The era of ecosystems
The American writer and poet, Mark Van Doren once famously said, “The art of teaching is the art of assisting discovery.” This is an adage that has gone largely ignored in India if one looks at most of our colleges and universities. The lack of focus on critical thinking and creative problem-solving within India’s institutions of higher learning has led to a situation that has stifled innovation and also resulted in the low ranking of Indian institutions in international gradings. But it was not always like this.
Along with Greece, India was one of the fountainheads of learning in the ancient world. Universities such as Takshashila, Nalanda, Vikramashila, Pushpagiri, Valabhi, Somapura and Odantapuri dominated as centres of learning for almost two thousand years from about sixth century BC, and emerged as global beacons to scholars and travellers. Nalanda, for example, was devoted to Buddhist studies but also trained students in fine arts, medicine, mathematics, astronomy, politics and the art of war. It had a nine-storied library where monks meticulously copied books and documents so that individual scholars could have their own collections. Nalanda attracted scholars from all over the world.
Today, the situation in India has flipped the other way. The country’s best flock moves to universities abroad to complete their education. Incidentally, most of India’s Nobel Laureates have foreign degrees.
(To be contd)