Somebody Who Fails Can Be Better Than Others

Ramon Magsaysay Award recipient Sonam Wangchuk tells it in an exclusive conversation with BW Education's Editor Waqar Ahmed Fahad, a few excerpts from the interview are placed below

Photo from Sonam Wangchuk's Educational Institutions, SECMOL
Photo from Sonam Wangchuk's Educational Institutions, SECMOL
Photo from Sonam Wangchuk's Educational Institutions, SECMOL

Q: What is your take on the current structure “one size fits all” method of education that a majority of our institutions follow? How can a change be brought about?


 I think education cannot be “one size fits all” because people are different, no two people are similar and their ways of learning are different and their lives in future will be different so it has to be more flexible than what we have. What we have today is more like industrial schools, all mechanically organized into boxes then you put the products into different boxes and put a blanket solution to all. Children can be so different and they are good at very different things, some are very good at intellectual things others are very good at physical things and both are important in our lives. As they say, you cannot judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree so you can’t tell someone you’re a failure just because you are judging them on things that are not their strength and therefore it needs to be more flexible. I understand that we are dealing with a large population and therefore will not be able to be as Gurukuls used to be but still even in the current system we lay all our stress on science and maths as if nothing else was important. 

Q: Knowledge creation is more significant than knowledge dissemination. What is your opinion?

 I am saying for a country like India we need to create and help children create their own knowledge and take ownership of it and what happens when they do their own experiments and they do their own discoveries rather than just basing everything from reading from somebody else's writing, and making some standard answer. Reproduction of that as a success of education - that's one of the saddest things in our system. All our exams are based on reproducing standardized things and where you can't have any creativity, and flexibility you can't have an innovation. It will be somebody else's knowledge disseminated through transacted, administered, doctored but it won't be your own experiential learning so that's what we need to do in this country to let people create their own discoveries and take ownership of their own learning.

Q: How do you ensure that the misfits and failures in the present education system are successful through your institution?

 First of all, I wouldn’t call them failures maybe. You have to look at our school system. You have a system which is totally not as nature wants young people to learn. You have schools that trap you in a dark, dingy classroom for 8 hours which is not our nature. Grownups even, leave aside children. They are outgoing and cannot be held in a room.  Put them in a room and then lecture them all day, make them scribble things and reproduce those and call that education. So, in a system like this, I think in a system that is at fault, somebody who fails maybe actually better than others as the system itself is so much at fault that I would consider those who are not doing well to be more normal than those who are doing very well in a system like this. You have to think of this, what I think is that like all young ones of any species of animals, human young ones by nature are designed to learn by doing things out in nature in wild nature amidst dangers even. And we have never learned like this ever. As hunter-gatherers, our children were always out in wild nature tackling dangers together with the grownups and learning. As settled farmers, our children were again for the last 10000 years they were with the adults, in the field doing things and learning. It's only in the last 300 years called Industrial Revolution that we have put them in these factories and then made them do uniform things and everything in the world is all on the touch of a button. 

Q: A question that troubles most students and parents, what builds a successful future-Engineering, MBA or both?

 Well, I would say neither. What in my opinion is success is a happy person and a happy person can be with or without Engineering or MBA. A very unhappy person with the best of MBA, best of Engineering is I don't think you would call them a success. Someone who is depressed wants to jump off a cliff with top scores in MBA is hardly a success and therefore I would rather say that in our country we are somewhat obsessed with achievements of this kind- degrees, marks, ranks and then once you're finished education your turnover becomes your ranking and I think this is an unfortunate copying of the West. The West is I feel at a very primitive stage of making life into a journey of fulfilling desires. So we have become like a bottomless packets you put in that bucket anything you put your computer is your mobile your car's it doesn't fill because the bottom isn’t there. What Buddha said was basically put a bottom to your bucket and the few things you have will fill it and you will be contented so contentment is more a success for me and therefore I feel today we see all these people talking about Start-ups and ventures and Entrepreneurship great that good should start new things, innovation is great entrepreneurship is great but I don't like this thing of you have to become a multi-billionaire, multinational. You shouldn’t, you needn’t. You could just be a small entrepreneur in your own village but happy and that's beautiful. This is what will make this planet a beautiful peaceful planet and this thing of going multinational and multi-billion is what has caused the planet to almost die. All the climate change, global warming, our glaciers are melting,  our sea level is rising it's all thanks to this multi-billion multinational desire satisfying trend that we are following and we should actually lead the way to the west rather than follow their unsuccessful ways.

This article was published in BW Education issue dated 'July 20, 2018' with cover story titled 'BW Education Issue Apr-May 2018'

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higher education innovation education reforms schools

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