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Eminent Indian Educationists Review The New Education Policy 2020

New Education Policy 2020 has been announced on 29 July, we review the policy along with top educationist of the country

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New Education Policy 2020 by the Ministry of Human Resource and Development (renamed: Ministry of Education) has been announced on 29 July 2020. The announcement was commenced by Union Ministers for Information and Broadcasting (I&B) and Human Resource Development (HRD), Prakash Javadekar and Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank,’ respectively. They were joined by Amit Khare and Anita Karwal, both Education Secretaries.

In the wake of COVID-19 pandemic, the subsequent lockdown is responsible for a delayed academic session in the schools this year. Although, it has been worked up to open the academic session from September-October 2020. 

 

 

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Talking about the New Education Policy 2020, here are major reforms for school education and other suggested improvements for school and higher education that the leaders announced: 

  1. Universalization of Early Childhood Care Education (ECCE): NCERT will develop a National Curricular and Pedagogical Framework for Early Childhood Care and Education (NCPFECCE) for children up to the age of 8. ECCE will be delivered through a significantly expanded and strengthened system of institutions including Anganwadis and preschools 
  2. National Mission on Foundational Literacy and Numeracy: There will be no rigid separation between academic streams, extracurricular, vocational streams in schools; Vocational Education to start from Class 6 with Internships 
  3. 5+3+3+4 Curricular and Pedagogical Structure: this curriculum with 12 years of schooling and 3 years of Anganwadi/Pre-schooling
  4. Curriculum to integrate 21st Century Skills, Mathematical Thinking and Scientific temper
  5. No Rigid Separation between Arts & Science, between Curricular and extra-curricular activities, between Vocational and Academic streams
  6. Education of Gifted Children: Special emphasis will be given on Socially and Economically Disadvantaged Groups (SEDGs) which include gender, socio-cultural, and geographical identities and disabilities
  7. Gender Inclusion Fund: Gender Inclusion Fund and also Special Education Zones for disadvantaged regions and groups
  8. KGBVs up to Grade 12
  9. Reduction in Curriculum to Core Concepts: Students will have increased flexibility and choice of subjects. There will be no rigid separations between arts and sciences, between curricular and extra-curricular activities, between vocational and academic streams. 
  10. Vocational integration from class 6 onwards
  11. New National Curriculum Framework for ECE, School, Teachers and Adult Education
  12. Board Examination will be Low Stakes, Based on Knowledge Application
  13. The medium of instruction till at least Grade 5, and preferably till Grade 8 and beyond in Home Language/ Mother tongues/ Regional Language
  14. Tracking Students Progress for Achieving Learning Outcomes: Assessment reforms with 360-degree Holistic Progress Card, tracking Student Progress for achieving Learning Outcomes
  15. National assessment centre, PARAKH: Performance Assessment, Review, and Analysis of Knowledge for Holistic Development will be set up as a standard-setting body
  16. NTA to offer Common Entrance Exam for Admission to HEIs
  17. National Professional Standards for Teachers (NPST): It will be developed by the National Council for Teacher Education by 2022, in consultation with NCERT, SCERTs, teachers and expert organizations from across levels and regions.
  18. Book Promotion Policy and Digital Libraries: Schools can be organized into complexes or clusters which will be the basic unit of governance and ensure availability of all resources including infrastructure, academic libraries and a strong professional teacher community.
  19. Transparent online self-disclosure for public oversight and accountability
  20. Technology in education: An autonomous body, the National Educational Technology Forum (NETF), will be created to provide a platform for the free exchange of ideas on the use of technology to enhance learning, assessment, planning, administration. 
  21. Financing Education: The Centre and the States will work together to increase the public investment in the education sector to reach 6% of GDP at the earliest.

We spoke to some of the top educationists of the country to bring out the crux of the policy draft and find out their personal opinions about the NEP 2020. Excerpts

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Lt Col A Sekhar, Soldier Educationist

Challenges to be faced:

  1. It’s a progressive document, yet, without overarching long term vision.
  2. It’s a transformation attempted by the Indian government in the education sector but it falls short
  3. More on continuity, rather than transforming the main theme, despite some new ideas; especially in expected outcomes.
  4. Transformation of Assessment as suggested by the NEP is incredibly challenging.
  5. Outcomes are unrealistic in this milestone of NEP.
  6. Expected future jobs for the students does not match with the NEP reforms.
  7. Roadblocks will be natural in the stated reforms due to funding, governance and implementation.

The most serious of concerns for us, as educators/school leaders working at the ground level, are:

  1. Severe lack of resources on the ground level, both for private and public sector scholastic institutions
  2. The reluctance in mindset change due to deep-set fixed perception
  3. Huge, vested interests against the change
  4. Inherent insecurities of academia
  5. Societal indifference toward our teachers

Dr. Arunabh Singh, Director, Nehru World School

My top three takeaways from this are:

  1. One skill per year is a welcome and achievable target. It’s totally the need of the hour. I’m glad we have got this in the policy. 
  2. Portfolio-based 360-degree assessment with inputs from teachers, students and also parents in a fantastic idea. 
  3. The concept of National Professional Standards for teachers gets my thumbs-up as well.

Mr. Vishnu Karthik, Director, The Heritage Group of Schools

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I’m pleasantly surprised! The NEP clearly acknowledges the need to embrace output focused reform rather than input focused reforms. The devil is in the details, but the new NEP has touched upon some key levers which will have a high impact on student learning levels. One is, of course, bringing on ECCE into NCF. Another is the decision to reduce the curriculum into the core. This will provide significant opportunity to focus on critical skills and capacities and would be gateway reform on curriculum and assessments. What is heartening is to see many reforms focused on assessments especially on National Assessment Centre and tracking of student progress on learning outcomes. These will bring in much-needed attention and accountability on learning progress.

Dr. Swati Popat Vats, President, Early Childhood Association & Association for Primary Education and Research

It’s a proud moment for our country that after 34 years, our new National Education Policy is released. We may dissect it all we want, but let's start by congratulating the government and the committee that worked hard on ensuring that vision of millions of Indian educators and policymakers is developed for the larger enhancement of education of our country. Also, an important move is to rename the Ministry of HRD to the Ministry of Education (MoE). The new policy is an integrated yet flexible approach to education but the ‘devil’ will, of course, be in the details! 

“The National Education Policy 2019 envisions an India centred education system that contributes directly to transforming our nation sustainably into an equitable and vibrant knowledge society, by providing high-quality education to all.”

1. Most importantly, the commitment of ECCE to children from age 3 onwards has been honoured in the new education policy. 
2. ECE for all by 2030, this is worth applauding and achievable only with the cooperation of all state governments. 
3. A national curriculum framework for ECCE is laudable, but the devil here will be how much say each state will have in this as it is imperative that a common guideline and goal should be drafted and state governments should not have the power to deviate from these essentials. As it is not fair for young children in different states to get a differing head start in life.
4. A preparatory class called ‘Balvatika’ in Anganwadis for 4 to 5-year-old children? Preparatory for what? Will they not follow the foundational age group of 3 to 8 years?
5. A welcome initiative is the National Foundation of Literacy and Numeracy Mission. We hope that literacy would Include first and second languages. And an earnest hope that numeracy designed by the foundation should be found in the curriculum and textbooks used by schools 
6. The Policy takes cognizance of the differences in the development of cognitive abilities in children. The flexibility in the first five years will enable equalising of the multiple cognitive abilities of children. 
7. 4 years integrated B.Ed degree by 2030, but what about ECE? Still no guidelines or a common course for ECE teachers!
8. A common National Professional Standards for Teachers (NPST) will be developed by the National Council for Teacher Education by 2022, in consultation with NCERT, SCERTs, teachers and expert organizations from across levels and regions. Will this include ECE teacher courses? 
9. 6% GDP on education is a welcome move, how much on ECE? This needs to be identified too. 
10. ‘Parakh’, the National assessment centre, we sincerely hope that they also define assessment for early years so that developmental delays and learning lags can be identified and rectified early on. 
11. It takes a village to raise a child, and the village identified in this policy for ECE is jointly the Ministries of HRD, Women and Child Development (WCD), Health and Family Welfare (HFW), and Tribal Affairs. How this village works together will decide the success of ECE in this country.  
12. NCERT will develop a National Curricular and Pedagogical Framework for Early Childhood Care and Education (NCPFECCE) for children up to the age of 8. A welcome move, ECA is hopeful that states will ensure the implementation of the same and thus remove the traditional, formal, stressful curriculums being followed by many preschools. The policy advocates that children of ages 3-8 have access to flexible, multifaceted, multilevel, play-based, activity-based, and discovery-based education. How this will be implemented and assured is going to be work in progress.
13. ECCE will be delivered through a significantly expanded and strengthened system of institutions including Anganwadis and preschools that will have teachers and Anganwadi workers trained in the ECCE pedagogy and curriculum – the question is what will this training comprise of? This needs to be identified at the earliest else different states will have different standards and quality of ECE teachers.
14. Mother tongue is a good move but difficult to implement. In cities where multiple language children are in the same class, which language will the teacher teach in?
15. Transparent public self-disclosure of all the basic regulatory information, as laid down by the State School Standards Authority (SSSA) will be used extensively for public oversight and accountability. The SCERT will develop a School Quality Assessment and Accreditation Framework (SQAAF), will this include ECE?
16. A single pedagogical unit called the “Foundational Stage." It is necessary, therefore, to develop and establish such an integrated foundational curricular and pedagogical framework, and corresponding teacher preparation, for this critical Foundational Stage of a child’s development. How schools will work this out and train already existing teachers in this will be the struggle? Also, this needs to be part of ECCE teacher training programs, and other teacher training programs. 
17. Also, does it mean that exiting private standalone preschools can now extend to grade 2?
18. A very heartening inclusion is that all the school children will undergo regular health check-ups and health cards will be issued. We hope this will include ECE children, too. 
19. A good initiative for the health of young children is the inclusion of an energizing breakfast in addition to midday meals. 

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Overall the new education policy is a great vision to change the educational landscape in this country and it vitalises education by ensuring that ECE becomes the starting point of education for all children. 
 

Mr. Ashok Pandey, Director, Ahlcon Public and International Schools

The NEP, which has seen the light of the day after 35 years, makes a refreshing and encouraging read.

  1. The policy lays down the vision of equity and excellence of every child. Aligning the policy with India's obligation to Sustainable Development Goals (Goal 4), the policy is clear on commitment and intent.
  2. Bringing back the children who are out of the school for whatever reason and also, ensuring 100% service to adult education is likely to fulfil the commitment of education for all and lifelong learning.
  3. The target of achieving 50% enrolment in higher education from the current level of 26% is in line with the enrollment in higher education in most of the developed countries. To achieve this, the Universalisation of secondary education is must, and the policy rightly speaks about it.
  4. To make education equitable and accessible, the creation of a scholarship pool for the socially disadvantaged group is a welcome step.
  5. For an education system to be progressive, holistic, and inclusive, a degree of flexibility is a must. I am happy that flexibility in courses and curriculum, pedagogy, assessment, and technology has the full attention of the policy. My interpretation of the fine print suggests that short-term skill-based courses with micro-credentials will find its way into the system.
  6. It is heartening to note that there is an express desire to foster student agency and include their voices and choices, through student parliament has been identified as an essential feature of the policy.
  7. Teachers are the critical link between the student's aspirations and policy intent. Investment in teachers, their capacity building and bringing in accountability is a valuable exercise. The policy has laid down the guidelines for recruitment, retention, standards, and framework for the teachers.
  8. The purpose of education is not only to add grades, years, and certification. The purpose of education is to build societies. The NEP makes this vision clear.

Mr. Kanak Gupta, Director, Seth MR Jaipuria Schools

IT'S ABOUT TIME! God knows how many 'expert' panel discussions we've done on the drafts, at least there's some movement now. Does it deliver? Well. 

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  1. I'm happy about the introduction of mother tongue in primary grades. Hopefully, it'd reach the missionary schools, too.
  2. I'm happy about the focus on the shift of assessments and restructuring of the grade levels. However, implementation is the higher and tougher task. India is a country that changes every 100 km. A policy made in the metro cities may not reflect into similar implementation at ground level. 
  3. Training of our teachers and changing patterns by 2022: huge task and mission. It's the nitty-gritty that's worried me. For instance, I'm excited to see planning for implementing Sanskrit. Surely a tough ask, especially in Southern states. 
  4. I'm a big believer in collaborative projects and learning by doing. Kudos to the makers thinking about that.
  5. Surprised its light on core issues of cultural deracination. I was hoping for a clearer distinction between literacy and numeracy, too.
  6. Of course, focus on GER is positive. However, one thinks whether the new normal taught us that the world has changed at all? Should've probably reimagined teaching-learning on the hybrid model, should've done away with Universalisation, too. 
  7. I firmly believe this should be an on-going task. No need for us to reinvent the wheel, but perhaps, just perhaps, look at a 3-5-year timeline to introspect and see where we are going, rather than wait for 35 years for a top-down decision to come.

Congratulations, we are under 'Ministry of Education' now Small but good change!

Ms Divya Lal, Managing Director, Fliplearn Education Pvt. Ltd.

The New Education Policy is a refreshing shift and a bold corrective action in our approach to education in India and we welcome it whole-heartedly. Technology will now play a much bigger role not just in planning and administration, but pedagogy, content, tutelage and assessment; which is both futuristic and transformative, to say the least. The increased focus on technology, digital empowerment of schools will encourage institutions to upgrade their technology infrastructure and offerings to more virtual and seamlessly integrated platforms. The virtual platforms/labs will also bring learning alive for students with an emphasis on visual and experiential components than Rote learning. With reduced insularity and greater freedom in students selecting their subjects of choice, the focus will return to holistic learning of all subjects, rather than a bent towards Maths and Sciences. All-in-all, the new policy is a great step in the right direction and we look forward to the new face of education in India.

Mr. Matthew Raggett, Educationist, Writer, Former Headmaster, The Doon School

NEP contains many proposals that are progressive in their intentions and many good schools in the country that have been working towards them for years. For some schools, this has meant a shift in pedagogy from rote delivery to the planning of tasks and experiences through which their students learn. For other schools, it has meant a move towards the international examination boards and a curriculum that includes inquiry-based learning.

For some teachers, it has meant relearning an entire approach to their work. Planning is no longer about which page in the textbook would be done today, it is about collaborative, backward planning from the objectives that will guarantee every child the same opportunity to learn.

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If India really is to have an education system by 2040 that is second to none, there are things that will have to change within the educational landscape, along with the political and social landscape. Long-lasting change cannot come from schools alone when they are a part of a larger system that also needs to change.

While recognizing, identifying, and fostering the unique capabilities of each student is a worthy goal, the idea that this can be done by sensitizing teachers, as well as parents to promote each student’s holistic development in both academic and non-academic spheres, means changing people hearts and minds; a lot easier said than done.

To have no hard separations between arts and sciences, between curricular and extra-curricular activities, between vocational and academic streams, etc. in order to eliminate harmful hierarchies among, and silos between different areas of learning is another well-intentioned aim that will require a generation of teachers, parents, universities and employers to abandon their own hierarchies and biases.

For ethics and human & Constitutional values like empathy, respect for others, cleanliness, courtesy, democratic spirit, the spirit of service, respect for public property, scientific temper, liberty, responsibility, pluralism, equality, and justice to be developed in schools, our students will have to be able to look around and see these being taken seriously in every area of civil life and society.

To move the focus on regular formative assessment for learning rather than the summative assessment that encourages today’s ‘coaching culture will have an enormous impact on the quality of learning and understanding developed in schools, but to follow it up by a Common Entrance Exam for admission to HEIs will undermine that effort.

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I think that the NEP will provide a much-needed opportunity for us to look at where we are and to reflect on where we want to be. The work of moving to that destination with our schools by 2040 is going to be a challenge that anyone invested in education is willing to take on, but not one that everyone in schools is necessarily equipped, qualified or able to take on at the moment.

Education

What It Takes to Be Well-Educated; Not Just Well-Read

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The need to bridge the gap between what should be and what’s being delivered in the school educational system in India is most severe than ever before. As we see the rise in the number of Indians as global leaders in the corporate, tech, art and political sector we must ask ourselves whether we are catering to the demand of 21st century and doing justice to our younger generation or not!

It won’t be an exaggeration to say that India is living in one of its best times in terms of industrial growth, demand of higher education and service sector, religious and spiritual awakening and humongous rise in the national infrastructure and the commitment to grow further can definitely be seen when 3.3 percent of total GDP has been outlaid for infrastructure in Union Budget 2023-24 but at the same time this peak also alarms the need to prepare thought leaders, logical/critical individuals, go getters and prepare the most efficient workforce for the years to come.

What we need to deliver to the younger generation along with the industrial and employable skill is the idea and importance of mental health, argumentative skills, decision making skill, communication skill and to summarize the contemporary demand in a single word is to be the ‘human’ first in a way that the almighty intended us to be i.e. just, fair, hardworking with balanced scientific temperament. Even World Health Organization expressed serious concern over mental health issue of adolescents by stating that globally, one in seven 10-19-year-olds experiences a mental disorder, accounting for 13% of the global burden of disease in this age group.

NEP 2020 points out several changes in the formal education policy right from the pre-school till the university space but the right steps for its most efficient implementation so as to achieve a holistic and comprehensive development is still a long way to go. As per the All India Survey on Higher Education 2019 report, India’s higher education sector consists of 3.74 crore students in nearly 1,000 universities, 39,931 colleges, and 10,725 stand-alone institutions. Thus, a countrywide implementation of this mega education policy is going to be a mammoth exercise involving multiple stakeholders at the state, district, sub-district, and block levels.

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Change and regularly updating the curriculum, minimum standard maintenance of quality education, teachers training and uniformity amongst several state and national board are few urgent and at most necessary steps amongst other factors. And the functionaries of these changes aren’t just educational leaders and teachers but the parents and students themselves. They need to ask the right questions, consider all the factors such as time, investment and opportunities and be firm while saying a big NO to sub standard institutions which are just making a hole in their pockets in return of nothing more than a window dressing in the name of mark sheet and degree based system.

We have already achieved remarkable feet in terms of numeracy and literacy skills for foundation classes/toddlers, the Annual Status of Education Report says that in 2023, 73.6% of 14-18 year-olds could read a Class 2 level text, and arithmetically, in 2023, 43.3% of youth could do a simple (class 3-4 level) division problem; our graduates are breaking glass ceiling with every passing hour when it comes to innovation, design and product enhancement, Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) recognized 1,17,254 startups as on 31st December 2023 and as per the Economic Survey Report 2022-23 in 2022 alone, homegrown startups generated 2.69 Lacs jobs in the country. 

With the rising trend of Ed-tech and content creation through media there is plethora of knowledge awaiting to be learned but international exposure, state of the art facilities and hefty charges alone cannot cater to the students’ needs but developing emotional quotient, awakening self awareness and the sense of integrity and service motive is what’s going to sustain the social ecosystem in a way which will result into an overall development of the younger generation thus achieving social, economical, political development and a level playing field for every opportunity that our beautiful world has to offer.

This article is co-authored by:
CA, Suresh Prabhu, Founding Chancellor , Rishihood University; Visiting Professor at London School of Economics; Former Union Minister of Railways
Rajat Shah, Advocate; Edupreneur/Trustee, Narayani Public School; Visiting Professor of Law and Management.

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Education

Education Through a ‘Humane’ Lens

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Picture Credits: Anipixels

Our history has traditionally embraced the importance of building relationships with animals. From an animal’s loyalty to bravery, various instances have been highlighted in historical texts and scriptures (Mahabharata and Ramayana). Many children grew up listening to stories, stories of compassion; further encouraging them to experience the human-animal bond. But in recent years, as we witness an increase in animal cruelty and pet abandonment cases, compassion seems to be at a loss today.

According to the report findings by the Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations (FIAPO) and All Creatures Great and Small (ACGS), between 2010-2020, a total of 4,93,910 animals were victims of crimes committed by humans. Keeping in mind that many cases go unreported, out of the 720 documented cases of crime against street animals, 20 cases were of assault by children. With nearly 50% of India’s population under the age of 25, such revelations underscore the urgent need to cultivate empathy and compassion from a young age. Humane Education, an approach that cultivates children to be empathetic and compassionate not only towards fellow beings but also all sentient beings, is an important pillar of 21st-century sensibilities. 

(Picture Credits: Peedu’s People)

“Children are human beings to whom respect is due, superior to us by reason of their innocence and of the greater possibilities of their future.”Maria Montessori

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Founded in 2021, India Animal Fund (IAF) along with NGOs like Peedu’s People; are working to ensure wholesome child development through holistic learning for school children. For young children and students to make informed and ethical choices, through humane education sessions, we introduce them to this concept via experiential, learning, observational and application learning. “Along with our partner Peedu’s People, we have delivered over 250 sessions across India. Around 10K+ children were introduced to humane education and workshops reached over 55 schools. The next steps involve expanding the programme and integrating it into the NCERT syllabus for broader reach.” says Sandeep Reddy, COO – India Animal Fund (IAF). From environmental conservation to social justice, such initiatives are crucial for creating a sustainable and equitable society. 

Another study from Science Directs indicates that children who exhibit cruelty towards animals may have witnessed or experienced family violence and are at risk of engaging in human-directed aggression during adolescence and adulthood. Implementing such programmes not only prevents violence, but also increases the likelihood of detecting and intervening early. Not only would it be beneficial for the children from K-12, if implemented in the school curriculum, via teacher training programmes, educators or schoolteachers can also be equipped with the tools and resources needed to integrate humane education into their teaching practices.

While we have animal protection laws in our country, this strategic investment may lead to a cornerstone of our educational system. By nurturing empathy and compassion among children today, we can empower the next generation to build a better world for all living beings, for them to navigate an increasingly interconnected and complex world.

Authored By-
Nidhi Gupta
Manager- Content and Communications,
India Animal Fund (IAF) 

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Education

Why Sex Education in Schools is a Battlefield: A Look into Recent Debates and the Path Forward

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Sex education in schools has once again found itself in the eye of a political storm. In the UK, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s recent overhaul of sex education and gender identity teachings in England’s schools has sparked intense debate. As reported by CNN, Sunak’s administration claims the changes provide much-needed clarity, but critics argue they are politically motivated and detrimental to students’ wellbeing.

The Current Debate

The newly unveiled guidelines mandate that children cannot be taught sex education before the age of nine, with explicit discussions on sexual activity delayed until age 13. Additionally, the concept of gender identity is deemed “highly contested” and is to be excluded from the curriculum. Education Secretary Gillian Keegan emphasized that teachers should impart facts rather than push agendas, a statement that has further fueled the controversy.

Pepe Di’lasio, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, criticized the move as being driven by a “political agenda at the front of a campaign season.” He pointed out the lack of substantial evidence backing the changes, suggesting they are more about garnering votes than genuinely addressing educational needs.

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The Politics of Sex Education

Sunak’s approach is seen by many as a bid to win over socially conservative voters ahead of an impending general election. This strategy has involved a series of divisive announcements, with sex education being the latest target.

Critics, including Paul Whiteman of the National Association of Head Teachers, argue that the rigid limits on discussions could drive students to seek information from unreliable sources. Sam Freedman, a senior advisor at the Ark education charity, echoed this sentiment, highlighting the educational value of discussing contested topics like gender identity in a balanced manner.

The Case for Comprehensive Sex Education

The debate over sex education isn’t limited to the UK. In India, where traditional attitudes often dominate, the need for comprehensive sex education is equally pressing. According to a 2022 survey by the Indian Journal of Community Medicine, only 20% of Indian adolescents reported receiving formal sex education. This gap leaves many young people ill-equipped to navigate their sexual health and relationships safely.

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Sex education opponents often cite cultural and moral grounds, fearing that such education might corrupt young minds. However, evidence suggests otherwise. A UNESCO report from 2018 highlighted that comprehensive sex education can lead to delayed sexual initiation, reduced risk-taking, and increased use of contraception, thereby reducing rates of unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections.

Breaking the Stigma

The stigma surrounding sex education often stems from misconceptions and a lack of understanding. Addressing these misconceptions requires a multi-faceted approach:

1. Parental Involvement: Engaging parents in the dialogue around sex education can help demystify the topic and alleviate fears. Schools should offer workshops and resources to help parents understand the curriculum and its benefits.

2. Teacher Training: Educators need robust training to handle sex education topics sensitively and effectively. This includes understanding diverse perspectives and being equipped to support students’ varied needs.

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3. Evidence-Based Policies: Policymaking should be grounded in research rather than political agendas. Studies consistently show that comprehensive sex education supports better health outcomes. Policymakers must prioritize students’ long-term wellbeing over short-term political gains.

4. Community Engagement: Building community support for sex education involves transparent communication and collaboration with local leaders, healthcare professionals, and advocacy groups. Creating a community consensus can help overcome resistance and build a supportive environment for students.

A Path Forward

The controversy over sex education in schools highlights a broader issue: the tension between political agendas and educational integrity. While Sunak’s new guidelines may cater to a specific voter base, they risk undermining the comprehensive education that young people need to thrive.

In both the UK and India, breaking the stigma around sex education requires a commitment to evidence-based practices and an open, inclusive dialogue. By fostering understanding and addressing concerns head-on, we can create a more informed and healthier society.

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As we navigate these debates, it’s crucial to remember that the ultimate goal of education is to equip students with the knowledge and skills they need to lead healthy, fulfilling lives. Let’s ensure that political motivations do not overshadow this fundamental objective.

(Inspired by recent analyses from CNN and BBC on UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s new education guidelines)

References:
– Rob Picheta, CNN Analysis
– The Indian Journal of Community Medicine
– UNESCO Report on Comprehensive Sexuality Education (2018)

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Teaching Sensitivity to Kids in School: A Necessity for Today’s World

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In recent years, instances of bullying, violence, and other harmful behaviours have alarmingly increased among young children. Various factors contribute to this troubling trend. The omnipresence of social media, exposure to violent content, familial discord, and the high-pressure environment of academic and extracurricular achievements are significant reasons. These influences create an environment where children may not develop the necessary empathy and understanding to coexist harmoniously with their peers.

Given this backdrop, it is crucial to emphasise the teaching of sensitivity to children in schools. Sensitising kids towards each other, society, animals, nature, and humans in general is not just beneficial—it is imperative for fostering a more compassionate and cohesive community.

The Importance of Sensitivity

Firstly, teaching sensitivity is essential to combat bullying and violence. When children are taught to understand and appreciate the feelings and perspectives of others, they are less likely to engage in harmful behaviours. Empathy and kindness can act as powerful deterrents against bullying. Moreover, children who are sensitive to the emotions of their peers can contribute to a supportive and inclusive school environment, where everyone feels valued and respected.

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Furthermore, sensitivity towards society and the environment is crucial for nurturing responsible future citizens. Teaching children to care for animals, respect nature, and understand social issues instils a sense of responsibility and stewardship. This not only benefits the immediate community but also contributes to the broader goal of sustainable living and environmental conservation.

Implementing Sensitivity Education at the Grassroots Level in India

To effectively implement sensitivity education, a multifaceted approach is necessary, starting at the grassroots level. Here are several strategies that can be employed:

  1. Incorporate Sensitivity into the Curriculum: Schools should integrate lessons on empathy, kindness, and respect into the existing curriculum. Subjects like Social Studies and Environmental Science can include modules that teach children about the importance of sensitivity towards others and the environment. Stories, role-playing activities, and discussions can be powerful tools in this regard.
  2. Teacher Training and Development: Educators play a pivotal role in shaping the attitudes and behaviours of students. Providing teachers with training on how to foster empathy and sensitivity in the classroom is essential. Workshops and seminars can equip teachers with the skills and knowledge to create an inclusive and supportive learning environment.
  3. Extracurricular Activities and Clubs: Schools can organise clubs and activities that promote sensitivity. For instance, eco-clubs can engage students in activities like tree planting, waste management, and animal care, fostering a sense of responsibility towards nature. Similarly, social service clubs can involve students in community service projects, teaching them the importance of giving back to society.
  4. Parental Involvement: Sensitivity education should not be confined to the school environment. Encouraging parents to reinforce these values at home is crucial. Schools can organise workshops and provide resources to help parents understand their role in teaching empathy and kindness to their children.
  5. Creating a Safe and Inclusive School Environment: Schools should strive to create an environment where every student feels safe and valued. Anti-bullying policies, counselling services, and peer support programs can help achieve this. Additionally, celebrating diversity and promoting inclusivity through cultural events and awareness campaigns can enhance students’ understanding and appreciation of different perspectives.

Teaching sensitivity to children in school is not merely an optional add-on to education; it is a fundamental aspect of nurturing well-rounded individuals who can contribute positively to society. By addressing the rise in bullying and violence through empathy and understanding, we can create a more compassionate and harmonious community. Implementing sensitivity education at the grassroots level in India requires a collaborative effort from educators, parents, and the community. Together, we can ensure that our children grow up to be empathetic, responsible, and sensitive citizens, ready to make a positive impact on the world.

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Education

Beyond Appearances: Prachi Nigam’s Triumph and The Pressures of Appearance-Based Bullying in Schools

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Image Source- BBC Hindi

The news of Prachi Nigam, a diligent 10th UP Board Topper, unleashed a disturbing chapter in the history of our society. Despite her unquestionable academic talent being the main topic of a discussion it was superseded by the inappropriate emphasis on her appearance. These events clearly underline the intricate and destructive beauty standard that plague the learning institutions.

It perhaps resonates with the fact that, in the process, we form these gigantic LED screens of illusory beauty standards, which subsequently hover over our young, leaving long shadows behind their achievements. Even if they keep advancing up the ladder of academic strength, their way at the top is checked through the view of how attractive they are. The risk of humiliation due to poor marks and failing an exam is unavoidable. The true woe Prachi has is the desire for anonymity despite her impressive winning activities, which emphasises how emotional hearts of young people can be dysfunctional from such pressures.

Time has come for all of us, as a society, to shape direction which mostly depends on whether empathy has the right place in our classrooms or not. Let this be a lighthouse to the teachers to build suitable defences of comfort around the children thus, no kid should be caught hiding from scrutiny in the shadows. Teachers are doing not only a transmission of knowledge but also establishing an arena where jokes and laughter is shared with no one’s dignity being mocked. When a person makes fun of someone for his/her looks, it should not have a tolerance or a laughter of agreement but condemnation with the sober reminder of respect and tolerance.

The heart of our education philosophy must be the acceptance that the human body is the norm, in its different shapes, and be explained that those changes in adolescence, which are taken as anomalies, are just threads in the rich diversity of our human experience. The burden exists equally in both teaching our young boys that hair is a natural part of a woman’s presence and passing judgement or hearsay based on the absence of hair is unjustifiable, besides disrespectful.

Creating a monument for our schools is to convert them into sensitive meeting places where each child can grow up in freedom without the worry of being dug out for their uniqueness. These classrooms nurture compassion from which the saplings of mature citizens emerge; their spiritual vision awakening the logical perception which glimpses beyond obvious matters. However, beauty is a kaleidoscope, and for our brains, the time to adjust to its actual spectrum is right at hand. 

When building up such an environment, we do not just educate students, we plant the seeds of change in a world where people are cherished not by the size and shape of their bodies but by their uniqueness and achievements. The story of Prachi standing fearlessly up to the rushing flood of hate, should sound in the corridors of every school, it would be among the strongest lessons in fortitude and the ability to endure as an example.

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We are not merely shaping the students of today but creating a world where every young Prachi will find a space to fly free from unwarranted prejudices. As educators, students, and members of this complex society, we need to topple the divergent walls of superficial standards and in their place to grow a garden which allows every flower, despite how it differs from others in terms of size, colour or shape, to be valued for the gift that it brings to the world. It won’t be until after when we can say we have not failed our children, only when we can tell that we are proud of having brought up not just scholars, but decent human beings.

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Education

Unsupervised Explorations: Rethinking Student Trips

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In a tale of youthful exuberance and unforeseen peril, six students from Class 12 embarked on a journey to Goa, a rite of passage celebrated by many as a final hurrah before stepping into adulthood. With permission from their parents, who were perhaps too trusting or caught up in their own lives, the group set out with excitement pulsing through their veins. Upon landing, they were greeted not just by the balmy Goan air but by three massive SUVs, reserved for their adventure—a promise of freedom and the thrill of the open road.

Their accommodation was a sprawling villa, costing a small fortune at 70,000 INR per night, equipped with private pools and luxuriously appointed rooms. It was a palace for kings and queens of the night, a haven for six souls intertwined in the throes of adolescence. Three rooms for three couples, the arrangements were a testament to their intentions, seeking privacy and moments of unchecked passion under the guise of a holiday.

As the days unfolded, the allure of Goa’s vibrant nightlife beckoned. The students, drawn to the magnetic pull of music and dance, found themselves in the heart of the party scene, clubbing into the early hours. It was here, amidst the revelry, that they encountered individuals with sinister motives—drug peddlers who saw not just customers but vulnerable targets in these wide-eyed teenagers.

Swept up in a desire to appear worldly and sophisticated, the group made a decision that would pivot their holiday from a dream to a nightmare. They purchased drugs, a choice made without foresight or understanding of the consequences. Their naivety became their downfall when the police, vigilant and unyielding, caught them in possession of these illegal substances.

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The aftermath was swift and severe. The teenagers, underage and unprepared for the legal ramifications, were thrust into the cold reality of juvenile custody. Their parents, irrespective of their affluence, were faced with a situation no amount of money could easily resolve. Frantic and fearful, they did everything within their power to secure their children’s release, confronted with the harsh truth of their offspring’s actions.

This story, inspired by real events, serves as a stark reminder of the dangers lurking behind the facade of freedom and the allure of adulthood. It raises pressing questions about the role of guardianship and parental oversight in the lives of teenagers standing on the precipice of adulthood.

Could this grave misstep have been avoided had there been a local guardian present, a guiding light in unfamiliar territory? Would a more vigilant approach from the parents, a pause to question and understand, have rewritten the story’s conclusion? This incident forces us to confront the reality of our responsibilities towards our youth—not just to grant them freedom but to equip them with the wisdom to navigate it. As we ponder the delicate balance between trust and caution, we must ask ourselves: At what cost does freedom come, and are we doing enough to ensure that the journey into independence does not lead to a fall from grace?

To read more on such trends that need to be called out and #un-trended, head to the April issue of our magazine here

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Education

Pricey Presents, Precocious Pressures: The Cost of Gift-Giving to Children

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In the intricate fabric of contemporary society, entwined with the threads of status and materialism, the ritual of gift-giving to young children has morphed into a showcase of wealth and social stature. This tale shines a light on the ripple effect of such extravagance through the eyes of Ayaan’s peers, young souls caught in the whirlwind of competition and comparison.

When Ayaan arrives at school with sneakers worth 80k or brandishes the latest iPhone as casually as a textbook, it’s not just a display of wealth; it becomes a benchmark, setting aflame a cycle of envy and desire among his classmates. The children, innocent in their yearnings, unknowingly step onto a treadmill of materialistic pursuit, urging their parents towards the edge of financial prudence in a bid to not fall behind.

The spectacle reaches its zenith when Ayaan, in a display of unparalleled opulence, gifts iPods as return gifts on his birthday. An act, while grand, sends shockwaves through his circle, planting seeds of expectation and entitlement in young hearts. Parents, caught between nurturing happiness and teaching value, find themselves navigating a treacherous path of societal pressure and fiscal responsibility.

As each child in Ayaan’s orbit feels compelled to mirror his lavish lifestyle, the essence of childhood camaraderie is shadowed by the looming spectre of materialism. Friendships, once untainted by the world’s complexities, now bear the weight of economic disparity. The playground becomes a silent witness to conversations not of games and dreams, but of gadgets and brands, a testament to a culture veering away from the innocence of youth.

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The impact extends beyond the tangible, chipping away at the pillars of equality and mutual respect. As peers vie to outdo each other in a race fuelled by parental indulgence, the divide widens not just in their possessions but in their perceptions of self-worth and success. The classroom, a microcosm of society, reflects a disturbing trend of measuring one’s value through the lens of ownership and extravagance.

This narrative, while centred on Ayaan and his affluent displays, casts a spotlight on the broader societal implications of such gift-giving practices. It prompts a critical examination of the values we impart to our children and the world we aspire to create for them. As we navigate this maze of materialism and the stories of Ayaan and his peers unfold, they serve as a mirror to our collective conscience, urging us to reconsider the legacy we wish to leave behind. The question that beckons us to reflect is profound: Are we raising a generation that values possessions over people, status over substance?

To read more on such trends that need to be called out and #un-trended, head to the April issue of our magazine here

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Education

Addressing the Transition From Classrooms to Coaching: The Shifted Focus

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In the bustling academic corridors of Woody High, nestled amidst the verdant suburbs of a thriving city, the story of Vikram, a bright and ambitious student, begins to unfold. Vikram, like many of his peers, found himself at a crossroads as he stepped into the crucial years of 11th standard, caught between the traditional path of school education and the burgeoning trend of dummy admissions.Classrooms to Coaching: The Shifted Focus

The lure of coaching centres, promising a direct route to success in competitive exams, became increasingly irresistible. Vikram watched as one by one, his classmates traded the familiar setting of classrooms for the rigorous regimen of coaching institutes. The promise was simple: a focused preparation tailor-made for cracking entrance exams, seemingly a pragmatic choice in an increasingly competitive world.

However, this exodus from school to coaching centres revealed a deeper malaise within the education system. Schools, once vibrant communities of learning and growth, had slowly morphed into factories churning out board exam results. The holistic development of students, their readiness for the world beyond the gates of Woody High, seemed to have taken a backseat to the singular pursuit of academic scores.

Vikram’s decision to join the coaching bandwagon was met with a mix of hope and apprehension. The initial months were a blur of new concepts, relentless practice sessions, and the constant pressure to outperform. Yet, as the novelty wore off, Vikram found himself yearning for the missed debates in history class, the group projects in science, and the sense of belonging that came with being part of the school community.

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The turning point came when Vikram, amidst his packed coaching schedule, volunteered for a community project. The experience was eye-opening, highlighting the gap between the rote learning at coaching centres and the practical knowledge and soft skills required in the real world. It dawned on Vikram that education was not just about clearing exams but about building a foundation for life.

As Woody High grappled with the dwindling numbers of students in its classrooms, it became evident that a change was needed. Schools had to evolve beyond their board-result orientation, integrating curriculum with real-world applications, fostering critical thinking, and preparing students for life’s myriad challenges.

The story, based on real incidents, raises the question that looms large, as we reflect on the narrative of #ClassroomOrCoaching: How can schools reclaim their role as sanctuaries of holistic education, ensuring they remain relevant and valuable in the lives of students like Vikram, not just as conduits to board results but as launchpads for their futures?

In a world where the race to the top often overlooks the essence of learning, can we afford to let coaching centres replace the rich, multifaceted experience of school education?

To read more on such trends that need to be called out and #un-trended, head to the April issue of our magazine here

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Questioning the Trend of Lavish Farewells- #FarewellFiasco

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Imagine your child is attending their Year 12 farewell. It is a night they have been looking forward to, marking the end of their school journey and the start of something new. The atmosphere is charged with excitement, laughter, and the bittersweet feeling of saying goodbye. As the evening wraps up, the buzz does not fade; it shifts to the streets. A group of friends, adrenaline still running high from the night’s celebrations, decide to extend the farewell with a car rally. Among them is Aarav, driving his family’s SUV, a vehicle too powerful for his inexperienced hands.

The city sleeps as the convoy of cars snakes its way through the deserted streets, the hum of engines breaking the night’s silence. Aarav, feeling the thrill of the chase, pushes the pedal down, the speedometer needle climbing higher and higher. His friends, in the car beside him, cheer him on, the competition heating up as they approach the ring road. It is a wide stretch, seemingly perfect for their race, away from the prying eyes of the night.

But in a heartbeat, the night turns tragic. Aarav loses control. The SUV, now a projectile, careers off the road, skidding and tumbling for what seems like an eternity. The aftermath is a scene of devastation. The vehicle, unrecognisable, lies in ruins, and silence once again claims the night, now heavy with the weight of consequences.

By the time the first light of dawn touches the sky, the police are at the scene, piecing together the events. The accident leaves one young soul lost to the night and another battling for life in hospital. Questions swirl around the circumstances that led to this moment. Was it the rush of speed, a momentary lapse in judgement, or something more? The community is left reeling, grappling with the reality of a celebration turned catastrophe.

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As the investigation unfolds, the police sift through CCTV footage, trying to trace the sequence of events and the other vehicles involved. Speculations arise that the tragedy was the result of a high-speed race gone wrong. Amidst this, a family mourns the loss of their child, a farewell that was meant to be a celebration now a memory marred by loss and regret.

This story, though actual, has been anonymized to protect the identity and privacy of the student involved. It highlights a critical issue prevalent in communities worldwide: the trend of extravagant farewells escalating into dangerous activities, posing threats not only to the students but also to society as a whole.

As we reflect on this story, it compels us to ask: Is the pursuit of a grand goodbye worth the price of a life? How do we balance the celebration of milestones with the responsibility we owe to our children’s safety and to each other? This tale, inspired by true events, leaves us pondering the traditions we uphold and the lessons we impart to the young minds we are nurturing for the future.

To read more on such trends that need to be called out and #un-trended, head to the April issue of our magazine here

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Education

Reviving School Education: Countering the Coaching Centre Dominance

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Image Source- Envato Elements

In recent years, a troubling trend has emerged within the educational landscape: the rise of “Dummy Admissions,” where students formally enrolled in schools are effectively abandoning the classroom in favour of coaching institutes. This phenomenon, particularly prevalent from the 11th standard onwards, sees students dropping out of school to prepare for competitive exams under the tutelage of coaching centres, which were originally intended to supplement, not supplant, school education.

The shift has been stark. Coaching, once a support system, has transformed into a parallel education industry, with some arguing it overshadows the broader developmental benefits of traditional schooling. This evolution poses a critical question: How can schools reclaim their role not just as preparatory grounds for board exams but as sanctuaries of holistic education that truly prepare students for life?

The Diminishing Role of Schools

The primary role of any educational institution is to foster an environment conducive to learning, curiosity, and personal growth. Schools are meant to be arenas where young minds receive a balanced education — academically, socially, and emotionally. However, the allure of scoring top marks in competitive exams has tilted the focus sharply towards rote learning and intensive exam preparation, often at the expense of holistic development.

The Coaching Conundrum

Coaching centres operate with a laser focus on results, primarily targeting competitive exams like the JEE, NEET, and others. This narrow approach prioritises immediate academic results over long-term learning and personal development. Students, driven by the pressure to excel in these high-stakes environments, often find themselves estranged from the broader educational experiences that school offers — experiences that are crucial in shaping well-rounded individuals capable of adapting to life’s varied challenges.

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Reclaiming the Sanctuary of Education

For schools to regain their central place in the educational journey of students, they must evolve to meet the diverse needs of their students. Here are a few strategies that could help schools reassert their relevance:

  1. Integrated Curriculum: Schools could integrate aspects of competitive exam preparation into their regular curriculum, thus reducing the need for external coaching. This would allow students to prepare for exams without missing out on the broader educational offerings of the school.
  2. Focus on Skill Development: Beyond academic prowess, schools should enhance their focus on developing critical life skills such as critical thinking, problem-solving, creativity, and communication. These skills are crucial for success in professional and personal life and can make schooling more relevant.
  3. Counselling and Support Services: Enhanced counselling services can help students navigate their educational pathways and career choices effectively. Schools should equip students with the tools to make informed decisions about their futures.
  4. Experiential Learning: Schools must emphasise experiential and contextual learning, making education a more engaging, practical, and enjoyable experience. This can be achieved through project-based learning, internships, and real-world problem-solving scenarios.
  5. Parental Engagement: Engaging parents in the educational process and informing them about the importance of a balanced education can help shift the focus from mere exam preparation to overall development.
  6. Promotion of Arts and Sports: Encouraging participation in arts, sports, and other co-curricular activities can enrich students’ educational experience and support the development of a wide range of skills.

As the educational landscape continues to evolve, the challenge for schools is not just to prepare students for exams but to prepare them for life. In a world increasingly dominated by coaching centres, schools must innovate and broaden their educational offerings to ensure they remain valued not just as conduits to board results but as launchpads for the futures of students. It’s about striking a balance between academic rigor and holistic development, ensuring that schools remain the nurturing grounds for the leaders of tomorrow.

To read more on such trends that need to be called out and #un-trended, head to the April issue of our magazine here

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