She enjoys the rare luxury of getting the best of both worlds — music and architecture. A yellow-collar expert, singer and performer, Shakthisree Gopalan gets nostalgic about her school and college times and what education means to her. Read on.
Did you get Career guidance as a teen?
My school did what it could, and we had some career guidance programmes. But I wish I had access to a forum of professionals from various fields such as ad film makers, musicians and so on where I could have talked to them or asked them questions about their professions.
I wanted to take a year off to figure things out, but I was also confused. So, I wrote a lot of entrance exams, though I knew I didn’t want to pursue any of those courses.
In class XII, I started to reach out to architects. It was only when my uncle, an architect, threw more light on it and I experienced the career for myself, did I know how serious it was.
A school experience that helped shape you?
In class XII, the PTA in my school Rajagiri Public school, Cochin, sponsored a student to go to the presidential classroom, the World Leader Summit. This was a programme where 500 students from 40-50 different countries participated in a week-long conference. Dignitaries in positions of authority presented talks. After this, we drafted a communiqué in groups for the custodians of the World health Organization (WHO) to solve one crucial world problem.
The experience helped me broaden my horizons because it was the first time I was stepping out of India, with 16-17 year-olds from other countries. It gave me a more realistic view of students from different countries and the conditions they lived in.
The reality of being an architecture student:
I studied in the School of Architecture and planning in Anna University, Chennai. Architecture is a hectic course that involves sleepless nights, but, I liked it. It encompasses a lot of other disciplines that you need to learn. It teaches you a little bit of everything such as electrical and structural design, acoustics and plumbing. The process of design itself cannot be taught; it can only be fine-tuned.
We also had a six-month internship programme where we worked in an office. That was great because one cannot understand what goes on in an architect’s life unless one experiences it first-hand. The real world is different from studying; only through experience can one be taught that.
Has education in India changed?
The country’s education system is still rigid. We need to make it a little less stressful, especially in the lower grades. Back in school, our parents expected us to finish our Class XII exams and get into a college. Thanks to technology, today’s parents are more aware of the possibilities for their kids, even in unconventional jobs. For example, if someone wants to pursue a film making course in 2017, they are taken a lot more seriously than they would have been in the 1990s.
Since you’ve travelled extensively, what would you like to plug in to India that you’ve seen abroad?
Education systems abroad have much lighter courses. School or college hours are fewer as opposed to those in Indian schools and colleges.
The idea is to treat students as adults once they are in college. School mentality shouldn’t percolate into college.
If you were to teach, what would you do differently?
I would use a more practical, hands-on approach because that works better for most people, as you don’t tend to forget something that you’ve done hands-on.
Mala Mary Martina CEO, I Love Mondays