Professor Shiv Visvanathan may have been dismissed from four colleges and recently transferred from his latest department of work, but he lives to fight another day. And his message resonated with hundreds of high pressured students at the ThinkEdu Conclave 2016. "Nothing destroys childhood like an IIT or IIM," he said, to a roar of applause on Tuesday.
The social scientist from the Jindal School of Government and Public Policy in Haryana added to more cheers, "Childhood is about invention. As a friend said, our scientists are very good as summarisers, they are not originals. This is the problem with IIT. It teaches convergence, not divergence."
Speaking for diversity over uniformity, Visvanathan went on to elaborate that inventive thinking can hardly be encouraged when the focus is to get one and only one 'correct' answer in a pre-board exam, rather than explore the possibilities. "Science is about invention, new theories, new possiblities - and what we have are government programmes and official professors destroying this dream," he added.
Instead he said, the need of the hour is for teachers to introduce a sense of playfulness in their methods. This as opposed to standardised 'rankings' that are often confused for 'excellence' to meet lofty ideals that in effect extinguish a child's right to dream, debate and make a difference. Visvanathan also pointed out that waiting a decade for government approvals to change a syllabus was not the way and perhaps it was time for a child to offer some perspective. "We need a child to tell the BJP emperor that he has no clothes," Visvanathan made a bold metaphor of breaking through the illusion that is well with the education system.
Criticising the government for taking the joy out of learning, the professor signed off, "Childhood is a time of invention or joy. And I don't see any joy in IIT or Mr Modi."