Preamble: Education consistently remains the top issue of concern to the Indian society and Policy makers in the 21st century as 35% of Young India below 18yrs (about 400 million/ 40 Crore) need to be educated. Currently, rural & urban (Central & State government supported) schools are facing numerous challenges – Accessibility, Affordability, Quality, and Relevance. If and when these issues are addressed, we would have an Education System, which enlightens and empowers. Visible gaps are evident when we look at our system from this perspective.
The result of the present system is: many more students than quality schools; student: teacher ratio generally about 60:1; large number of students living in poverty and with uneducated parent family; several have difficulty reading, understanding & speaking even in regional language as well as in English; and large number of drop outs. In addition, these schools have shortages of qualified and committed teachers, principals and support staff, inadequate school buildings and teaching materials & technology, and decreasing financial resources. The political and commercial influences have caused education to lose its pristine glory. This situation has to improve and soon. Government has to focus on schools as their priority and substantially increase funding for the next decade and more. The present educational system has become divisive and discriminatory. Education being a concurrent subject between States and the Centre, has its own problems, resulting into a widely varying degree of quality in educational system across India. (Please see Note below).
- Increase funding for Education to at least 5% of GDP for the next 5yrs.
- Implementation of our policies is our greatest weakness that needs immediate correction.
0. URGENT & IMPORTANT: Government Schools are not delivering their mandate to students from KG to Class 12 and are in a state of decay. Huge amount of funding has been spent without any commensurate output. They are failing YOUNG INDIA. If this state of affairs continues, the demographic dividend that all of us are waiting for will turn into demographic disaster. Wake up HRD Ministry, State & National Governments, all stakeholders and remedy the situation before it is too late. Give School education the topmost priority for the next 10 years. Forget for now, controlling Higher Education. They can take care of themselves. Just give them adequate Funding, Autonomy, Quality Norms, and leave them alone.
- Be Mentor, Facilitator, and Delineate overall framework, direction, and philosophy. Do Not Interfere in day-to-day affairs, please.
1.Reduce Education Gap: The education gap between the haves and have-nots is increasing alarmingly. The economically deprived families cannot offer environment that is conducive at home to their children to study and learn. The result is drop-outs and economic loss to the nation. This is a serious problem. It needs education to suit the contextual environment. Besides economics, there is a lack of perception about the importance of education in empowerment of the youth. Also more than 50% of our children below 5yrs of age are mal-nourished resulting in physical and mental deficiencies. This should be corrected immediately and subsequently they should be provided with nutritional mid-day meals and regular health check-ups in schools. In order to make education all pervading, adult literacy should be additional agenda to create a community better enabled to lead a more proactive life style.
- Use modern technology & quality online learning material effectively to supplement classroom teaching & adult education.
- Introduce after-school activities and vocational training for students, and illiterate & uneducated adults involving neighborhoods & community qualified volunteers.
- Bridge supply-demand gap by augmenting existing network of schools using criteria sans political influences-apply scientific asset allocation approaches to optimize allocation.
a) Drop-outs: the objective is Zero drop-outs. Special attention, counseling, and mentoring are required for each such student (weak students should be identified in the beginning of the year) and may be special classes need to be provided after assessing their learning styles, speeds, preparedness, motivation, etc.
- Special attention & innovative approaches needed.
b) Reservations: Establish Navodaya / Eklavya/ Navasarjan residential schools in every district/ sub-division to provide high quality education & learning only to the economically deprived individuals & communities, such as Scheduled Caste & Scheduled Tribe. Thus phase-out current ‘reservation policy’ after 10yrs having resolved the problem of caste bias. (see my blog post on Reservations).
- Superior solutions for inclusive growth of education & learning.
2. Excellent Schools: Provide increased opportunity and ecology to every individual of our country including those with intellectual & developmental disabilities to acquire the best possible education and learning at all levels, KG – 12, with effective implementation. In doing this, create more equitable and excellent schools and provide 21st century systems & processes of education & learning for all students with special emphasis on the girl child. Strengthen KG-12 school system in terms of quality teachers, modern & dynamic curriculum, excellent labs & infrastructure including ‘Tinkering’ lab in every school, sports & personal development facilities, etc.
- Establish more Quality schools in rural & urban area to meet increasing demand.
- Engage family and community in the process of educating children.
3. Education Process & Outcomes: Emphasize education and learning process and outcomes that encourage critical thinking, problem-solving, self-learning, life-long learning, communication, team work, collaboration rather than rote-learning. In this process, encourage & ignite inquisitiveness, enquiry, and creativity of every individual in the process of learning. The education & learning process should emphasize concepts, hands-on experience (experiential learning), practical skill development that prepares individuals for gainful employment, self- employment (entrepreneurship), and jobs for the future.
- New paradigm & pedagogy for the 21st Century. Emphasize skill-sets.
- Seriously consider establishing more schools based on novel schools such as Vigyan Ashram, Pabal model (vigyanashram.com).
a) Curriculum: Develop modern, dynamic curriculum of ‘adequate’ intensity/ extent – we teach too much in a subject and over-teach in a class that encourages memory rather than understanding concepts and applications. Emphasize depth in a few areas in each standard progressively from 1st to 12th standard, rather than shallow breadth in large number of areas in each standard. The Government – State & Centre should put in place through educational experts, a reasonably uniform curriculum with built-in flexibility, to be practiced nationally. CBSE curriculum is a good model to start with. Let there be an open debate on this issue.
- It is time to initiate new Paradigm shift in education & learning. In every standard, include Ethics & Human Values.
b) Basic & Advanced courses: Define minimum level of understanding (Passing Grade C) in each subject that a student must possess – this will define basic courses such as basic Languages (Mother Tongue, Hindi, English,…), basic math, basic physics, etc. Offer also advanced level subjects such as higher Language, higher Math, etc. Competence in basic subjects in each standard should be the minimum requirement for promotion to higher standard instead of blanket promotion to higher standards as is done now up to 8th standard.
- Emphasize minimum competence levels in each standard for the benefit of the students and their future.
c) Skill development: Every school should have mini machine shop, Tinkering lab for students to play with and develop skills depending upon each student’s ability and interest. Let the Industrial Training Institutes (ITI) & Polytechnics be managed by Private or Public Companies, Corporations, etc. with funding from the Government as is done successfully in some States.
- Enhanced acquisition of job skills and training are essential elements for future work & employability. Emphasize working with hands in schools, right from standard 1.
4. Teachers: Develop innovative approaches to attract the best qualified individuals with passion, commitment & dedication for teaching that creates high quality teachers in very large numbers. Revamp the existing teacher training programs, BEd & MEd to create a new generation of teachers to play a more proactive role in the learning process.
- Encourage Professional Associations, Rotary and such other Clubs, and other such Bodies to run Teacher Training Programs all over India, especially rural India to train 1,00,000 teachers per year. This is the most important issue that needs urgent attention and solution.
- Provide attractive salary structure; avenues for career advancement; incentivize higher quality teachers; encourage development of learning material.
5. Autonomy & Governance: Establish innovative implementation and monitoring mechanisms/ processes for sustaining excellence in every school. One of the ways is to empower local bodies (Autonomy) to monitor implementation & sustenance of quality in teaching & learning with least interference by Government bodies in day-to-day management.
- Encourage empowerment and distributed responsibility. Give responsibility to women of the community.
6. Quality Assurance: Establish norms in terms of (i) infrastructure; (ii) quality & quantity of teachers & learning resources; (iii) Delivery models for education that promote multiple learning styles & learning speeds; (iv) facilitate & promote good governance systems; (v) extracurricular programs for skill & personality development; (vi) Counseling & career guidance; (vii) Assessment systems that are student-friendly and tests not only students but also the system that trains her/ him; (viii) encourage involvement of all stakeholders in the nurturing of schools; (ix) provide an interactive forum for student opinions and suggestions with clear guidelines on the content and language.
- Do all that is necessary to get the best out of an individual for a better and brighter future.
7. Education Partners: Industry & Corporations as Partner in the education process. Industries benefit through quality employees.
- Business-education dynamic partnership is necessary for creating employable & skilled graduates (includes High School graduates).
Note: Each State has its own Board. The first unifying curriculum was the CBSE curriculum, which became operative at national level to meet the educational needs of children of transferable Central Govt. staff. Because of its national character, CBSE curriculum continued to evolve with curricular changes and NCERT books as texts used nationwide. The political climate did not permit unification of the curriculum across the State Boards. With education becoming a lucrative business, several other Boards came up like ICSE, IGCSE, IB etc. This catered primarily to the needs of the economically endowed class. With the CBSE curriculum holding its position as the curriculum for entrance exams like JEE, and others, there are some moves by some schools to switch to CBSE from ICSE. For competitive advantage and ease of accreditation, many private schools have also opted for CBSE curriculum. Unfortunately, the State Boards continue to go their own independent ways with divergent academic standards and curriculum.
Another burning issue is the medium of instruction. English medium schools are rated superior to schools having vernacular medium as instruction. Students from the schools with vernacular medium of curriculum are often at a disadvantage. This has forced increasing number of parents from the economically disadvantaged group to seek admission to the English Medium Schools. This calls for a need to strengthen the educational system in the vernacular medium schools with a number of progressive reforms. Can we sink political egos and come up with a uniform education system, which provides equal opportunity for all? Right to Education bill was presented as an augury for quality education. This has not achieved much in the short term. What is needed is an action plan for making RTE, a reality. There is a need to take a realistic assessment of education scene in terms of its reachability and effectiveness.