing at the grand exposition with amazement, apparently, but not wanting to be a part of it, actually. A repulsive mechanism prevails.

With all the might I have, I’ve arrived at a logic which seems befitting to me—the logic of thrill, or of the lack of it, as will be clear in a short while. Here’s how it goes. Whenever people spot someone sporting a hi-fi brand goodie, their first reaction, in general, is that of astonishment, reflecting serious impact, no doubt. But the force behind the astonishment is not thrill—not marvel at the comfort and ease offered by the finest, hand-made fabric; not sensation of the natural, exotic scent of the custom-made cologne; not recognition of the careful shape and ornate design of the minute and hour hands of the rare wrist watch—but rather the amount of money they think would have been spent to acquire the luxury in question. It is this faith in the wrong reason that destroys the whole emotion for me—when things are quantified in terms of parameters that were never meant to measure them.

The purpose of the above analysis is to analogise—that the logic of thrill, or of the lack of it, similarly applies to education. Though the two fields appear far-flung from each other, but then, considering the fact that the entire universe is held together by a common force of enigma, the comparison seems to be valid enough.

That money turned out to be deterministic in the success and spread of education was as obvious (and sensible) in the beginning as is dispiriting now, with riches taking over the reins entirely; and that people surrendering to the same notion even more demoralizing. A tacit (mis)understaning of monetary measures being the lone saviour is widespread.

Hence, moving forth (not exactly ‘forth’, mind you) on identical lines, a funding that amounts to 658.67 billion rupees has been earmarked for education in Mr. Chidambram’s most recent budget—a 17% increase from expected expenditure this fiscal year. Sounds potent? Not really. It is agreeable that an increased education budget could facilitate larger, more soundly furnished classrooms, better equipped labs, and more competitive faculty. But what about the indispensable Element of Eureka which goes neglected when the entire spotlight is on material wealth? What about the intellectual wealth?

What is happening is we are allocating money and resources blindly and increasingly, and alongside, complacently assuming that the desired goals are automatically being taken care of. Once the silver is pooled-in, the responsibility left to supervise that it be well-spent, which in fact is the only responsibility, is shrugged off. In addition, there are no pangs of conscience, because ‘we have played our part—thrown-in the moolah, completed the formalities’. The situation is that of a minister proudly announcing ‘the government has built a school’ and an unheard echo resounding in the background ‘where’s the knowledge?’

Even if a well-read critic counters the view by quoting stats supporting increasing state and national literacy rates, it must not be forgotten that ends could be achieved one way or the other. But education is one such region where means are far more important—they form the foundation for continued endurance through the testing, hazy future. And once that is through, the long-term rewards cannot be denied by any force, be it physical or metaphysical.

To put it plainly, let us not lose track. Let money not do the teaching—let it just remain limited to a supporting character, and not eclipse the protagonist instead. The horizon of truth can be reached only through the boat of knowledge, floating on the waters of which finances form one of the many, varied layers. And I wouldn’t be surprised if that horizon is composed of a Banyan, shading curious, bright-eyed minds, rather than an air-conditioned, state-of-the-art classroom packed with prospective droids.