Time keeps on throwing challenges at us and this keeps the society ideating, planning, acting, learning…. The question is, are the challenges of today any different from the challenges of yesterday? If yes, then what does it imply?

Some of key things that emerged in the year 2008 in the Indian context specifically (may be in other nations too) which stimulated thinking at a wider level –

  • More talk on coming up with alternate fuels for meeting the energy demands of a growing population- note the 123 deal
  • Terrorist attacks- the most disastrous one being 26/11 in Mumbai- confusion amongst the population on how to delink identity from erratic behaviour based on the same identity
  • Emergence of political parties to improve the status quo but struggling to have a huge appeal to actually make a significant mark
  • Need for citizenship to keep the government always on the alert
  • Further proliferation of Communication tools and practices – People learning more from across boundaries and traditional bounderies of caste, creed, religion losing significance amongst the educated
  • Social entrepreneurship as a strong emerging area of focus – understanding of social issues and call for solutions through an interdisciplinary route
  • More youngsters going the Entrepreneur way – need for innovation
  • Scarcity of educators across primary, secondary and higher education
  • Increasing instance of students buckling under pressures of competition

The traditional assembly line nature of education has actually lead to gaps of different nature. With the existing nature of education  to focus on specific subjects on a theoretical mode, these emerging trends call for orientation of students in a different manner altogether. They need to have the capacity to have an integrated view to a problem isolated from a singular unidimensional understanding, they are required to have a sound grounding on civics education, they should be able to take risks, they should have the capacity to think much further than what their fathers and mother could, should be aware of laws that govern the nation etc. 

As an example, the cynicism towards politics of the previous generations and their gradual withdrawal from the political process,  has led to politics of the worst nature rooling the roost. Corruption is as acceptable as the weather. Now for the youth to change this, it should have the wherewithal to enter into this domain.  But with the current lack of understanding of political science, economics, policy issues, laws etc, they seem to be completely at a loss to understand what best can they do.

An assumption that the same model which has been there for decades and somehow managed to support the economic structure to an extent is going to face several questions in the decades to come since the past will not be able to determine the future as well as it was able to do ealier.  The social, economic, political and technological forces are shaping the world at a much faster rate on account of globalization as well as international struggle for power.

Thats the challenge that the 21st century throws in front of us.

Can the youth emerging from the college today take risks in the wake of economic crisis? Does he understand how to traverse both the paths of materialism as well as work towards building a strong democracy? Will he be able to see the systemic nature of events that are shaping his own future. How would he contribute to find solutions to the problems of scarcity of food, sanitation, health, education ? How does he manage the pressures built on account of competition for limited opportunities? Will he have the sagacity to get hold of his own future and also take people ahead along with him? Will he be able to bring about political awakening or will he be another victim? Will he emerge as a leader or will be struggle to understand whom to even follow? Would he fight corruption or promote it?

These and many more questions stare at the youth today. Parents, in general are clueless beyond the original pattern of thought and behaviour.  So now, will the education system meet the demands of the quality of mind and intellect that is called for?  

Will the current education system which has lead to some of these problems that we face today, be able to pass its own exam which the time has decided for it?