Sunday, 20 June 2010

Education, corruption and money

One of the great joys of experiencing a new culture, a new place, is that practically every conversation I have is with a new, different person who brings their own perspective to the views and opinions I have formed myself and gleaned from others.

Three things seem to dominate conversations. That may be of course because I ask about them, but many thoughts and opinions are volunteered.

The first is education in India. Practically everyone I talk to is in despair at the standard of state run schools, especially in the North and East. I heard horror stories when I was in Dalhousie in Himachal Pradesh. The standard of teachers is low and all of them are terrified that the children will not pass their exams. If this doesn't happen they are sacked and sent to another school in the back of beyond. So they show the answers to the children before they sit the exams and even then if they don't reach the pass mark of 30%(!), they give the children a certificate to say they have passed. The children therefore leave school with certificates but little or no real knowledge and think that the way to succeed in life is to cheat. They apply for jobs and are amazed that employers don't take them on when it's discovered they can't read, write or do basic maths.

The second is corruption. Everyone says that corruption is endemic here from the little favours that are asked for to do a small job or provide a certificate to the very top of Government. Even if all this isn't true, there's a belief that it is and therefore it might as well be true. It's a cancer that is preventing a properly functioning society and despite India being the largest democracy in the world, whichever political party comes to power, it makes little difference to the levels of corruption. It's like the education. Cheating and buying favours is what people have been taught to do.

The third is money. The last two generations since Gandhi's death have set money as the goal, the be all and end all, the one thing to strive for in life. As in practically every country, this is fuelled by television which shows the latest gadgetry and instant comfort available if only this or that product is bought. It's short term gain of money that matters. And if you can get it without working and by cheating then that's the way to do it.

There are of course those who fight against this and there are many of them. But there is a sense of despair that it is too late, that the cancer has caught hold and all that can be done is to await the inevitable end.

What comes after the fire has burnt out is the critical thing. Thankfully there are many people here and around the world innovatively developing different ways of living with values that are based on long-term, sustainable, holistic growth, where the short-term fix is anathema. It's difficult to know whether to hope that the fire starts soon and we can go through the crisis and move on or we live with what we have as well and for as long as we can, getting whatever comfort is available.

I want to correct one thing from a previous post. The Indian government has now repealed the old British law making homosexuality illegal. However, individual States can still have their own banning regulations.

1 comment:

  1. So much to think about and 'The White Tiger' springs back to mind. The worrying thing is that your three points - education, corruption and money - are fast becoming equally problematic in the so-called developed world. But that's what you are telling us, I feel, or more to the point, that's where the rot started. It can't just be human nature, can it? Poverty? progress, greed? Let's live with what we have, and hope, and work towards a different way of living. Next time I arrive on these shores, I will not bribe the immigration official in order to avoid a two hour wait. I'll wait and elegantly faint in the heat. Maybe.