July 2006: San Francisco Aquatic Park:
As I was strolling through the Sharks section, I noticed a 12 year old boy keenly making observations & notes by intermittently shooting questions at the curator… I paused, listened and learnt from the lad that his goal in life was to become a shark scientist and he was there to pursue his passion during summer vacations ! What a goal clarity & dedication towards his ambition, I thought… my brother later told me that this is a very common trend among high school students in the US !
Cut to : January 2020:
I was at a Residential School near Palasa town in Srikakulam district of Andhra Pradesh… The school management requested me to interact with their 10th graders and motivate them for their upcoming board exams… As an intro, I asked each of them to state their goals in life and more than 50% of them fell into stereotypical categories of Engineering, Medicine, Business Management etc. with no awareness about even the specializations available in each field of study…
There were a few who declared their intent to be businessmen, as they already had a family business to take care ! “Then why come to school at all & waste your time… instead you should have spent time learning the nuances of your family business from your elders …” I teased them ! They gaped at me bewildered… as they never thought about that option, though I would never advocate that approach in any individual’s growth path !
Schooling & University education was once upon a time aimed at preparing individuals for life ! Gradually, competition in global markets led to preparing individuals for careers ! But, as if to only enable survival of the fittest, our education system has unfortunately not been designed, till date, to reach the last individual in the classroom or in the society – as to train each one of them to find their rightful place under the Sun ! Academicians sit in ivory towers and decide what students should learn, to fit into their job requirements, without paying any attention to how the learning has to take place, in order to reach every student in the classroom and churn out effective & efficient leaders or workforce that uplift their economy ! Most Students in schools & colleges in third world economies, hardly appreciate what is being taught to them in classrooms, as they cannot even relate to that knowledge – as they have never observed or experienced it in their everyday life ! It’s like teaching people how to swim without even giving them an opportunity to enter the water !
Industry-Education interface is an essential part of learning not only for students to appreciate & understand what they are learning, but also gain a hands-on-experience & also inspiring insights into what is being taught to them ! … Maybe the lad I had met in San Francisco in 2006, has probably changed his mind after high school and went on to study medicine at university… but he would have definitely done that with a complete know-how, after practically living out the life of a shark scientist, that he dreamt of being – even while studying at high school ! Now, Contrast this guy – with some of our IITians in India, who are already dreaming of becoming something else, even before completing their Engineering graduation – for they have never had an opportunity to taste the pudding – even before their grand preparations for the making of the pudding began and they are stuck with it now for a life time ! Neither the employee nor the employer is happy in this situation… and I always wonder why the Industry doesn’t come out in a large way to invest their time & energy in their very future resources in schools & universities !
Vinaayaka Kalleetla, is the CEO and Founder Director of Abhyasa International Residential School. Honored to have been awarded with a distinction of featuring among the “Asia’s 100 Greatest Leaders” in 2017 by the Asia One Magazine in the education category, the multi-talented and versatile entrepreneur is also a Film Director at Tollywood.