April 20, 2024

Embracing Puzzlers: The Ignored Innovative Minds

Education is a major concern for social and economic development in a country like India, which also currently has the largest youth population. Standard higher education is very important for the youths here and the competition for top education in the country is intense due to a significantly lower number of available seats compared to the number of candidates applying. To this, there have been concerns raised about increasing the quantity of seats and institutions. This write-up is not concerned about this “quantity” problem.

The concern here is to not neglect the “other type of minds”. There are two types of minds in any academic field, first, there are “masters of their subjects” who have in-depth knowledge of their field and can precisely answer questions within a given time. These types of minds are highly encouraged in academia. There exists a certain stereotype that a scientist is supposed to be a perfect master of his subject and who has great command over the important facts related to it. For example, scholars who write textbooks indeed possess extensive knowledge in their field and have so well grasp of different works that they can explain the most complex concepts in simple language to the students. Or, many professors can answer the questions in a moment and with ease too.

These kinds of minds are very important to academics and they are very well acknowledged too. But, in this, the second type of mind is neglected. Some minds might not be masters of their subject, and they won’t be able to remember every fact from literature or lectures. But, they are independent thinkers and are capable of finding new ideas and ways that are unknown to the masters too. Let’s call these types of minds the “puzzlers” (or could be called muddlers/muddle heads).

Such minds aren’t as capable as the masters in knowing the facts in proper detail and precision but are in a quest for new ways and ideas. They aren’t able to find it easy to systematically formulate ideas of others, but by taking bits of every idea can incorporate their thoughts and bring something new out of it. Muddlers aren’t fully satisfied by the existing condition of their science and aren’t affected by what the masses believe, they are independent thinkers who are into their thoughts.

Alongside masters, these kinds of minds are also equally important to science and contribute their part in the scientific quest. Education systems need to acknowledge such minds too and not merely neglect them for being different from the masters. Currently, the education system of India is making this mistake. The entrance examinations that select below 10% (some way below this too) of the participating candidates are doing so simply by taking entrance tests and asking questions in interviews which are only based on testing how much the students “know” and can grasp from a particular syllabus provided rather than also looking into factors like how much the student can think, explore and shows interests in the field he is applying, that will further help him in making discoveries for the academia.

India sadly has been completely ignorant of such minds and has made them lose confidence to pursue their dream and interests. Doors have been shut for muddlers in the big institutions of the country, what matters for the institutes today is how much in-depth knowledge can the candidate attain in the field and not how much he is capable of finding new ways while stressing his thoughts.

Taking the case of economics, the top institutes to study the master’s program in economics are the Delhi School of Economics (DSE), Indian Statistical Institute (ISI), etc… As being prestigious institutions in the country, getting admission is quite challenging (and rightly so). But, what must be asked is whether Nobel Laureates like F.A. Hayek, Ronald Coase, and James M. Buchanan, could’ve cleared their entrance examinations. If not, then many minds in India like them have been deprived of opportunities to succeed in elite fields like economics with the best facilities.

Perhaps, it is true that the task for a single institute to consider every kind of mind is difficult but then there is a need for more institutions so that students are free to choose and decide their career path. There is a need to find new ways to select students. Not only is there a need to increase the seats but also to improvise the methods and management of education institutions. We have limited insight into how the problem can be solved. Addressing it requires a decentralized approach that allows for the investment of diverse ideas to improve the system.

The masters and puzzlers are required to be encouraged in their ways. The issue is the muddlers have been quite ignored in the system. There could also be students who might be quite average in schools or colleges but are capable of doing something big in academics. Probably they are the ones that Indian academia needs.

The write-up is not at all underestimating masters or even calling them unoriginal and incapable of bringing anything new. It merely is trying to exhibit the importance of other types of minds. Both types of minds aren’t rivals to one another but can act complementary to each other and develop academia. For someone as brilliant as Srinivasa Ramanujan, there was a need for a master like G.H. Hardy.

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