Monday, 12 September 2016

Education: Write System - Wrong Approach

image courtesy pixabay

Education: [ej-oo-key-shuh n]

the act or process of imparting or acquiring general knowledge, developing the powers of reasoning and judgment, and generally of preparing oneself or others intellectually for mature life.

A look at the definition of education above can tell us how far behind we are from the goal. 

We seem to have a lopsided view of the whole process and our common understanding nowhere comes close to even the broadest of definitions of education. For us, in common parlance education means literacy whereas literacy is a by- product of education. It is one of the goals of education; not the sole purpose. The broad meaning of education is to pass on the collective knowledge to the younger generation so that they can lead richer, fuller lives with social cohesion.

There are some serious questions that need to be answered before we welcome the new National Education Policy 2016. As citizens of the world’s largest democracy, we need to question ourselves why we have turned a blind eye to our education system which is in shambles? Why do we continue to send our children to private unaided schools rather than government run schools despite the huge funding and infrastructure outlay the latter commands? How our education system, right from pre-primary level is focused on producing clones able to reproduce textbook content rather than fostering independent thinking? Will the recent change of guard at the HRD ministry promise a better future to education?

A lot is being done yet a lot remains to be done. The current education system is focused on literacy rather than learning, employability rather than educating, earning a living rather than making a life. Education is not a check box that needs to be ticked in haste, rather it is a valuable asset which needs to be provided and nurtured. As a nation, we lack the basic skills of creativity and intuitive thinking. Years of factory-like processing has produced countless products ready to be injected into several offices and companies. Look down and follow the rules. We are busy raising sheep not children.

In this scenario consider the plight of differently abled children and children with special needs. The education system doesn’t have adequate answers to meet their requirements. Most of the time, the teachers themselves are ill equipped to identify and guide such children. The one-size fits all approach of the curriculum can be frustrating. While eventually the goal is to mainstream these children, if every hurdle is too high, the learning becomes dreaded. We lack in appropriate assessment skills too. When children are born equal, endowed with the best abilities at entry, how do they end up labeled as slow learners or failures? There is a dearth of tests to assess or measure a child’s creativity, intelligence, curiosity or brilliance. What we know and endorse are only tests to measure their literacy skills. It is time to reflect on these questions and many more. Else we will lose the brightest minds of our country to greener pastures. No wonder the youth is keen to get on the first boat out of this country.

It is quite evident that the education system needs infusion of fresh talent and funds from the private sector. Teachers need to be remunerated well in order to attract and retain talent. The best brains will make a beeline for this profession and will not relegate teaching as a ‘last resort’ move. More importantly we need to imbibe a culture of revering teachers right from kindergarten, they really are the ones who shape the future of our children and in turn future of the nation.

The Right to Education Act 2009, is laudable for its wide coverage and broad based application. It has covered the universe of education and has provided rationale also. However, the devil lies in the implementation. As elements of the system, the schools, the teachers and the children themselves need to embrace the new Act and actively utilize its provisions to best effect. It is time we take education seriously.
Technology has infused new life in the system, and radically changed the way learning is imparted. However, there are still many who are not covered by the wave and yet to receive the benefits. Also, on deeper reflection, benefits of technological tools as educational aids need to be studied.

The original purpose of introducing literacy was to produce clerks for the British. We have come a long way but still suffer from a colonial hangover. The books have become thicker and the bags have become heavier. But we cannot claim to have reached our destination just yet.