Be formless, shapeless like water. Now you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot. Now the water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend-BRUCE LEE, The Lost Interview, 1971
This is the season of results. I am not talking about election results but the results of high school and intermediate students in the country. On one side marks of the students are skyrocketing touching 90 to 99 percent and on the other side, around 22 students of Telangana Board of Intermediate Education (TBIE) has committed suicide because they were failed or did not get expected marks due to some goof-ups in giving marks by the board. Recently, one Delhi woman’s Facebook post became viral as she was feeling proud when her son scored 60% marks in high school examination of CBSE board. Not only this, as per the recent ASER report 2018, 75% of the Std III students of the government schools across the country can not read and perform basic calculations. It shows the grim picture of the Indian education system. In fact, this is the key idea of this book written by Ashish Jaiswal, a scholar from the University of Oxford and a humble and down to earth human being.
The title of the book is so intriguing that I had not thought in my wildest dream that the author is going to be discussing the education system of India. How the Indian education system is creating rote learners, unemployable and unskilled graduates? There is one more peculiarity how the so-called best education system provided by IIT-IIM and foreign degrees creating money minting machines who have no concern and responsibility for the “Lok Kalyan” means public welfare the term used by the author in the book to answer the question- ‘what should be the ultimate purpose of our life’? The sad example of this rat race also mentioned by the author in the book is the suicide of Sarveshresthra Gupta who committed suicide because of the stress and work pressure despite graduating from Ivy League colleges.
Why India despite being the oldest civilization in the world is still behind its counterparts at various fronts? Why no Indian university has achieved the feat of the best rankings in the world ? Why there is a massive “brain drain” from India to western countries? Why we are still talking about poverty elimination in our country even after seven decades of Independence? Why our education system are not able to produce more number of people like E. Sreedharan(Metro Man), Amartya Sen and Rabindranath Tagore and producing mediocre engineers, doctors and social scientists. Why do we Indians still feel inferior to western people in culture, language and heritage of our country? There might be a number of reasons for these questions. But I am confident of one reason that the way Indian education system evolved over the years is one of the most important reasons which drags India behind. Why this is so?
The book ‘fluid’ answers the question. Being fluid means be more than what you are taught to be. As per the author, you become fluid specialist when you explore the universe in integrative form, learn from your surroundings and take the inter-disciplinary approach to create knowledge and wisdom. How anti-fluidity in terms of compartmentalization of the streams of the subjects taught in the school has made us unimaginative? We are told to choose our specialization after 10th when we are hardly aware of the world around us. Choose science and mathematics and your life will be set. Go for engineering or medical or commerce, you can earn good money. Go abroad and earn in US dollars. Nobody tells us, “follow your passion and do something for the greater good”. Not only this, when you want to explore the world or you want to take a gap in your studies, this decision is looked down upon by the society in general and family in particular. The author has mentioned about Rene Descartes, father of modern Western philosophy who once left his education for the sake of travel. He is the one who wrote- ‘I think, therefore I am’.
In fact, the author has showed how the whole theory of right-brain and left-brain is complete non-sense. The author has quoted Neil deGrasse Tyson, american astrophysicist who completely rejected this theory saying that these fake divisions between science and art is taking our civilization away from true learning. Charles Percy Snow, British scientist and novelist in his book, ” The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution” highlighted the huge gap between those studying sciences and arts and concluded that lack of exposure to other academic circles led to hostile and having a distorted image of each other. The sheer categorization of subjects into STEM and non-STEM shows the stereotype mindset towards social sciences subjects.
This book tells us to be fluid in our approach to learning. Unforced learning is the most beautiful thing. It not only makes you a better person but also gives you various perspectives to understand the world. The author of the book has mentioned many learned and famous people like Charles Darwin, Aristotle, Leonardo Da Vinci, Goethe, Amartya Sen, C V Raman, Peter Geddes, Frank Lloyd Wright, Edwin Land, Steve Jobs, etc who did not follow a set path and explored the universe and exposed themselves to diverse fields of education. The fluid approach which was depicted in the form of charkha(wheel) by the author appreciates the ‘integrative nature of the universe’. In the era of digital technology and artificial intelligence, when there will be more monotony and job losses, as per the author, the people who are fluid in their approach will have more chances to survive because of their exploratory nature and never-ending desire to challenge the defined boundaries.
One of the most important findings of the author is that India should get credit for Da Vinci’s Vitruvian man. The undiscovered Hans Purush from Vishnudharmottaram Puranam mentioned by Rishi Markendeya was one of the perfect men discussed in the Purana. In fact, the author wants to stress the point that human knowledge is circulatory. The world has been benefited not by one single country or race but by the combined intelligence of all spread over the thousands of years. For instance- architectures around the world are the best example of combined intelligence and cultures of humanity. The best example mentioned by the author is our India Gate which not only incorporated western architectural influences but also the elements of Indian architecture in terms of the dome on the top and canopy structure in front. That is why Indians should not feel inferior of their history, culture, language, etc because we have a lot more to offer the world not only with respect to new knowledge but also we are the one who gave the world the idea of spiritualism and simplicity.
In fact, this book is a culmination of out-of-the-box thinking. The author has tried to challenge the stereotypes and challenges us to confront the boundaries built by society. He wants us to be a learner who explores the universe, get inspired by the surroundings and create a melting pot of intelligence to work for the betterment of the society. However, I also think that in just 210 pages, the author has said too many things which the reader might not be able to digest. Most importantly, as a public policy student, I always look for solutions. I agree with the author that there are so many issues in approach towards education but what are the solutions. How can we inspire everyone to be fluid in their approach?
Please find the author, Ashish Jaiswal’s Comment on the review of the book:
Dear Ritambhara, The review reads absolutely fantastic. It does summarises ‘fluid’ brilliantly. I also do understand the importance of your last line – the question. Our mind is an amazing construct. My learning journey has taught me that every dimension of knowledge for mind is locked inside a web just held together by a loose knot. A idea/thought/reflection/event/experience , if powerful enough, causes that knot to open. This is the beginning but most crucial step in acquiring any wisdom. Fluid is that first step in acquiring wisdom over multi-dimensionality. Once, you realise there is something like fluidity in specialisation , you will never go back to walking on a uni-dimensional path 🙂
The tweet about this review is here:
Why Indian education system is not able to produce the people like Gandhi, Tagore, Amartya Sen and E Sreedharan but producing mediocre engineers, doctors and social scientist? Do read this review to find out. https://t.co/736f2tmGGv— ritambhara (@ritambhara4) May 12, 2019