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The Well-Educated Mind...

Last week, I wrote a post about education. In it, I mentioned getting a "good education". This week, I figured I'd expand on that theme a little bit.

Myself, I've experienced two education systems: ICSE and A-levels. I studied from first to tenth grade in ICSE and 11th and 12th in A-levels. Now, here's a confession for you: when I was doing ICSE, my grades were terrible. Then, when I switched over to A-levels, they suddenly rose. Why? Not because I suddenly began putting in more effort. No, my grades rose (I suspect) because I switched to a system that was  more suited to the way I learn things - a system geared towards understanding rather than memorization.

My ICSE textbooks contained pages upon pages of facts. That's all they were, a set of facts. Chemistry was a set of chemical combinations to study for the exams, Physics was the formulae and definitions we needed to pass the exams. We never discussed why anything was significant, or really delved into the details of our subject matter, beyond what was required for the exams. My take on this whole thing is that facts are great, but at this point, we need people with real skills more than we need people who know the date of every obscure battle in Indian history.

A-levels, in my mind, is more suited to how I learn things. I don't mean to tell you that ICSE and ISC are bad syllabuses, per se - many of the smartest people I know study in ISC. Personally, I think A-levels is more useful in terms of my future - because I'm required to understand rather than memorize, I learned how to go about grasping complex concepts and how to remember what I'd grasped. I like to imagine that this will be more valuable in a professional environment than being able to name all the bones in the vertebral column (unless you go into medicine - God help you if you do).

The big advantage with A-levels is that you have to do a fair amount of understanding on your own, rather than being spoon-fed facts. This means that I can now, on my own time, go out and research anything I'm interested in and learn about it. I could teach myself how to build basic artificial intelligence mainly because I already knew how to go about learning something new. I think that's a hugely valuable thing to have.

There's a Shashi Tharoor speech in which he talks about having a well-formed mind rather than a well-filled one, and I(for once) agree with him. We're the country that gave the world the zero and the decimal system, surely we can give our people a good education?

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