Dumbed down education, dumb professionals, a numb future? Sep 20, 2012

The world has changed immensely since we went through the motions of being ‘educated’. not just in terms of technology and the amount of information available, but in the perspective of educationists now viewing the student as an active participant, one influential in the process of education rather than as a mere recipient of knowledge.

Today’s youth, in my perception with the interactions that I have had through teaching in an architecture college (SPA) and through interactions with schoolchildren at various stages, are fitted with bright and super-agile minds. However, there is a wide variety in background which impacts their ability to perform in an academic environment.

One one hand,  many students may come to the education system with handicaps. In architecture college, for instance, kids from rural or peri-urban backgrounds often have a hard time understanding references to lifestyles and expectations that teachers assume are obvious and simple to comprehend. Language of instruction is another common challenge for non-English speakers.

On the other hand, most kids love rising to a challenge and lose motivation when the system does not challenge them. So you have a split situation, in which some students are struggling to come to a reasonable level, while many others are barely making an effort, complacent that the minimum effort will be enough! The only way the conventional education system has to tackle this is to dumb stuff down. Keep expectations at an average, make things simple and obvious, make process overarchingly important so as to almost relegate content to the backburner.

I do see the benefits of giving kids a free hand though. Almost every one of my friends who has taught design studio has expressed that their students were motivated when they were allowed to be innovative and could take some decisions about their work for themselves. Even so-called average students produced exciting results when they were pressurized, encouraged and cajoled to better themselves. The trick appears in offering a framework for problem solving and allowing the solutions to evolve rather than a top-down approach of asking kids to pick from a menu of pre-made existing solutions.

For the field of architecture and urban design, this ability to weave in elements of research, design, planning and policy into a cohesive and workable solution is critical. By continuing to dumb down architectural education, we run the risk of creating yet another generation of incapable professionals who will end up becoming slaves of unworkable bureaucratic visions or worse, of the rampant profiteering schemes of vested interests. If we aren’t investing in the professionals of the future by offering them an academic environment fraught with challenges, where risk is possible and even welcome, we should numb ourselves and be prepared for the possibile demise of the increasingly urban economy that India is becoming.

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About ramblinginthecity

I am an architect and urban planner, a writer and an aspiring artist. I love expressing myself and feel strongly that cities should have spaces for everyone--rich, poor, young, old, healthy and sick, happy or depressed--we all need to work towards making our cities liveable and lovable communities.

Posted on September 20, 2012, in Urban Planning & Policy and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. well I agree that process is more important than the product….. I believe that 4 years in class is not going to produce super architects, but what we need to commit that those 4 years can sensitize the students…… if a person can see things which is usually not perceived by everyone and they become sensitive enough the goal of a
    design course is achieved…… well thats what I believe.

  2. I agree.’Architecture’, as the word suggests is art form,so there cannot be any barriers or limitations to innovations..While the course contents need to be adhered to ,there is always ample scope for teachers to give freedom of expression to the practical aspect of art.
    Regarding English medium problems I must share my friends dilemna when going from Gazipur to IIT Bombay, he could not understand a word of the lestures. But I admire his tenecity as he not only topped in the end but his two sons too ended up in IIT Delhi. Hats off!. I

  1. Pingback: An open ended education environment: Positive examples and the need to experiment- Sep 21, 2012 | ramblinginthecity

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