Let them read the autobiography of the Indian Nobel Prize winner Venkat Ramakrishnan!

The book’s name: Gene Machine – The race to decipher the secrets of the ribosome.
The book reads like a thriller. The recent autobiography of Venkat Ramakrishnan, Venki to his friends and admirers, the latest winner of the Nobel Prize (for discovering the ribosome, a particle in biological sciences) and also as we understand is the current president of the much prestigious British Royal Society; must be prescribed as a text for study in our schools and colleges.

Nobel Prize winner Venkat Ramakrishnan

Nobel Prize winner Venkat Ramakrishnan

If there is any lesson from that book, it is this: Everything about the Indian education system is wrong, just the very opposite of what Venki says about his life and education and career and the pinnacle of success, the ultimate dazzling success he made! He studied in schools and colleges and all he did it to enter a college in America and got 56 rejections and after that he finds his way to the UK- Cambridge. There in his lab, he discovered something whose name and significance was not known for long and to the surprise of all of his colleagues and scientists – the world over, he won this prestigious prize!

So, we can say now that this is what education means and that it ultimately rewards for your toil and even your leisure time pursuits. He comes from a family where his parents themselves were PhDs! His sister is a PhD and now heads Immunology Department of Medicine, Cambridge. One of his sons is an expert in Western Classical Music (cellist). A Tamil Brahmin, vegetarian, a simple and unassuming looking man, this is a story worth telling many times.

Our current state of education had fallen to its depths; there is everywhere everyday full-page commercial ads tempting innocent parents and children to join one teaching coaching institute or the other. Our education system doesn’t search for talents.

Dead weight of government is holding back growth of IT industry, says Asha Jadeja Motwani, an angel investor from the Silicon Valley. The visiting expert says that the Indian IT ecosystem could grow ten times faster and stronger than the present state, if only the government did not (the bureaucrats sitting in comfortable chairs)come in the way. She says that politicians come and go but the babus are there all the time trying to obstruct and ask questions they don’t really know! They are sitting in positions of power and once they sit in one chair they don’t easily vacate!

We have only to see the recent goings in the top level bodies like the CBI and elsewhere. And also the return of the retired bureaucrats! They too once set foot in the cosy Lutyen bungalow zone; there is no way you can transfer them out! Ms.Motwani asks why the bureaucrats are designated as the IT In-charge when they don’t know what an IT start-up is, they haven’t tried their hands and so it is the actual doers who must guide the start-ups, not the pen-pushers!

Now, education must encourage and promote talents. And talents don’t come easy in the existing Indian environment. There are restrictions and regulations everywhere.  See the mushroom growth of the schools, the CBSE has become a milking cow! To get the licence from the CBSE is a full-time job; there are any numbers of new CBSE schools and also the exams! The much-admired Venki never wrote the GRE and if you don’t have the GRE, no American University would take you in and Venki sent his applications to some 50 universities and all rejected them!

The co-sharer of the Nobel Prize with Venki, Thomas Steitz, who had rejected his application for a research post, was the one who also shared the Nobel Prize! The third one who also shared the Prize was the one; an Israeli Ada Yonath had quarrels with and had a stormy relationship with him!

Indian education must learn words and concepts like E-learning, digitisation in cloud storage, cloud computing etc. There should be digitisation of the classrooms. It is time to act upon. In Bangalore such steps are being talked about. It is also time to teach our youngster to take risk in their learning processes. There is no safe, riskless world around us. Our inaction and lethargy is killing lakhs of students’s dreams and aspirations.

One more request to policy makers. Don’t select education ministers from the common fry! Look out for those who have the courage to take risk for the latest learning opportunities.

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