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Life begins from here

education Updated: Jun 14, 2012 12:42 IST
Rahat Bano

You have not managed to secure a huge score in Class 12, but that doesn’t mean you can’t build a good future for yourself… To seek out solutions for students who might not be able to make it to one of Delhi’s top colleges given the high cut-off marks, we asked experts and consultants for advice.

A critical point made by one of them is, if you score about 40% or so, introspect. The marks could be telling you something. Maybe you should look at credentials other than a traditional, academic qualification. If you believe you have the capacity and aptitude for further education, there are possibilities aplenty, not all of which materialise on conventional campuses.

Renowned developmental psychologist and educationist, Howard Gardner, who developed the theory of multiple intelligences, points to distance learning. If you have a computer with internet connectivity, clarity of purpose, self-discipline, and are self-motivated, you could give yourself a world-class education through the large pool of open source courseware from some of the best institutions in the world. The barriers to a good education are crumbling. (For more on open learning, watch this space.)

Howard Gardner, Hobbs professor of cognition and education, Harvard Graduate School of Education, Harvard University, United States: “It is most unfortunate, in any country, when so many have their sights set on a target that most can’t possibly meet — whether it is the University of Delhi, an Institute of Technology, Oxford or Harvard, Fudan or Xinghua. Rather than simply lamenting that state of affairs, the healthier alternative is to think about how one can obtain a first rate education even if one is not at an elite institution. In the 21st century, distance learning makes it possible to see and hear the world’s greatest lecturers and to study curricula from the very best schools - indeed, just last month, Harvard and MIT announced EdX, a plan to post the most outstanding courses from these two institutions. Hundreds of other options are appearing every year. And if you cannot find a study group in your neighbourhood, where you can read, argue, plan, even launch a ‘start-up’, you can always locate online peers around the world who share your passions and your ambitions. So, celebrate the options available in the world, whether or not you get to go to the university of your dreams. I can also add that in the United States, there are hundreds of colleges and universities where you can get a first rate education - and indeed, students who are seriously motivated are often valued more at these schools than they are at ‘brand’ institutions, including my own.”

Vinod Kumar Jain, former dean of students, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) and currently vice-chancellor, Doon University, Dehradun: “There are a number of good institutions in the country which you could consider. In Delhi, Jamia Millia Islamia is pretty good. There’s AMU, which is a Central university to boot. Even some state universities are good — such as University of Rajasthan in Jaipur and Devi Ahilya Vishwavidyalaya in Indore. If students don’t have a problem on shifting to another city, they could go there. Those who got 40% should think of some diplomas or distance learning, which is not a bad idea. In JNU, the entrance date is over. If you fulfil the basic eligibility criteria, you may take its admission test for bachelors’ courses next year.”

Gowri Iswaran, CEO, Global Education and Leadership Foundation and ex-principal, Sanskriti School, New Delhi: “The most important point for such students is to know what their strengths and weaknesses are. Maybe they are not cut out for academics. Look at other streams like special education and hospitality, to name just two.

Don’t be hung up on a BA degree. Also, think about why did you get 40% — is it that you could not cope with it academically? I know students who got 60% and went for graphic design and they have become very successful. Check other fields. Going to a college is not the ultimate. A BA is not for everybody. Do something in keeping with your aptitude and talents. Today there are far more opportunities outside the college system. There are varied options available which require different strengths and training. Keep your mind and options open.”

Kimberley Dixit, an educator who taught undergraduate courses at Duke and Stanford varsities in the US and is now co-founder of The Red Pen, a boutique university admission service in Mumbai: “If you have scored 50-60% and if money is not a deterrent, you could work on your SATs which can bring your profile up, and go to the US, where admission is not based solely on school marks. You may explore getting into community colleges in America, and improve your scores which can enable you to move to a (regular) college. Visit the country offices of USIEF, British Council etc and talk to the counsellors there who can tell you about the programmes. Or, enter a shorter programme (like, say, a diploma in India), you are eligible for, and improve your performance. Once you are mature enough, have a clear idea and motivation to do something, you could move to a degree programme. If possible, transfer from a less competitive college to a more competitive one.

One reason why people perform badly is they don’t have any kind of motivation. Forty-fifty per cent marks mean you are not motivated. Find your motivation before you hastily jump into something. The low score could be telling you something, to figure out what is it that would inspire you to do something.

Open for you
An organisation created by Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology to offer “online learning” to people worldwide
MIT open courseware/ MITx: Includes study material on almost all MIT courses.,
Khan Academy: The US-based academy has more than 3200 videos plus self-paced exercises on maths, physics, finance, history etc.
Connexions: Started at Rice University in 1999, this is a free site “to view and share educational material made of small knowledge chunks called modules that can be organised as courses, books, reports, etc.”
Indira Gandhi National Open University: Do we need to introduce it?
University of the People: A tuition-free online varsity in the US.
Stanford Engineering Everywhere: Stanford University, USA, is offering some of its most popular engineering classes free to students and educators anywhere in the world. Stanford Engineering Everywhere brings lecture videos, reading lists and other course handouts, quizzes and tests, to users outside Stanford.

There are a number of good institutions in the country which you could consider Vinod Kumar Jain, former dean of students, Jawaharlal Nehru University

Do something in keeping with your aptitude and talents Gowri Iswaran, CEO, Global Education and Leadership Foundation

In the 21st century, distance learning makes it possible... to study curricula from the very best schools Howard Gardner, professor of cognition and education, Harvard University