In the Indian constitution we have an article which specifies that children in the age group of six to fourteen years have the right to get free and compulsory education. It is a pretty good amendment to the constitution. But what I don’t like about it is the specific age that is mentioned. Why shouldn’t it be a fundamental right to have education at any age? Some kids or even adults may not be able to learn at a young age, and may prefer to learn at a later age. Of course no one is stopping them for learning, but it may not be free. However, with the advent of technology and internet, learning can be free at any age.
Some of the best institutions and universities that are most sought after, have the highest rejection rates. For example, many engineering students wants to study at IIT or MIT, but those are also the universities that reject most applicants, denying many students of world class education. There is nothing wrong that these universities are doing. But it comes at the expenses of some deserving students missing out admission. These campuses and faculty are not big enough to allow every student to get admission.
What is even worse is the fact that since the competition is so high, the bar is set very high for the students. So every year, students have to spend more time preparing for the tough entrance exam (as in the case of IIT). The time they could have spent learning so they can be productive in the future instead of preparing just to get into an institute. Yes, if they succeed in getting into the top universities, they are more or less guaranteed to get good jobs which implies a stable and good income in the future. Most parents corelate good income to happy life. Whether that is true or not, I am not sure. It sure does beat the alternative (being poor), which everyone universally agree is a bad thing.
Once the entrance exam is done, there is another hurdle. If a lot of top students apply to the same university (say MIT), the university should have a way to filter out students so they can fit in the limited seats available. And the way it is done is to look for extraordinary achievements. For example if student A and B got the exact same score in an exam, but you have to only choose one, what would you do? You select the person who is not ordinary, because there are a lot of ordinaries anyway. So they look for skills like chess champion at national level, or math olympiad or basketball caption or some other extra curricular activity.
This again puts even more pressure on the students to excel not only in education, but in some other extra curricular activity whether they like it or not. See, it is one thing to love a sport and enjoy playing it, but an entirely another thing to learn it and be aggressively competitive to win a gold medal so it looks good on their SOP (Statement of Purpose). The universities were not looking for students who use brute force to learn something (or may be they are), they were looking for student with natural talent which will set them apart. But whatever be the reason, the kid who does not have a natural talent or can’t force their way into learning something get left behind.
Hence, I wish there was a way for anyone to learn anything at any age without the limitations of being overly competitive and having low admission rates. Well, thankfully, in this day and age, we have the internet super power. Many kind souls have been and still are publishing excellent content on some video platforms like youtube all for free. Of course, if you found something useful you could always choose to pay for their time via donations. I like this model. You learn what you like and when you like without any stress or undue pressure from someone.
These new learning mediums liberate the young minds from structured learning. They can learn 7th grade level math at 5th grade or 10th grade. It does not matter, because these minds are looking to learn. Not preparing for an exam where everyone is expected to be at the same level of expertise by a certain age. What I believe is that kids should enjoy a lot when they are young. Then, when they want to learn, they should have the freedom to learn at any pace. This also means parents don’t need to push education at a young age. I remember the time when I prepared for IIT entrance exam when I was in 12th grade. Now kids are getting training from 8th grade. What gives?
There is one problem with the child led, online education, which is that you don’t get to experience people and labs in real life. They are just pictures, videos and simulations. You can simulate on a computer screen how a DC motor runs or how fluid mechanics contribute to flow rate, but you cannot really see, touch and experience them in real life. May be AR/VR will fix this in the future. That is one big flaw with this kind of education. But if you are learning anything AI related or just pure programming then of course it wouldn’t matter. See how I dragged AI into my post?
Anyway, I did not have any particular point to make, just my thoughts on education and how it is evolving, both in traditional sense and in the modern sense. How the future will change with AR/VR and other sensory gadgets, we have no idea. But as long as one is learning for fun and enjoying it, that is all that matters.