Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Why Do Malayalees Keep Preferring Padmanabha Dasa's Ten Chakrams?

Yesterday evening while having a usual pleasantry talk between me and my daughter over the cell phone, the issue of school admission for my grand daughter got in to our talks. And that initiated a kind of debate between us which soon was progressing towards an agitated argument that I skillfully put an end to our talks and said good night to her.

My book has taught me why I should not argue more to prove my point lest the truth what I want to convey becomes degraded to the status of an untruth.

Before I go further, it would be prudent to give some background of the issue with my readers.

My daughter, her husband and their five year old child are now in New Delhi. My daughter, who is an MBA had been working as an executive for the past few years before she finally decided to become a housewife to look after her child. Ever since, her most important passion and devotion in life is the upbringing of her child. She would go to any extent to accomplish that, just as any other urbanized middle class Indians. She and her husband want their child to get the best possible education. The only difficulty, as I see it, is their lack of clarity with regard to what they consider as the best education! No doubt, here too, they are no exceptions. The majority of urban or suburban middle class Indian parents now possess this mindset which is the bane of the Indian society, in my humble opinion. They are too willing to be exploited by the clever education entrepreneurs and so-called educationists of India who keep subverting the age old system of education for their own benefits. The aspiration for giving the child the best education is no sin. The definition of 'best education' is the real problem!

So, they have already spend a good fortune to get their child admitted in to one public school in the national capital region in the nursery level. Like all others like them, they have been now brainwashed to believe that spending on education for their child is the best thing that they can do for their child.

The Impressive Gates of a Typical 
Saintly Public School in India 

So, if the schools harass them, they are not much perturbed or they tolerate that without any complaints. 

If the schools charge 150,000 for a nursery level admission, they do not feel it as an exploitation! 

After all how can the schools give good and elite education if they charge only peanuts as fees? They argue! 

They are not disturbed and overtaxed when these schools burden them with heavy home works for the parents (mostly to be taken by the mothers!) and the kids, whose brains and bodies are just in the initial stages of development. For that matter, I have heard about other over enthusiastic young parents (again, mostly the young mothers!) who are too willing to get in to a cesarean to be performed on them to get the child delivered at the most appropriate zodiac time in the hope that their child would become a super human genius at some later stage!

My daughter fortunately understood these things very well. But her problem was the lack of mental strength to resist such evils that are slowly destroying the society in the ways that are never discernible to most of such parents. How could she be the odd woman when the whole society moves in one direction?

Now her worries and anxieties are mounting as her husband has determined to move to Chennai from Delhi to take up a better career there. But the Chennai school authorities are no saints any more. They would not even talk to them unless they are prepared to shell out a huge fortune to get her child a primary class one admission there. The schools bearing the names of the Christian saints are in the forefront now to prove the real meaning of sainthood to all those saint seeking people of India! And saintly schools have mushroomed in large numbers in all nooks and corners of India in the recent times with more and more people are willing to get their children educated there at whatever costs!

I told her to read this recent article that has come in the Outlook magazine online edition recently where the learned author has worked out the present value of the cost of educating your child in India now. 

The author has worked it out at Rs. 42 million for an average education spanning about 22 years in any average saintly schools or similar followed by any average kind of private engineering and management institutes of India. 

If this sum is handed over to the young man or lady after 22 years as a fixed deposit in the bank, it would fetch the young one an interest of nearly Rs.300,000 ($ 5000/-) per month. That is the average annual salary now for any fresh MBA in India who is fortunate to get a job!

If the child is allowed to study in the most humble and inexpensive government owned education system, not only this money would come handy, but also the child would learn things in the most realistic manner that would enable him or her to take up real challenges of life in a better way, the author argues. 

I agree with him fully, because I myself have undergone such an education system and it has given me the outstanding capabilities that I consider as my strength. There were a few among my time who had gone through the so-called elite public school education system imitating the Doon School or other such schools which existed as elite schools in India during the British Raj. No doubt, some of their alumni  have matured up as elitists who are generally considered as having good education. Perhaps they have been good in reciting Shakespearean poetry and might have climbed up the success ladders of professional career due to their better accessibility to receive favors and their connections! But many of them do lack common sense and the real human understanding of life gained from real human experiences!

But my daughter would not agree with me. Neither do any one like her. My children would also not agree the way I myself proceeded to educate them. I stuck to my convictions to the extent possible. I have been always against mushrooming elitist public schools  which I firmly believed as agents that destroyed the social fabric of the Indian society in a subtle manner. These schools caused many children to get developed as individuals with some robotic characteristics, eliminating their natural instincts of creativity and free thoughts!

I am not against private unaided schools or unaided educational institutions with good infrastructural facilities. But education as it stands today is a declared non-profit service in India. And if it is so, it has to remain that way in practice as well. It should not become a clandestine exploitation service for the ignorant society at large!

It should be a mandatory requirement for all educational institutions to publish their income expenditure statements and they should not be allowed to accumulate and divert their excess incomes. They should prove that they are non-profit organizations in practice, if they are registered under that non-profit society umbrella.

On the other hands, the government should allow education entrepreneurs to set up education shops for profit for satisfying the rich and the elites in the society. Let them take any amount of fees that their clients can afford to pay. But it should be a declared policy and not a clandestine arrangement. 

The problem now is of hoodwinking. Some educational institutions hoodwink the gullible parents to believe that they provide the elitist education for ensuring sure shot success of their children. The gullible middle class are forced to believe that the success of the elitist children with parental clicks and connections are the real educational contributions of these so called institutions. Many such institutions are functioning in India in the name of saints and gods, declared as charitable or religious organizations for educational service without any profit making desires whatsoever. But as of now, the reality is some thing very different!

To prove that their education is the best, these educational institutions adopt all kinds of tricks in their arsenal. First they screen the children and the parents in the name of various admission tests. 

They achieve a two fold gain in this process. Firstly, they get the children of better IQs or children of over ambitious parents who are too willing to do any thing to get good marks for their children. Secondly, this ensures better results in the examinations that is the net result of the parents' hard work and the children's better IQ. In this process they screen out all children with any perceivable lack of privileges and showcase the better results as their own achievement. This in turn  ensures a steady stream of parents flocking to such institutions year after year, boosting their financials.

Now what happens in this process? All underprivileged children (underprivileged physically, financially or socially) are naturally denied the opportunity of any reasonable education due to the eagerness of the such schools (read the individuals who manage them!) to maintain their market value. The eagerness in making market value naturally involves creating artificial problems in admissions and troubling the young parents in many ways.

The principals of these kinds of schools have become management agents and not any real and respectable teachers. The teachers have become exploited and overworked individuals who no more have the capacity and ability to be termed as teachers in the real sense! They have downgraded themselves to the status of 'education employees' (शिक्षा कर्मी ) instead of becoming the real and respectable gurus or master guides to their children.

There could be exceptions here and there. But in general, things are moving in a direction that is causing a fast deterioration of the status of the teachers, both in the private and in the government funded institutions, for different reasons!

And what is the final outcome? The inherently good students get screened to be exported to foreign countries to become a generation of second class citizens there in the coming future. Another lot becomes improperly educated ones with distorted moral values to become slavish future citizens of India with no enthusiasm for entrepreneurship. Again, you should excuse me for the generalization!

The majority parents want their grown up children to become employees in some foreign nations or of the government or some other public organizations.  

Middle class parents of India normally do not encourage their children to become self employed or to become entrepreneurs. They want them to become salaried persons of any company or the government at any cost. They are not willing to take any lessons from the successful businessmen and women of India who in the recent past have become successful wealth creators and employment creators. Excepting some, a good majority try to kill any such aspirations of their children! And the Indian education system does not help to improve this mindset of the people in any way.

And job generation is a big problem for a country full of average and non-enterprising minds! The number of employment creators keeps reducing with this kind of a scenario that prevails in India now! India does have immense potentials for employment creation. But the non-enterprising minds of the people do not allow it to happen. The governmental attitudes also create much difficulty.

In my home state Kerala, getting a job of the government (सरकारी नौकरी ) of the king was once upon a time considered as the biggest achievement of any person. The erstwhile kings of Travancore kingdom had the title Padmanabhadasa (പത്മനാഭ ദാസന്‍) . The travancore currency used to the rupee with the chakrams (ചക്രം) and Kashu ( കാശ്) as the coins. A government servant getting ten chakrams monthly was considered as having a higher status in the society and was commonly titled as : Padmanabha dasante patthu chakram pattunnavan. (പത്മനാഭ ദാസന്റെ പത്തു ചക്രം പറ്റുന്നവന്‍) which literally meant the person drawing ten chakrams from the king's treasury in a month as salary. Such a person was given a higher status in society than a trader or farmer who made ten times or more that amount in a month! This was because the government servant, though having a lower income, was having a higher level of education than his money making fellows in general in the past. The respect came from the educational status and not from the wealth status. This was indeed a good thing initially which enhanced the aspiration for education among the people. But the difficulty arose with the people refusing to change with the times!

In reality, this mind set is not limited to the Kerala people alone, but is more or less common with most of the middle class people of many Indian states. Punjab, Haryana, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu could be some exceptions! 

Besides, this mindset caused another problem. The Indian people-the majority of them- are not prepared to honor a person who makes a decent living by self employment or by business. A person who has become successful in business secretly becomes one envied and the envy often got expressed in private by the people calling him some words which meant illiterate fool (अन पढ़ गवार)! Naukary ( नौकरी) or employment and a monthly salary continued as a status symbol among the middle class people of India even now. The status as a salaried employee is perceived as less risky and easy even when the situation has changed much from the olden days!

In such a situation, education has been considered as a tool not for gaining knowledge and culture, but a passport for getting a monthly salary earning employment! 

The educational degree certificates became more important than what has been actually learnt! When the degrees became more and more accessible, people began to look for educational certificates that have some exclusivity in them that could give them some additional status value!

The Indian education system has done hardly anything to change the mindset of the Indian people. On the other hand it has been doing  much to enhance this mindset in the Indian people.

And this is the real curse of the Indian society. If India is not making progress in all fronts simultaneously, it is because of its faulty education system. 

India needs an education system that does not cause further divisions in the already divided society on the basis of education based on any pseudo status. There should be a social awareness campaign that would break the false thoughts of the people and encourage them to view all educational institutions equally. All media efforts to promote some educational institutions as the best or having some higher rating should be shunned while constant efforts are done to improve the standards of all educational institutions and schools on a consistent manner.

Parents having the strength of mind and will power should come forward to promote the government run schools and institutions by sending their wards to such schools and institutions as far as possible.

The unholy alliance between some private companies and some professional institutions in selection and recruitment should stop.

Last but not the least, the educational expenses in the country should be brought under control by decisive actions. No educational institute or school declared as non-profit institutions should be allowed to charge unjustified fees that are not affordable to the average Indian.

The government should maintain subsidized education to the meritorious students who study in the government run institutions such as the IITs, NITs and the IIMs. There is no justification for them to charge hefty fees like the private institutions. 

Organizations should be encouraged to sponsor meritorious students with employment guarantees or with merit cum means scholarships.

All professional institutes or the government should give the data regarding the percentage of people who are employed out of the total pass outs so that the parents could take well informed decisions on spending money and time for any particular professional course. 

As land is becoming scarce to open future educational institutions, government should encourage opening large fully residential campuses in remote rural areas instead of allowing them to be opened in urban areas. The best successful example in India in this regard is the Lovely Professional University in Punjab state.

While higher educational facilities have improved much, the school education system has not. It is indeed a pathetic sight with our tiny ones and their guardians taking all the toils in the name of education. We need to learn much from the developed nations.

That is my perception, whether you agree or not. 

But I do welcome your views both in support and against.


  1. Hello Rajan Sir,

    You could not have put it any better. I have always thought of the same and wrote a blog years ago ( . The current education system has created such an irreversible damage. We have all seen, that most of those popular schools admitting only "bright" students. So where is the accommodative spirit in the society and what do we do for the "non-bright"? Don't they too deserve a good school? The current government run schools are mostly utilised by the less privileged and the so called teachers, administration are barely answerable to anyone. As you say, if there is involvement of the people of every social strata and kids of the educated parents also attend government schools, it will hopefully improve in quality too.

    As of now, I too feel extremely sorry not for those government school kids, but kids attending these elitist institutions as for them everything is artificial. At the tender age when they need to play and learn basic human values and learn things naturally, they learn computers, use tabs, mug up poems, carry huge load of books, their dad and mom working tirelessly to complete their "projects", unable to even enjoy a vacation let alone the normal days as they grow up and putting through stressful exams. They eventually get into vicious and dangerous rat race in this infested society.
    Every kid is intelligent, though not "bright" and all are uniquely talented. Some may be good in math, some in art, music, sports, craft, creativity and so on and if groomed every kid can do wonders. Many end up being dropouts as they fail in this artificial race and many times end up being undesirable elements in the society.

    Education should teach children to become bold, to face challenges, to learn nature, be good humans, moral values, to become leaders along with Math, Science and English. Learning should be fun and enjoyable and that’s when the every child succeeds and society prospers.

    1. Dear Mr Sathyan,
      I felt happy that I got your spontaneous and appropriate response to such an important issue the majority of the current generation take lightly. Thank you.
      We need more and more people to address this problem and reverse this damaging trend. Let us hope people would be more responsive towards the kids and the future generation. At least those who had undergone the rigors of the current system should react to set things right!


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