What we learn- and teach

When I moved my razor blade across the expanse above my upper lip today morning, my mind flew, as minds occasionally do, to a time when this procedure was not needed. I used to apply an oil to make my moustache grow. That was the time I became a voluntary prisoner in a concentration camp- the entrance coaching centre.

I had an interest in Biology and my father was a doctor. I couldn’t stand Maths. These are the main reasons I tried to get into Medical School. But the entrance test was all about hard core Physics and Chemistry more than Biology. But you want in? You had to go through the drill.

That was probably why my friend Prem Das from school got in easily. He was a genius. He was a math wiz. Calculus, trigonometry and similar obscenities were very dear to him. Bio didn’t turn him on. He had a hyperstudious bent. Never talked much. And he was not very interested in people. He was very interested in becoming a doctor. Why did he want to do that?

“It is a weighty profession. There is a lot of weight. You know. Doctor means prestige. Mum and dad wants that.” That was that.

He got into Medical School for a song- but took nine years to pass.

Acquired alcoholism and the drug habit as a bonus.

Now he is working somewhere, paying the bills, a mere shadow of his teenage self.

“If I had done something else, I would have become a king.” He said, when I met him once. May be. May be not. But it sure made me think.

Isn’t there some problem in the way we decide what to learn? And in the manner in which our society chooses young people to do a particular course?

There sure is.

Our thoughts are wrong. The questions are wrong.

What do you want to become? Doctor? Engineer? Or would you like to take IAS?. The implication is that if you have ‘become’ something, your life is made. Or over.

May be the correct question is what do you imagine yourself doing all your adult life. What do you like to do? What are you good at doing? What does the society want from you now?

When I did college, information was everything. It was equated with knowledge. During MBBS, we had to learn by heart volumes the size of suitcases and regurgitate them on demand. When we wanted to know something, we ran to the library. To prepare papers, one had to take a train and travel to the National Medical Library at Delhi. It takes two days to reach.

Now we click the rodent. The Mouse is no longer a small mammal. It is the fountain of limitless information.

Information is dead cheap. Almost free. It is not that it is worthless. But no one needs to pay for it.

Just Google it. Nike.

Want to listen to lectures of Professors from Stanford? Online classes are available. There are videos that teach you how to do most surgeries, step by step.

There is value only to skill that you can acquire by working with an expert. Or experts. Or an organisation. And ideas.

Skills and Ideas. They are still valuable.

Apprenticeship is the only way to learn any skill.

Let me tell you one secret. I have forgotten most of the massive truckload of facts that I have committed to memory during MBBS. Let me tell you- ninety five percent!

I have learned a lot since then. I did two on-the-job residencies. I have learned from each patient and procedure. I have learned as I watched the masters do their job. I have questioned and challenged them on occasion- and I learned more. I have learned from juniors and students.

On occasion, when I suddenly want to know something, I don’t panic. I giggle. I mean, Google.

As of now, MBBS is a job oriented course. We were taught by doctors in active practice. Medical Schools always have attached hospitals. Still, one learns to treat only during internship. Why can’t we start work with graded responsibility from say, second year? That way we can come out as doctors after four years. Let us do away with internship. That way, by the time a batch of students come out, they would have experienced what it is like to be a doctor. They would know all the pain of responsibility and relentlessness along with the exhilaration of healing the sick. If someone thinks that they are not suitable for it, he or she can opt out. One can go into big pharma. Maybe do an MBA. Go into research or Public Health. Or even write 😉 .

It worries me that there are no Industries and techno parks attached to engineering colleges. It somehow bugs me that the Professors don’t work there.

Don’t we want our MBAs to learn by managing people and systems? Do we teach our pilots to fly by reading books? Of course, they may need to know and read lot of facts, but anyone would agree that that is not the main course. Some may want to learn pure science and humanities. But they also would benefit by doing, finding out and brain storming in a lab or in the field.

When will society start thinking more along these lines?

One minute. Let me Google and see.

Dr Jimmy

I am a Doctor, Writer and Science Communicator. I am a member of Info- Clinic, and have written a few books. This site features my blog posts and stories. Thank you for visiting. ഞാൻ എഴുതാൻ ഇഷ്ടമുള്ള ഉള്ള ഒരു ഡോക്ടർ ആണ് . നിങ്ങളുടെ താത്പര്യത്തിന് നന്ദി .