Wednesday, January 20, 2010

3 idiots learning

“yeh jo dil hai na.. bada darpok hai. isko bevkoof bana ke rakho.. life mein jitni bhi problem ho.. isko bolo "koi baat nahi chachu.. sab kuch theek thaak hai. ALL IZZ WELL. ALL IZZ WELL"

How true? Jus keep uttering this to yourself, that everything is fine, and there you get a big boost of confidence to tackle any problem. My dad always says, “There is no problem that big that it cannot be tackled. It is only the mental roadblock to believe that it can be tackled that is big!” Again, how true?

Well, the dialogue is from the movie – 3 idiots, and truly as Uma Sir says, What a movie it was? More than the entertainment value the subtle message that is delivered speaks volumes, and hopefully will awake people. This post is dedicated to him, for his motivation to write something on this front!

The movie's theme is highly inspiring and thought provoking even while it takes a dig at the current educational system with all its latent flaws and seriously questions the very relevance of societal whims which eat away into a budding student's mind that the end of education is a high profile job, wealth, fame, name et al., making them deprived of the opportunity to set their vision on something where their heart and soul lies! .. ~ Uma Shankar

The book “five point someone” I am sure I read by more or less all of us, and this movie is a loose adaptation of the same. (no matter what Raju or vidhu say.. it is very much inspired from the book). Though yes, It does require the caliber of hirani- Aamir to bring out the latent message in the book – the education system of the country and its flaws.

A little about the movie – It starts with Madhavan & Sharman getting a link about the whereabouts of Aamir , & they set out to meet him. Their college life is shown in the flash back. Aamir, who is different from others, with some off the track goal in mind, shows the first glint of his brilliance in the ragging scene. (very old engineering ragging technique!) They become friends & start living their rollercoaster life in the college. Boman irani is the principal, and he makes their lives hell, & to top it all, his daughter falls in love with one of them ( you know who!). The college fun, filled with some unexpected twists ad turns do make it an enjoyable watch.

The movie has raised some very valid & burning questions - teenagers committing suicide out of pressure, the validity of the college courses, need of grading system, etc.

The best part of the movie is that the makers have not only criticized the system and left it there, but have also shown the way – the school in Laddakh is a reminder for the government to see.

Now talking in detail about some fundamental flaws of the Indian education system which need to be changed.

Learning by rote

Learning by rote involves learning facts without developing a deep understanding of them. This lack of understanding makes it impossible to grasp meaning and apply and transfer the knowledge to other areas. Memorizing vocabulary words is pointless, for example, without understanding how to use them in conversation.

Lectures often emphasize rote learning rather than critical thinking. Topics are discussed sequentially, not critically. The teacher does the talking and most of the thinking. The student memorizes material and is placed in a passive role. But many of us who use the lecture should also be concerned that our students learn to think critically.

I remember students when teaching in a coaching institute for competitive exams. When I start teaching them to solve a problem yb starting from the basics of arithmetic, and then complete the entire question in a logical step by step manner, no bidy would listen. In the end, one of the guys would ask, “Sir, is there no shortcut formula for this problem?”.

Yes, there is a shortcut formula. MAKE ONE!. You should know how to derive the shortcut and make it your own.

I think it is time, that india moves to an enquiry based learning. This describes a range of philosophical, curricular and pedagogical approaches to teaching. Its core premises include the requirement that learning should be based around student's questions. Pedagogy and curriculum requires students to work together to solve problems rather than receiving direct instructions on what to do from the teacher. The teacher's job is therefore not to provide knowledge, but instead to help students along the process of discovering knowledge themselves.

Obsession with Grades

When I was in college, it was apparent. As the semester comes to a close, student anxiety tends to rise, usually to extraordinary levels. At L, the libraries would be filled with students

Students just talk to professors about one thing – grades. It is never to do with a new invention or some latest technology. No! it only has to be grades, and even if the talk digress to something academic it is only with the hope of creating an impression for it to reflect on the grades. ACP – After class participation.

Students who actually get curious about a subject are rare. It all just waters down to a letter grade.

My friends who went on a student exchange program to different parts of the world, had this to say about the system there, “.. their classroom manners weren't the best - arriving late, answering cellphones, and frequently turning in homework after it was due. But grades were never an issue. It truly was a productive academic environment - the focus was on collaborative learning rather than individual grades…

An example here would be MIT Professor Noam Chomsky. During his junior high school years, he went to an experimental school run by Temple University's education department. With no grades or competition, each student was simply encouraged to do his or her best. Chomsky recollects this school as a wonderful and influential experience.

His parents then sent him to a competitive high school for college-bound students. Chomsky realized that grades and success were all that mattered, and school suddenly became a scary place that he admits he hated: "If I got a B in something, it was tragic," he writes in a letter. "I even got a D once - in English grammar, a subject that made no sense at all as far as I could figure out."
huh! English grammar. Thankfully CAT just has the application part of English.

Since joining the linguistics faculty at MIT in 1955, he has changed the face of linguistics, and especially the English language, with his theories on generative grammar. The point here: Grades aren't everything; excellence is. (point reiterated more than once in the movie!!)

Of course, who can argue that earning a good grade is not important? I, too, must admit that I become preoccupied with grades in my own graduate classes. but well, i was never in the rat race. I just wanted to clear the papers, as a pre requisite. It remained the same at L too.
But rather than running behind success, we should strive to sun behind excellence, which is the truer secret to education.

kamyabi ke peeche nahi, kabilyat ke peeche bhago!.. kamyabi khud tumhare peeche daudegi

When "get results now" prevails over "achieve excellence," it's very tempting to renounce our integrity.

The movie is a must watch for everyone, and especially to the parents of south india, who have tirelessly churned engineers and more engineers in the past several years. In the south india I have seen, it is like after tenth standard, a teenager is given the option – engineering or medicine? It is as if there are no other options available in the world. This has done good to the economy – a complete full fledged coaching market has sprung and is flourishing, but what has it done to the intellectual capital?

We have lost potential cricketers, actors, writers, photographers to this demon called engineering. Most of them have been sucked to the IT industry, and one year of recession has shown its true colours. Supply far exceeds demand and still there is a demand for “Quality” and “job ready” candidates. All these students just know to rote, so applying them to the real world is completely a different ball game al together.

So I sincerely hope the movie shows some ways, and brings about a mindset change in some people atleast. And also, hoping that the people in power, think something about the whole system and realize it is time for reforms.


  1. amazing post dude! that was a neat analysis of the movie :)

  2. Read the latest book of CB to know what it emans to be a IIT-IIM grad in South India :) Good one...

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  5. I remember reading some news on showbiz about Aamir’s “3 idiots” while it was still on the sets and it was reported that Aamir wanted the entire cast and crew along with the producer Vidhu Vinod Chopra and director Raju Hirani to stay on the hostel campus of IIM B to gain some valuable insights into students’ life which would help the movie strike the right chord with its audiences. And this is analogy enough why I wanted Bharat who had graduated from IIM L to present his take on the film “3 idiots” and he did not disappoint me in the least! Look at his flourishing write up presenting a clinical case study of a film review and you will not be surprised with my insistence that Bharat be a serious contender to post a film review on “3 idiots” from amongst zillion others who must have tried their hand at it!
    The movie has found its resonance in many a student’s life who now are ensconced in their respective lines of profession which to them are most gratifying but not without regrets. Ask them to listen to the plangent echoes of their heart and they will admit to never having been in the most inspiring of jobs despite their tall academic exploits. Strangely enough though, I am one of those victims of this brand-fancying society who could not be an engineer coz’ I could not stand up to the maddening competition of the times and still could not make subsequent reparations by becoming a ‘s/w engineer’ as I could not understand the ‘logic’ of spending a life time with a machine in front of me! Result – I was damned and to date I am considered nothing short of a failure if not a heathen! Like many others who were condemned for taking a detour-from-convention career path in life, I too share my life space with them, join hands and reassure this poor heart of mine that ‘ALL IZZ WELL’!!!
    But NO, the movie did not make me cry though it has all the trappings of a melodrama with high sentimental values. For one, it has made me realize that no great man or woman in this world have had ever achieved anything great had it been for the cause of the society. It is only their passion for excellence coupled with constant perseverance that has resulted in the creation of wonders today we revel and exult in. So in more ways than one, I have just discovered the raison d'être of my life and would like to speed up on that!
    P.S.: Bharat! I don’t really think I deserved to have a post dedicated on my name as you might have by now understood that I don’t really hold the qualifications this world requires, to be conferred greatness upon! But I felt happy that I can atleast motivate people to do something great!
    Thanx a ton my friend!
    Good luck!

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  7. you are far beyond my expectations bharat...! good job and thanx a ton for the kind words!
    btw, i never taught high school...when was I your teacher?...the only time I came to know about you was when you topped the ICET 2007 (I guess) with a second rank and subsequently when I saw you teaching for CAT students in TIME...also I was not a part of the CAT faculty team when you were a CAT student at TIME...can u please clarify on this!

  8. @ Uma: @ Uma: thnk u so much for the long comment!! n thnk u so much for the confidence posed on me, hopefully i hav achieved ur expectations!

    the teacher part was for somethin else.. typo in the wrong window!!

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