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Young India student manifesto: An open letter to all the difference-makers in education

Opportunities everywhere, opportunities nowhere! Right beyond that college wall, there's a world of opportunities. However, are we letting them know? Are we letting them go there?

3rd Mar 2018
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India is a land of potential and is slowly becoming a land of vast opportunity. However, the question is, at what rate?  For a graduate student, it takes months of unemployment to realize what he/she didn't learn during his college days. For those who're still studying, a bunch of other factors bind them to never even think outside of their college walls. If this continuous, India's biggest strength -- its youth -- won't be strong enough to drive the nation forward. What to be done to change this situation?  

Innovative answers. To the old and mundane questions.  Perhaps, a goodbye to the dull culture of normal college life.

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Surely things are changing. But I know many who don't quite agree.

Take the story of Ravi (name changed). His first three startups didn't see the light of day.

Right after graduation from a moderately reputed university in Andhra Pradesh, 

he went out to put his startup ideas to work. His hopes were high. His vision for a bright future resembled the true spirit of entrepreneurship. He wanted to become visionaries like Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, and Bill Gates.

However, he just didn't have a clue what he should do. After many days of thinking and getting advice from (probably) the not-so-right people, he quit his pursuit and joined in a job.

His dreams didn't die. He isn't just ready yet. Something is holding him back. A fear. Of not knowing things he thinks he needs today, in order to succeed. No matter what, he hopes to take the plunge as soon as possible. Now, like Ravi, there are hundreds of thousands of them out there. I know quite a few personally. Including myself, to be a bit honest.

Hope still lives, however, in a fairly distant future--probably stumping economy's potential growth a few years down. 

And thousand-and-one other stories tell us far worse things

Forget Ravi's story - his thought life is better off than many. We've students who don't speak up in the classrooms to get their doubts resolved, who don't know how to deal failing in exams, who attempt suicide when they fail in the job interview, who feel they don't have opportunities, who while away time thinking they are nothing, who don't even have dreams to pursue, and who don't know why they should give a damn about what's happening around the world.

Wait a minute. My message is not for them. It's for us. Everyone. Who can do something about creating a culture of thinking forward, open mindset, opportunity-seeking, innovation, and entrepreneurship?

I'm not proposing that we let everyone to be born with a silver spoon and give them everything (advice, infrastructure, opportunities, anything) for free. A big NO. 

I'm just proposing to create a culture, an atmosphere for them where they tend to do the right things at the right time through the right opportunities.

One mark of a great educator is the ability to lead the students out to new places where even the educator has never been.  
- Thomas Groome, Author and Academic

Therefore, I propose a manifesto for all the difference-makers in education:

Educators, teachers, academicians, administrators, and thinkers, I sincerely present you a list of actions we can take to eradicate a dull ecosystem and build an ecosystem of innovation and action for students.

1) Build dedicated online platforms for each campus:

i. a platform where students can exchange and discuss ideas, debate problems, write open letters (regulated), 

ii.  a sub-platform to keep educating them why they should exchange and discuss ideas, debate problems, and write open letters

2) Design and promote programs that take students out of the classroom and put them into the shoes of real-world problem solvers.

3) Build or promote an online platform where they're constantly informed of a particular industry, technology, science, or any kind of opportunities.

4) Fill the administration, non-teaching and teaching staff based on a multi-faceted recruitment process. Just check out how giant MNCs like Amazon and Apple recruit their employees (kind of choosing their family members who can what the company cares about). Let's don't keep those who delve upon old and broken ideas, who aren't open to bold experiments, who can't think like today, who aren't working for money and benefits, who aren't driven by a higher purpose, and who are okay living within comfort zone and don't ask for adventures.

5) Curb corruption through deploying a (regulated) online transparent model for all the transactions happen at/for a campus.

6) Let students experiment with what they like. If they like blogging, let them do (and support them with all or some of the resources which you can afford). If they like creating a movie, let them do. Let and encourage them to write a scientific paper, and give them an opportunity meet great people every two weeks or so through seminars and other interactive sessions.

7) Encourage outside people to bring Emerging Technologies to the campus. Collaborate with other institutes and E-Cells to create an entrepreneurial ecosystem in the campus.

8) In your strategy, differentiate students into various segments (as it is done by a firm during a market research), identify each category's intellectual needs and desires, and try to bring anything/everything which puts them in a higher position to tackle the world when they leave the campus.

9) Create both long-term and short-term strategies to 1) inform, 2) educate, 3) inspire, 4) encourage, 5) handhold, 6) direct, 7) regulate, and 8) take forward their projects.

Well, focus on those who are out of the track, as well. Perhaps, there is a startup founder, writer, singer, dancer in them. We don't know. Nurture their needs, too.

And more. The list ends here because of my inexperience and limited intellect.

Towards my thoughts, there are quite a few of startups and businesses who are duly trying to innovate in this area. Some of them are innovating a way ahead into the future, though in short waves, and are leaving us in awe. I hope it won't take an awful lot of years before any substantial shift comes in our Indian education system.

While these recommendations are not exhaustive, I sincerely request you to add your own list of suggestions. And, I'd be delighted to listen to your opinions on my recommendations.

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