There is a lot that is heard and said about the Indian education system, and more so now when the draft National Education Policy is in circulation. As a father and a publisher, I strongly feel that education in India needs a systemic overhaul and I am not talking about some quick fixes here and there. It’s time that we see education as a continuum from pre-school to higher education and not try to divide it into different parts and try to deal with each part in isolation.
We need to start viewing each and every piece of content with almost crystal ball lenses now: what are the skills that students need to acquire by the time they leave formal education and begin their journey in any sphere, be it a job, business or as first-time entrepreneurs? We need to keep the overall learning outcomes in mind while we work on three interlinked pillars of the education system, namely, Curriculum, Pedagogy, and Assessment.
To begin with, we need a lot more focus and initiative in pre-primary and primary education to build a strong foundation. We need to integrate each component of the curriculum and ensure that we have the overall learning outcomes in mind while we work on each subject of the curriculum and co-curricular activities so that students are involved in inter-disciplinary learning at all grades. The prime focus in this phase of education is to be on spiral progression and concept building. A theme-based integrated curriculum that allows teachers to be creative and experimental while dealing with a specific individual or group needs in the classroom would help us achieve the desired results.
I often interact with school administrators, core groups and teachers who are constantly grappling with time to complete an ever-increasing curriculum. I am of the opinion that if we have our course content aligned to the learning outcomes and follow an integrated approach, this problem of not-enough time will get solved automatically as teachers would not be just focusing on completion. For example, imagine this: While an organisation in which all departments work with individual goals without any linkage to overall organisational goals or common objectives, may produce successful individuals, the organisation will never grow. And would the individual short-term success ever lead to long term individual success?
As we get to middle school and senior school, the overall learning outcomes do not change at all but now the focus would shift to application of knowledge and building skills rather than just amassing knowledge and assessing assimilation. In a rapidly changing world, knowledge is available at the click of a button but what you do with it and how you use it might differ based on situations that life throws up. Each of the core subjects should be divided into a foundational and an advanced program and students should be allowed to decide which subjects they pursue in advanced level based on their interest, aptitude and the specialisation they wish to pursue. Again, we have to remember, in a world where information is easily accessible and where information changes every day, where machines have taken over most of our menial work, what are the most important things to teach our children?
If you look at the skills required to succeed in today’s environment and try to map it up with what we are imparting in the classrooms you will see a huge gap and that gap needs to be addressed by our education system. When hiring, employers give a lot more importance to skills like team-work, problem-solving, critical thinking, collaboration, etc. as against technical skills. Our education system needs to build these into our curriculum and pedagogy. It also needs to find ways to build an assessment system which focuses on the application of knowledge and appropriate evaluation of these skills.
Teachers are the mainstay of the Indian education system. The role of teacher should be one of facilitator and they would have to be empowered enough to be flexible in their approach to deliver the outcome rather than grappling to finish the curriculum. Teachers and students together would embark on the journey of learning and all the tools would be used to build curiosity and inculcate the habit of exploring. Classroom and technology should be treated as just another tool is the overall scheme of learning.
About the author:
Neeraj Jain is Managing Director, Scholastic India Pvt Ltd