The Current State of the Indian College-going Student

Reflecting on a recent article by Chetan Bhagat about the under-educated class in India, which he describes as college students, I’ve been compelled to draw from my own three decades of experience with this age group. While Bhagat focuses on the privileged section of this community, it’s essential to address the broader student population and the multifaceted challenges they face. Despite notable examples of student achievement, there is a concerning trend of declining academic standards that demands our collective concern and intervention.

While it’s easy to blame the youth for this situation, it’s not entirely their fault. Parents, educators, and policymakers all play crucial roles in shaping the current ethos. Let’s examine each’s contributions.

Children, as keen observers, absorb both explicit lessons and implicit values and behaviours exhibited by adults around them. From a young age, parents often spare no expense in providing their children with every conceivable comfort, inadvertently fostering a sense of entitlement. This entitlement grows as children get older, fueled by a societal culture that prioritizes instant gratification over hard work and perseverance. Moreover, parents, often overwhelmed by their own distractions and obligations, fail to engage in meaningful conversations or set examples of critical thinking. The dinner table, once a hub for family discourse, now often serves as a backdrop for individuals engrossed in their smartphones, further perpetuating a culture of superficial engagement and intellectual apathy.

How many of us have genuinely tried to engage our children in meaningful discussions about the world, politics, the environment, or any topic requiring deep thought? Aren’t we guilty of focusing on trivial conversations about the latest gadgets, restaurants, clothes, and other superficial matters? Many parents nowadays hand over a gadget to their toddlers to keep them occupied. By encouraging children to consume ready-made content with no effort, do we expect them to pick up a book and engage in activities that require actual mental effort?

Also Read: The Illusion of Equality: Navigating Gender Expectations in Education and Marriage

The educational system is also complicit in perpetuating this cycle of entitlement. Policies influenced by political agendas prioritize short-term gains, such as high grades and university admissions, over the long-term benefits of genuine learning and personal development. The emphasis on rote memorisation and standardised testing leaves little room for creativity, critical thinking, or the cultivation of essential life skills. We place so much emphasis on high grades, but who cares about the life skills that will serve students well in the future? Often, students who score well in exams struggle in life. Why?

Society at large shares responsibility for this pervasive mindset. The relentless pursuit of materialistic gains has overshadowed the value of hard work, ethics, and resilience. Consequently, many young people prioritise immediate rewards over long-term goals, ill-preparing them for the challenges and uncertainties of adulthood. How can we blame only the students when they are part of a system that models a path of quick, materialistic gains that naturally appeal to their immature mindsets?

Meaningful change requires a concerted effort from all stakeholders. It demands introspection, a willingness to acknowledge systemic failures and a commitment to course correction. By prioritising genuine learning, instilling values of hard work and resilience, and fostering an environment conducive to critical thinking and personal growth, we can steer the youth towards a more promising future.

Moreover, the prevailing ethos of providing everything on a platter to children undermines their development of essential life skills. By neglecting to emphasise the value of hard work, education, and determination, we do them a disservice, leaving them ill-equipped to navigate adulthood’s complexities. As a society, we must take proactive steps to rectify these shortcomings before they become further ingrained in our collective consciousness, perpetuating a detrimental legacy for generations to come.

While we excel at making our children literate, we are failing miserably in educating them. This is not the road to a developed India, a Viksit Bharat.

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Hello! I’m Sangeeta Relan. Aside from being an educationist teaching at the university level for the last 28 years, I have been a corporate wife and a mother to two boys who have now flown the nest. I love cooking, singing, travelling and exploring new places.

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