Few classes of people have come in for a more severe criticism than modern school – or – college – going students in India. Of course, the quarrel between the old and the young generations is not new. In every age the elders tend to shake their heads over the behaviour and performance of the youngsters, and compare them unfavourably with themselves when they were young. But there is something more than this in the attitude of the grown-ups to the teen-agers of today. The truth is that the gap that separates the old and the new generation is wider today than it ever was. Hence, several charges are levelled against modern Indian students, and they are judged with little sympathy and understanding.
Modern students, it is said, are too gay and debonair in their dress, aping western fashions like tight pants, narrow shoes and, in the case of girls, mini – skirts. Secondly, they are supposed to lack discipline and respect for their teachers and elders. Do they not often go on strike on flimsy grounds, and organise morchas and gherao the authorities? Do they not, probably prompted by politicians, indulge in violent and destructive activities?
In the first place, it must be pointed out that these charges are not at all applicable to a large number of students, who are quiet and studious. In those cases where they hold well, the eruption of indiscipline and violence is often due to a profound restlessness, dissatisfaction with the way affairs are managed by the elders. In fact, young men and women all over the world feel more or less restless, because they think that their leaders and rulers have made a mess of the world. Everybody knows that public life in our country is dominated by selfishness and corruption. In some cases at least, the sartorial gaiety and light – heartedness is intended to hide a deep sadness.
The standard of education attained by the modern Indian student is said to be low. His English, especially, is the butt of ridicule. What is not realised is that society is to be blamed for these deficiencies of our youngsters. The number of boys and girls seeking admission to schools and colleges has increased so enormously since independence that we do not have an adequate number of qualified teachers and the necessary equipment to educate all of them properly.
Education has spread widely, but standards have inevitably declined. Why, then, blame the modern student for not being better educated? We have to reckon with the fact that the modern Indian student is living through difficult times. What he sees around him does not encourage idealism, normally so dear to youth. He is often the victim of experiments in education. He feels the conflict between the old and the new, the traditional and the modern. We should, therefore, judge him with great sympathy and understanding.