time ‘spent’ on education(!)


Okay, let us do a little bit of a ‘back of the envelope’ calculation.

Let us assume that the average longevity of a human being in India is 65, which is actually a shortivity, given the unhealthy food practices of the majority of our population – what with the happy and generous rationing of ‘polished white’ rice (read: sugar problems), ‘refined’ oils (read: more cholestrol without vitamins/minerals), High Yield Variety wheat (read: pesticides, fungicides, weedicides) and ‘white’ sugar (read: pure poison) all over India, thanks to the illustrious public distribution system, a legacy of the British rape of India.

But, my diatribe is actually about education, so back to the topic…

Of the 24 hours available per day, we do the following:

  • Circa 9 hours on sleep
  • Circa 3 hours on ablutions, eating, cooking-cleaning (strictly reserved for females), entertainment, sports (strictly reserved for males & exclusively spent on training our fingers on various keyboards, remote controls, steering wheels, Sony PSPs, cellphones)
  • Circa 2 hours on commute to wherever the hell, and back

This compute leaves on an average, about 10 hours per day, to everyone of us, to lead our lives, derive some meaning etc. But we choose to spend close to 8-10 hours (in our adult lives) on the beasts called ‘work.’ – presumably to make ‘both ends meet’ or to ‘make a living’ or one of such thingies. Most of us even pretend to enjoy the ‘work’ that we would otherwise endlessly gripe about with our close friends and hapless spouses…

So, actually most of us don’t live at all. May be, except on weekends, which if we live in Bangalore, happily spend hanging around Brigade road or on Commercial Street or in a neon lit mall or in a multiplex – if at all we call these things life.

Aha, but then, I must NOT forget the stranger who keeps tabs on & ogles at us right in our dying rooms –  TV!

Give us our daily dread. Amen.

If this is a typical pattern with most of us, then, I would say that, it is high time we became manure and fed the microbes.  Thankfully some of us are not ready for it, yet – but then…

What about the children then? They don’t have these ‘work’ or ‘profession’ or whatever, at least. THEY should be enjoying THEIR lives, yeah??

Now comes the compute for the children who go to school:

No of days in an year:                                                    365

Less: Saturdays/Sundays                                                104

Less 2.5 months of various holidays

@20 days per month                                                        50

Days in school                                                                 211 (approximate, of course)

Age band (in years) of Children / adolescents / adults

Years spent

Hours per day spent in school

Days in school per year

No of hours ‘spent’ in school

2.5 – 5





6 to 15





16 & 17





18 – 20





I have assumed that children begin schooling at two-and-a-half years of age and keep ‘studying till their twentieth year at least. In many cases in reality, many young adults keep ‘studying’ till they are 25 or so…

Total no of hours ‘spent’ in school


Total no of calendar years on ‘education’ in school/college – till 20 years of age, say


This 3.10 years means days & nights full of study and study… and it should not be mistaken with a normal year.

Years spent

Hours per day spent in homework / tuitions

Days in these activities per year

No of hours ‘spent’ in these ‘out of school’ activities

Now add the ‘homework’





Add: ‘tuitions’





Grand’ total hours on ‘education’ via homework/tuitions


Grand’ total years on ‘education’ via homework/tuitions



Great grand no of years spent, with a bunch of certificates to prove it, at the end of this ‘education’…


This, in real terms will workout to, about…


The children (at least, most of them) spend a significant part of their impressionable years in things that provide them with an illusion of being ’educated.’

In the first twenty years of their lives, they spend more than 40% of their time in actiivties that are suppose to be providing them with ‘education’ and ‘life skills’…

Why do we do this? If we pause (don’t you ask for a remote control…) to think for a moment, it would be obvious that children also lead exciting lives (!) like the rest of us. They too don’t live their lives, poor things. But we should understand that we are training them for becoming like what we wanted to become in our youth, a couple of decades down their line.

After, all these years of gruelling ‘education’ one would think that all these ‘products’ of the education mills would have develop a robust sense of work ethic and be able at least to do things like, hold your breath:

  • identify the stars/planets in the night sky or
  • locate the edible plants in their own backyards or
  • fix of leaky water tap or
  • service their own vehicles or
  • take apart a kid’s toy, understand how it works and assemble it back or
  • teach a neighbourhood kid, going to kindergarten or
  • tell a half-decent story or
  • talk for five minutes – cogently and meaningfully or
  • write passionately about something for some 1000 words or
  • apply whatever things that they ‘learnt’ in their ‘studies’ in real life or
  • develop a decent self respect or
  • … even cook a decent meal…
  • … or even being punctual, goddammit…
  • be happy and peaceful??

No, Nyet, Nada, Ayyo, illey saar! Their bodies have done time while their bloody brains have taken a walk, what else!

And yeah! A few years back, I went to a ‘con’sultancy firm’s office in Whitefield (a suburb of Bangalore, housing gargantuan and soulless buildings and (mostly of course) IT companies) to visit an old classmate of mine – and a few of his friends; eventually, we started talking about the elite school we went to etc etc. And, one of the guys was truly a believer in the idea that the guys who went to our school were SUPREME and of course God’s own gift to mankind and all that… And the fundamentals (‘fundas’) that they have etc, and of course they are brainy.

To be honest, this guy was ‘academically’ good during those wasted days of my youth, certainly got much better grades than yours truly – but was essentially an acadummy.

I was endlessly peeved and I asked him Do you remember Eigen values and Eigen vectors that we studied and how useful they are to our practical  lives. He was flummoxed for a second, and said Of course, I don’t, but not all things were useful to study, I got good grades in my math courses but where do we even use Eigen vectors, huh?

Again I asked him Do you ever help in the kitchen by ‘rolling’ chappathis/rotis or even pack food, harnessing the lunch_packets with elastic rubber bands. He said No and asked What the f**k is the connection?

I didn’t say what the connection was, and controlled my temper. (actually these two examples are all Eigen stuff. Real pure Eigen. Ja.)

…The thing is that ‘brand’ recall is a great camouflage that helps a lot in covering up; in a world that is brand/stereotype oriented, we get only cardboard cut-outs. A sad state indeed.

It is another matter that this chap is working in the ‘States’ with a 5 figure dollar salary (as per his father) and visits his Bangalore based parents 4 times an year, on office ‘account’ or ‘expense.’

If this is the state of education and our ‘educated’ elite, who are seen to be successful and the vanguard, then why even bother to ‘educate’ our children?

I suspect that the reason is, actually we want our children to be like us, oh what a noble & paramount objective to shoot for, my eyes are filled with tears now… and at best we may wish for – them leading cushier lives than us, but doing as less ‘work’ as possible (while earning more and more money) and doing things that we wanted to do, once upon a time. Ta da!

I have a reasonable (read: ‘brand’) academic background, plodded through some 16 bloody years of ‘education’ and sometimes I feel whatever the hell, that I have to show for it!

… aw, but then, education systems are not all that bleak… There are ways and better ways and positive things… there are small scale efforts that are working in the direction of real education, but there is this question of scalability…

JournalEntry: 28th April, 2009

One Response to “time ‘spent’ on education(!)”

  1. T.S. Ravi Says:

    I sent this article to my son who is 19 years, voracious reader (other than subject!) and good listener. His reply is as below:
    “I don’t understand the point of this article or why you sent it to me. It seems to me a plain reiteration of facts that most people are well aware of. Despite the uncountable number of ‘hours wasted’ on an education (that I consider people are fortunate to receive), most of us manage to have passions and interests to live for. Looking past the flaws, any basic education performs the vital function of moulding children into decent adults who will fit into the society they were educated in. Considering that societal morals and values change rather slowly over time, this is an important function in my opinion. I think that in the end, the pros of a conventional education seriously outweigh the cons. Remember, this is coming from a square peg smashed into a round hole.

    As for his opinions on work and its drudgery, I’m not qualified to comment… yet. But I’ve heard some wise words from others, including you :) Here’s something similar.

    “If you end up with a boring miserable life because you listened to your mom, your dad, your teacher, your priest, or some guy on television telling you how to do your shit, then you deserve it.”
    ― Frank Zappa”
    Thanks and Regards,
    T.S. Ravi

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