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Education In India Has To Change

The education system has expanded its horizon. Beyond formal textbooks and lectures, children have access to a lot more information today

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Some years ago I visited a school in Mysore to meet a group of young students and faculties. The roomful of people mostly consisted of students, with first five to six rows occupied by elderly faculty members and teachers. I asked the young ones, “what is the school that you would want to enter or what would you want your schools to be when you are 40 years old?” They had not thought about it because they were being taught things that their faculty knew 20 years ago.

The purpose of education has existed for centuries now. It was not called education, but bringing up children. A child grew up in a community or a village learning skills informally. These skills were employable, but basic. At some point, when people became aware of the writing and reading scripts, a learning system was formalised. During the industrial era, everything became socialised and organised, including the education system. Instead of one-to-one interaction, learning assumed an industrial scale through schools and other institutions. Afterwards, going to school simply became a habit. Somebody decided what one should learn. This system, we must realise, was developed 200-300 years ago and I think it has served its purpose.

The 1929 depression that assigned the state to take care of population, is coming under fire, since now people want to take care of each other much. We will shift from ‘all atomized-nuclear family — I only take care of myself’ to a ‘networked community where people take care of each other’. In any case, a tendency of free sharing will keep growing leading to more avenues for people to access knowledge. Hence, the purpose of learning modifies.

The next 20 years will be crucial because the job supply won’t match the demand. India would stabilise its population growth by 2060, which emanates the possibility of working population going through the hump in the next 20 years, after reaching the peak of population explosion in the next 10 years. The market would halt generating jobs, if the system which readies students for jobs doesn’t prepare. How much would people rely on the education system remains a question.

The Changing Face of Primary Education
Our society needs more day-care centres. These centres must make children feel safe. A centre for honing hobbies which is not what schools are doin right now, but ideally the school should serve this purpose.

Education system has expanded its horizon. Beyond the formal textbooks and lectures, children today have access to a lot of information. Without our understanding, children are picking up a lot of things that don’t count as education. Increasingly, this sort of an external medium will pick up. And more and more resource will become available on the Internet.

The teachers who are trained today are using technology now, but when they go to school, technology will be a reality. Children will be carrying their own tablets or smartphones. If that’s the case then how will the system adjust to this access to all kinds of overflowing information? It cannot be put in the textbook because textbook is a dead concept. Content on the Internet changes dramatically in comparison to textbooks that contain unchanged information for two to three years.

The problem with the Internet lies with deciding the right and wrong and good and bad information and their sources. That is a skill one needs to learn. For example, you might have to show two different kinds of information in the classroom and provoke questions — which information is right and which one is wrong? How will you verify the information is right or wrong? To find out, one needs to think. So we need to look at how life around us will change and change the education system accordingly.

Eklavya Needn’t Offer His Thumb Anymore
Formal systems will have to transform and they would. Gradually, the understanding will prevail that not everybody will come to the institutions to learn. Colleges might just be a meeting place for faculty and students with a few meet-up classes and rest can be conducted online.

Choice of teachers, similar to that of coaching classes, will be on the rise. Word of mouth will be the medium of publicity. The bone of contention here is ‘the certification’. Eklavya was denied certification. But now Eklavya can learn on his own and can get certified online. When a student today appears for a GRE exam, no one asks about the college he or she comes from. Candidates just need to pay the fees and pass the test. Why can’t the same thing happen in physics and chemistry exams? Why does one need to go to the university? The whole monopoly of university created by the government doesn’t serve much purpose.

It is all about what the popular culture demands. Every country and most cultures comes to a point where the educated or the knowledgeable feel like sharing what they have. In the western countries, although there are copyrighted materials and textbooks; wiki is something where everybody is contributing.

The number of knowledgeable people in the world is growing. And this tendency of free sharingis increasing because they are not a part of the system.

Market-led-Education
Curiosity of the mind should lead to learning. The job market does not ask about degrees anymore. It ask about one’s abilities and what one can do. If one has to become a teacher for example, he or she will have to get a bachelor’s degree in education awarded by a government institute. But in order to become a teacher, one has to pass a teacher eligibility test too. What is the point for the BE degree then? Why does one need a degree if the teacher eligibility test ultimately determines one’s capability of teaching?

There are innumerable jobs coming up with new descriptions everytime. This feeding system of education will find it rather difficult to adjust. The market on the other hand, will adjust comparatively quickly. Tons of jobs are completely new for which no one can be trained. Learning on the job will prosper. Things are changing so rapidly that one cannot design a curriculum to train. The coming generation will practice‘self- improvement’ and adopt ‘I will find my way’ mantras.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.



Madhav Chavan

The author is co-founder and CEO of Pratham Education Foundation

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