The Ultimate Question that Education Should Answer

There is an ongoing debate about the current model of teaching. How is online education — free videos from the likes of KhanAcademy and Coursera — going to change how our schools work?

It is a great question, with views ranging from a collaboration-based interaction in school, to a total replacement/overhaul of the current infrastructure. I am somewhere in-between the extremes, but believe that like all change, this evolution is inevitably going to happen. We should embrace it.

Harder Question(s)

In this post, though, I wish to go beneath the tactical stuff and actually ask the harder question. What exactly is education? What should a human being get out of an ideal learning system? Technology and implementation are one aspect, but unless we think about the meaning and philosophy, it is easy to get accelerated in a sub-optimal direction.


Our Current Model: Education for (outdated) Employment

Education for employment has been the model of the industrialized world. Students go through the grade/class system, much like products in a factory batch. This is the model churning a brick in the wall. However, even as the world has become automated and factories have either become extinct or evolved in to a modern efficient version, education has been left catching up. Expensive degrees, low-paid teachers. It is imperative to ask: what are we teaching our kids for? Equally important, what should education for our kids be about?

Beyond Employment: Personalized Education — a Compass for Life

We are all unique beings of the same universe. We have our own quirks, our own talents, our own drawbacks. We learn at different rates, we forget at different rates. If there’s one common thing, it is the desire to live a good life in an ever-changing world.

Can we not have a way of education, where:

  1. Learning is Fun
  2. It is customized to individual pace
  3. It’s diverse and dynamic — curriculum evolves in realtime
  4. Accessible to all, through modern technology
  5. Inter-connectedness of subjects is not lost
  6. Learning is inspiring
  7. It is not just about finding a job or earning a degree, but your education should answer the question ‘how do I live my life’ in the moment, every moment.

Pipe dream? Certainly not. Like Gandhi’s revolution, MLK’s mission, Google’s search engine, and the technical innovation changing our world every day, this is possible now more than ever.


Remembering Sahir

main pal do pal ka shaayar hoon
pal do pal meri kahaani hai
pal do pal meri hasti hai
pal do pal meri jawaani hai


I’m a poet only for a second or two;
My story will be over soon.
My existence is only for a moment or two;
My youth will be over soon.

— translation, modified, from here

Many of the Hindi songs whose lyrics have stayed with me over the years have been penned by Sahir Ludhianvi. Whether it is Kabhi Kabhi, Tabdeer se bigdi hui, Main Zindagi ka Saath, Sahir has explored the depths of love and infinities of life like no other lyricist. He can juxtapose the impeccable beauty of nature with the emotions of a waiting lover in an almost effortless way.

duur vaadi mein duudhiya baadal,
jhuk ke parbat ko pyaar karte hain
dil mein naakaam hasraten lekar,
ham tera intezaar karte hain


in a distant valley, while a milky cloud
leans over to kiss the mountain,
with unfulfilled wishes in my heart,
I wait for you…

There is a certain pain, a very palpable one, in Sahir’s words. Yeh duniya agar mil bhi jaaye to kya hai…  He was not one to care much about the conventions of the world, or be drawn to its materials. Do you have any Sahir verses that are a favorite of yours?

At some point, would love to dive deeper in to his life and poems, and write more. For now, if you wish to spend 20 minutes for Sahir, highly recommend hearing his story from none other than Javed Akhtar: