about 1 year ago
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Mukesh strived really, really hard to get to USA to complete his Masters. He had just four months to complete when Covid struck. His life is now in complete disarray. He is looking at a bleak future – he planned on completing the course this year and getting some work experience before heading back home. But thanks to Trump, he is already looking at options to head back.

In what many call “completely bizarre,” Trump announced that international students will have to leave the US or risk deportation if their universities switch to online-only courses. Like Mukesh, this will impact thousands of students who are currently in the USA and in the midst of their studies. This is applicable even on those in USA participating in training programs, non-academic or vocational courses.

With corona creating a havoc across the globe, almost everything we do has shifted online and students going to college any time soon is completely ruled out. So the best way out is online; at least they do not miss out on an academic year. In fact Harvard stated that all course instruction will be delivered online, including for students living on campus.

But Trumps ruling has created a complete atmosphere of chaos and confusion. How can students like Mukesh return to India when there are travel restrictions? So what do they do?

Harvard and MIT have filed a lawsuit, seeking a temporary restraining order, and preliminary and permanent injunctive relief to bar U.S. Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement from the enforcing federal guidelines that will force international students to leave the United States.

Prior to this, a few days ago, Trump suspended the entry of foreign nationals in the H-1B, L-1, H-2B, J-1 categories, and related categories for dependents, with some exceptions.

Together, these two bans have lives upended and families kept apart because of the new rules and the uncertainty they brought. And that brings us to a very pertinent thought -India’s focus and the need to be atmanirbhar comes from China. But looking at what US is doing, can China be the only reason?

Just as we are looking at the impossible task of dethroning China as the ‘factory of the world’ why has India never looked at becoming the education cradle of the world? Some of the best brains of India are today heading global companies and universities. We have lost them to other countries – why cant the focus also be on making India the education hub?

There was a time in ancient India when we were among the best. Takshashila and Nalanda were among the oldest universities of the world. In fact Nalanda had one of the largest libraries in the world. Today, in terms of education, where are we? Only IITs to boast of? If we had such a rich legacy of education, how did the brain drain become so bad? Why aren’t we ever talking about atmanirbhar in education?

There are many free thinkers who feel that education in India, which is more about mugging up rather than conceptual clarity, kills all innovation. Infact many complain that as students, one is not allowed to be creative. Today, children are not allowed to solve a simple Math problem using their creativity; they have to necessarily follow the method given by the teacher. So, when creativity is killed at such an early stage and at such simple levels, little wonder schools do not produce any innovators today!  The famed movie, 3 Idiots talked about the same. And yes, there is immense talent in India. National Innovation Foundation has stated that there are over 100,000 outstanding innovations that have come from school dropouts and poor people from rural India. And NIF has managed to get some products commercially manufactured and some exported. But millions of ideas and innovators continue waiting for assistance in terms of funds, technical and design support.

A major shakeup in terms of quality of education is desperately needed in India. Our country has probably got the highest number of MBAs, yet, they cannot even think half as innovatively. So, are we churning out just degrees with no substance while the best brains run away to other countries?

It is true that a genius is born once in a lifetime and such a genius cannot be shackled by education. And at the same time, it is also equally true that education is a must. Or else Dhirubhai and Bill Gates would not have educated their own children. Yes, we need to become atmanirbhar in education, create out own Harvard and MIT; that’s too tall but at least we can try?

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