Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Education Conundrum

Education is the cornerstone of any civilized society. I am worried at the fact that even after the completion of six decades of Independence, we have not been able to ensure the right to free and compulsory education to each and every child in the country. I understand that 50 or 60 years are not much in any country’s history and country’s performance cannot be judged in such a short span. We have made huge advances in terms of Literacy. Compare the figures of 1951 and 2001, you will see the difference. Still, we cannot be complacent and have got a long way to go.

There are certain problems in Education in India which have time and again held us back in various spheres. I would like to narrate them as follows :

  • Infrastructure
  • Teacher Competency
  • Content and Process of Education
  • Quality of Education
  • Lack of Retention
  • Lack of Vocationalisation of Secondary Education
  • Linguistic barrier for Tribals
  • Lack of uniformity of syllabus
  • Huge vacancies in Teaching Posts
  • CBSE,ICSE vs State Boards
  • Expenditure on Education (as % of GDP)
  • Cramming without understanding
  • Stress without desired outcome
  • Teaching without purpose and commitment
  • Education without creativity and knowledge

The point here is that we have not been able to bring about uniformity vis-à-vis syllabus and teaching standards across the country. In yesterday’s programme on All India Radio, a caller from Sonebhadra district said that she had her schooling at her place. Now, when she has come to Delhi for higher education, she is finding herself ill equipped and incompetent in comparison to the students from Delhi. What is the reason behind this ? This is mainly because of the difference in teaching standards and the study environment which varies from place to place. The kind of exposure that the students from Delhi gets is far more wider than the one received by those in the countryside.

Our attempt , while bringing about the reform in the Indian Education system, should be to eliminate this discrimation between the privileged, not so privileged and under privileged.

My own experience in Lucknow University speaks volumes about the maladies in the system. One fine morning it happened to be an Ancient Indian History class in the Arts Faculty in 2000 A.D. It was my class. I was sitting inside that big hall , more like a big conference room without a mic !! The professor started giving the dictation. Everybody started taking it down. To my great amusement , he was dictating only in Hindi since majority of the students were from the hindi medium. I did not take the dictation and sat idle with a hope that the English version will soon follow. Since my medium of examination was English, so there was no point in taking down the notes in hindi.

Suddenly, the Professor stopped and stared at me. Maybe because, I was the only one sitting upright while the other English medium students had bent their heads down. There came the comment from the Professor, “Sardarji, why aren’t you writing anything ? What is the problem with you ?”. That was really embarrassing. In that tight packed class of some 150 students, I said “Sir, I am from English medium and I need the notes in English”. The professor got angry and shouted back at me saying that he will give the dictation only in hindi and since I have grown up, I should translate that into English and take down the notes. I wasn’t a master of English Literature and I couldn’t do it. That was my last History class.

I just want to drive the point back home that the problem in the education system is more than it appear to be. It was not only me who suffered but all the other English medium souls who suffered silently. I understand that we cannot have two different classes , one for hindi and another for English medium candidates. But certainly, we can have a bilingual class. But for that, the teacher / professor should be well equipped, equally proficient in both the languages. Now, here comes the question of quality of education.

The issues of Equality and Quality in Education needs to be addressed.

Here, I would like to suggest some reforms which we should bring about in our Indian Education System :

  • Learning to be child friendly free of fear and trauma.
  • Respecting the mother tongue of the child. (I favour education in mother tongue atleast till VIII standard but thereafter, English should be made compulsory)
  • Abolition of Physical Punishment
  • Ban on private tuitions by teachers
  • Questioning should be encouraged
  • Team work and community spirit should be applauded
  • Encourage sports and Physical Education

In Higher Education :

  • Introduce semester system
  • Continous internal evaluation
  • Abolish affiliating college system
  • Set a target for about 2500 university level institutions by 2020

The emphasis should be laid upon developing certain higher order skills amongst the children , viz. :

  • Critical analysis
  • Research
  • Problem solving
  • Imagination
  • Self-expression
  • Decision making
  • Team work

Infact, CBSE has already introduced the concept of ‘HOTS’ – Higher Order Thinking Skills, that lays emphasis on synthesis of knowledge.

Also, focus upon bringing about public-private partnership in the field of education.

PPP -> Better quality of education -> Converts Brain drain to Brain Gain

I am hopeful that in the coming years, the reforms initiated by Sibal and Co. would bear sweet fruits. But there is a word of caution. BE CLEAR ABOUT THE KIND OF CHANGES THAT YOU WANT TO BRING IN THE SYSTEM. Because, CLARITY PRECEDES SUCCESS.

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