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Sending examinations to detention

Education is meant to prepare students for suitable occupations that give them a sense of fulfilment. Present systems do not do that, writes Khushwant Singh.

india Updated: Jul 15, 2006 00:07 IST

A lot of fellows nowadays have a BA, MA or PhD. Unfortunately, they don’t have a job, wrote some wit who had never gone to college but landed a good job. His words may sound frivolous but have profound common sense. What, after all, are school and college educations meant for? To prepare students for suitable occupations that give them a sense of fulfilment. Our present systems of education do not do that. And the final tests are as outdated and flawed as our curricula. This came out in a ugly reality when students who had scored over 90 per cent in their final exams were denied admission by some colleges. In my days no one heard of anyone scoring 90 per cent plus: 40 per cent was considered well enough.

The first thing we should look into is the subjects to be studied at school. Languages are a must — English, Hindi and/or a regional language. Classical languages should be dropped. In Mathematics, arithmetic and geometry should remain compulsory but algebra, deleted: what use is it in later life? Geography should stay as well as the history of our country and of major events in the world. So also knowledge of current events. New subjects like environment and healthcare should be introduced through gardening, planting and nurturing trees. Elementary hygiene, first-aid and life-saving skills introduced.

Ten years at school appears to me the right period to enter college to specialise in the career one chooses. At school there may be periodical tests but no final examinations. Instead a panel of teachers should decide whether or not their students are fit to go to college.

College education needs to be overhauled. Instead of teaching general subjects, every college should be career-oriented: Medicine, engineering, law, military science, agriculture, commerce, administration, fine arts, administration and so on. Three to four years to specialise should be enough. Exams at the end of the academic years, which are de rigeur today, should be dispensed with.

When I took my final law exam in England, the brightest student in the university was a mousy little Jewish girl who had been a topper in all the previous exams. On the first day of the finals she walked out of the examination hall without answering a single question. She took no other papers. There was no question about her ability. Nevertheless, professors who had taught her held a conclave and placed her on the top of the list of successful examinees. It was the right thing to do.

Police and public morals

Newspaper readers must be wary when they read about police raids on homes, hotels, bars and other places of amusement: They should take versions put out by the police with large doses of salt. Personally, I do not believe that the police are entitled to act as guardians of public morality, unless the neighbours start complaining.

Police methods are crude and outdated. When raiding houses of ill-repute, they hire some fellows, give them marked currency notes to pay women inmates to prove that they are prostitutes. If a woman is a willing partner to an act of sex for free or for payment, no one is entitled to meddle — it is entirely her business. In other cases police raid dance bars; they take a couple of their regular informers — the police have a roster of men willing to tell lies on oath — and say what investigating officers tell them to say in court. Defence lawyers do not have much trouble in punching holes in their testimonies and making asses of them.

What is disgraceful is the police misuse of the media. Since they are first in breaking the news, papers give their version prominence. The victim’s versions comes later, given little notice. By then the victim’s reputation is seriously damaged; the stigma remains forever.

I bring up this subject after reading news of a police raid on Hotel Rajdoot, built over 50 years ago by a close friend Lala Kishen Lal who died two years ago. He used to drop in on me twice a week with a carton of dahi-bhallas, the most delicious I have tasted. He regaled me for an hour or more reciting Urdu poetry and telling me about his past life and his hotel — how he had come to build Rajdoot against all odds. When he left my flat, there were always some fruit and vegetable hawkers outside waiting for him. He bought all the food provisions needed for his hotel himself every morning. That was the secret of the excellence of his kitchen.

The dance hall EI Dorado was started by Kishen Lal on terms dictated by the administration. Of the entrance fee of Rs 500 the government took Rs 215 as entertainment tax. Certain proprieties had to be maintained. Kishen Lal enrolled a number of young women on a monthly wage to sing and dance and they had to be properly clad. All the young ladies came from respectable families. They were also the sole bread-earners in their families.

On the night of the raid, two police stock-witnesses claimed the girl dancing on the stage was scantily clad and made lewd gestures which roused their libidos. Photographs of the dancer show that she was in a long dress. However, the men — you can scarcely call them gentlemen — were sexually roused. They lodged a complaint and the police picked up 12 other ladies from the dressing rooms and slammed a ban. In one go it deprived 13 families of their daily bread, and the administration of its revenue. It cast aspersions on the characters of the dancers and caused enormous losses to the hotel.

The police have got their priorities all wrong: it should safeguard our lives and properties first; thereafter try to safeguard our morals.

Gandhi Vs Jinnah

What’s the difference between the roles of Gandhi and Jinnah in the Freedom Movement?

Gandhi got India its freedom without ‘fighting’, while Jinnah got Pakistan without ‘spoiling’ the crease of his trousers.

(Contributed by KJS Ahluwalia, Amritsar)