Is Education Becoming Increasingly Iatrogenic? | Rajaraman Sundaresan

Rajaraman Sundaresan, a researcher in the field of Knowledge Studies raises pertinent questions on the current state of education system in this reflective piece. He is currently working with Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences, Bhubaneswar, India. His research areas include science and knowledge studies.


What is the future of education? Is education addressing the major challenges that the world is confronting today? In fact, one feels that these questions at large are being ignored by some of the major technical institutes of our country as a part their everyday disciplinary thought.

The questions raised are very fundamental to understand what I call the tacit iatrogenic quotient present in the modern day education systems and practices. Iatrogeny, basically is expert induced illness. In a profound way, one can ask whether the experts of education today aware of this iatrogenic quotient. Education as a mass system of change or transformation is posing its own threats for the future, Are we ready as a society to confront it?

The present battle of histories over the left and right in terms of the political economy of education is a mere idiocy. There is a deeper crisis beyond it. We need a new ethics of imagination to confront such a challenge. Masking up education as sacred and non-questionable won’t do. Today, Movies, Documentaries and Television shows have become more inventive than the education curriculums at schools and universities. They respond to the immediate crisis at a much faster and better way than educational institutions. To a certain extent, one feels Bollywood is more sensitive than our educational institutes. In fact, the Public intellectual and Sociologist Shiv Visvanthan put it brilliantly in a recent interview when he said that “entertainment has become more inventive than education”. I think his statement rightly points out the deeper crisis of the future in terms of education.

I think, no one except a tribal or a student of indigenous origin understands this better. Education as an inclusive tool for development sounds rhetorical without a change in the epistemics of the syllabus. Movies, documentaries, news paper articles, books, magazines and various other mediums of communications outside academia have started addressing issues relating to the loss of ecology, loss of languages, loss of species, loss of peace (holistic), loss of value systems and more importantly loss of trust amongst one another. In fact, in many ways it shows how peripheral we think when it comes to challenging the very epistemics of our own disciplines.


Today, Movies, Documentaries and Television shows have become more inventive than the education curriculums at schools and universities. They respond to the immediate crisis at a much faster and better way than educational institutions.


In a way, the question that one is trying to put-forward is twofold: One, is education as a mass process of change or transformation upholding the rights of a tribal as mentioned in the schedule (v) and schedule (vi) of the Indian constitution or is the whole idea of education for development proving contrary to the established schedules.

Two, is education as a whole, providing the space to retain one’s own identity or is it this identity of a tribal that it wants to change globally? To a large extent, education process today is cloning tribal children into the so called globalized world which has no theory of a future in terms of sustainability and citizenship.

If one tries to uncover the whole process, one may end up with a series of propositions and analysis which closely leads to question the very idea of education itself. On one hand, Curriculums and pedagogies dictate the borders and boundaries of thought within disciplines and on the other hand Science and Technology as an epistemic fascism dictates the very nature of that thought. Today, educational institutes and their curriculums have become blind followers of what Science as the medium of truth dictates over them. It’s time we start looking at the hegemony of modern science on educational systems and practices.

This very notion of transformation through education requires an immediate challenge from various social movements and civil society groups who are working across the areas of tribal education, tribal rights, tribal development and Other theories of sustainability. The symmetric idea of the educational process requires not only a new challenge from diverse fields of thought but also a new kind of political discourse where we talk about education as extinction.

Because, today in many ways education has become a mere policy tool of the what the World Bank would famously call the structural readjustment policy. One wonders whether we have all become victims of such a process without even realizing the iatrogenic effects of it. Education as a structural re-adjustment tool needs a much closer diagnosis because it is not only creating a genocidal effect on various life-systems but also posing a threat to the idea of diversity, as a way of life itself. In a deep and fundamental way, one wants to ask, is education as a policy tool homogenising our minds in the name of science and development.

The process of thinking is very central to the indices through which one has to understand or decode the present nature of educational process. In fact, a history of thinking could be one of the close ways in which we could rethink or unravel some of the secrets of education. Education today is a right, and unless we understand the politics of education at the metaphysical level , we cannot decode the iatrogenesis of the process.

Thought in my view is a variable that depends upon the constant called syllabus. What we in fact need, are new ways of thinking about education where we not only transcend the standard syllabus, but go beyond and understand the structural process through which education is organized as a tool for homogenising minds in this society.

Unfortunately, the tragedy of a “Make in India” requires a serious study of education and its rules of the game.

Article Courtesy: India Resists

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