Market Oriented Education

January 11, 2012 at 9:15 AMJan (Cinema, Friends, Musings, Slice Of Life, Soliloquy)

When asked about the Scripting course in their institute he said, “The course is called scripting for popular cinema.” Though I asked “Why?” it was not exactly to know the answer.

The very same institute had its course in acting cancelled many years ago, which was re-started again just few years ago. The reason for the discontinuation of the acting course several years ago was this: Girish Karnad was the director of the Institute then. In a few months of him taking over as the Director of the Institute, during one of his visits to Mumbai- the then Bombay- many passed out students from the acting course, met Karnad and told him that no producer in Bombay shows any interest in the students passed out from the film institute, except for some producers inviting some girls home after the night party. Speaking of their own plight the students told Karnad that there was no point in training more students and pushing them to Bombay where there were no producers offering them a job.

Recollecting this incident Karnad says that those days there were no countless channels to provide job for the actors in their never ending soap-operas. The only field of work was Bombay cinema (and yeah regional cinema).

With these incidents, from the autobiography of Girish Karnad, still fresh in mind it was not difficult to understand why the scripting course is called ‘Scripting for Popular Cinema’. The only job provider is the popular cinema industry and hence there is demand for courses which train scripting in the bollywood and Hollywood way. There is a demand and there is supply.

Its not just the case of the institute in reference here but every other institute has taken on itself the obligation of devising the courses with the industry, the market and jobs in mind. Though I agree with the fact that a job to earn bread is crucial and necessary I have never understood the whole phenomena of seeing educational institutions as a factory to produce material for the industry, the market and for jobs where education reshapes itself with the market in mind.

The new generations of students too look for courses which will make them industry friendly and market friendly. One of the first things enquired by students and their parents, I am told, these days in every institute is, “how are the placements?” My own students had a major complaint saying the institute did not place them. I was terribly angered by the complaint for it had a presumption within itself saying educational institutes MUST provide jobs and it is its DUTY. Even enquiries about “placement” also have the same assumption, as if educational institutes are established to place students in jobs.

As told earlier even educational institutes assumes that it is its responsibility to provide jobs and reshapes its syllabus and course structure to suit the industry and the market. To be updated with the times and knowledge system is different and reshaping oneself with the market and industry in mind is different and the gap between these differences is of miles.

The students, their parents and the institutes which believe that it is the duty of an educational institute to provide a job need to know just one truth that educational institutes are to train the students and help them learn and not to ‘place’ them. The job of the educational institutes is to train the students IN the subject and not FOR the industry/ market. Educational institutes are not a factory to produce goods for the market.

Girish Karnad begins his chapter on the film institute recollecting the admission of one particular student who later went on to be one of the best actors the nation and the world has seen. When Girish Karnad took over as the Director of the institute the admission for the acting course involved ‘screen test’ and the applicants had to showcase their snaps in different angles  and those who would had a ‘screen friendly’ appearance would get and admission. In those days a student from National School of Drama, New Delhi appeared for the entrance exam for the acting course who by no standards was remotely close to being ‘screen friendly’ with the innumerable spots on his face. But as Girish Karnad recollects the boy was “exceptionally talented” and did extremely well in the admission test. But the panel refused to consider him for admission because he was not “screen friendly” and there was no way that anyone could play any role with such an “ugly face.” Countering these arguments Karnad argued that, “our duty as an institution is to select the ones who have the talent in them and train them, nothing more or less.” Several years later while receiving the Filmfare award for lifetime achievement Om Puri said, “If not for Karnad I wouldn’t have gotten admission nor would have I been here.”

Girish Karnad believed that the Institute was there to select the students with the potential to become actors and train them and not to see who would suit the Bombay Cinema industry and select them based on their ‘screen friendly’ appearance. Karnad was right in his approach of seeing education without the preoccupation of industry and market. The idea of a film institute is to train the potential students and not to prepare them for the Bombay Cinema. If the industry is not dictating the terms and conditions for the institute probably there will be more Om Puris and Naseruddin Shah. Similarly if in every field the educational institutes concentrate only on training the students in their field and not bothering much with the industry outside the market outside probably there will be many and many potential people there in the field. And more importantly knowledge and talent would run the show and not market!

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