From the ground up
With one of the youngest populations, India needs a revamp of its education sector to make it more suitable for the present scenario; write Vanam Jwala Narasimha Rao & VJM Divakar
India is a country whose 50 per cent of the population is below the age group of 25 years and more than 65 per cent of the population is under the age group of 35. By this year-end (2020), it is estimated that the average Indian age would be 29 years. By 2030 the literacy rate in the country would be 75 per cent.
Telangana CM K Chandrashekhar Rao, while reviewing the education sector, hinted at revamping it comprehensively in the state especially with regards to the government educational institutions with reference to the curriculum, examination procedures, administration, etc. This presupposes radical changes in the system to make it more relevant and useful to the ever-changing needs of society.
Based on the available data, it can be safely assumed that the country's growing population and increasing educational institutions have the power to mould the system. It is thus important that one should take advantage of the situation. In this context, the decision of the Chief Minister to bring in a change in the education sector becomes highly relevant.
The present-day education system from the primary schools to the universities is preparing the students for the examinations but not making them equipped to face the harsh realities of the world. The existing system, unfortunately, follows the pedagogy as conceived and implemented by the British which was aimed at producing clerks for their administration, to serve the Queen's interests. The same is still followed through the curriculum and the examination system.
There is a need to radically change the entire curriculum, co-curriculum, examination procedures from primary to post-graduation courses. In the 60s, in all the government schools, there were to be weekend classes on crafts and moral science. In the pre-university course as it was called then and under graduation courses, there was a subject known as general education covering all subjects in a nutshell. Similarly, in the early 70s, in the intermediate course, all the students who opted for mathematics stream used to have one class in general biology while the biology students used to have one class in general mathematics. Socially useful productive work (SUPW) was part of the curriculum but mostly in central schools.
Against this background and context, reforms are urgently needed. As part of primary education, from nursery to the fifth standard in all the government and recognised private schools, examination or tests process may be done away. Instead, children should be taught basic languages, mathematics, science, hygiene, and good habits. The curriculum should have more opportunities for fun, play and team building activities. As the child steps up to fourth and fifth class, once in a while they should be taken out to a local market, shop, farm etc besides exposing them to fine arts theoretically and practically. In other words, they should be exposed to nature, public life and make them understand the importance of caring and sharing. Homework should be negligible or none.
In secondary education, from sixth to ninth standard, the students should be exposed to different crafts, such as carpentry, weaving, tailoring, masonry work, basic electrical works etc. This will enable them to imbibe what we call the dignity of labour. There should be one class every week in which the students should be taught about basic values and morals. Instead of present-day 9 am to 5 pm school hours, teaching should be restricted for the morning session. Post lunch session should be for the practice of what has been taught. Reduction in the homework is desirable. Exposure to IT shall begin here.
The curriculum for secondary education students should also be totally revamped. The subject matter should be prepared in such a way that they acquire an in-depth knowledge of the subjects they are studying rather than getting it by repetition. Every student after passing out from the tenth standard should be a matured and evolved person who can chart his way ahead with a little bit of guidance. He or she should be capable of planning the future to a greater extent.
In intermediate education, besides the regular, MPC, BPC, CEC, MEC streams, there should be more rare combinations of students' choice. It may be as rare as history and biology or biology and mathematics or geography and chemistry. Subjects like agriculture, horticulture, forestry, artificial intelligence, machine learning could be included. The intermediate curricula should have skill development embedded to it. Polytechnic diploma courses should be integrated with intermediate education. One should be able to get gainful employment after the intermediate course if need be.
As part of higher education, it has to be revamped to make it suitable for the industry, business, trades needs and the traditional humanities. Arts and social sciences streams should co-exist simultaneously. Like the good old experiment of the BITS Pilani, a student pursuing science stream should be able to study one subject in Arts, Humanities or social sciences. Similarly, a student pursuing higher education in Arts should be able to study one subject from the science stream. There are cases of a biology student excelling in the subject electronics and ultimately ended up establishing one of the successful electronics companies.
Colleges and universities should be linked and attached to the industry, commerce and trade sectors to identify the areas to be focussed for further research. The companies, industrial houses, commerce and trade giants should invest in the research as part of their CSR.
Though we talk highly about our large science graduate workforce, there is no in-depth learning or knowledge in our students. Our examination, testing and marking systems should be designed to recognise students' creative potential, problem-solving and innovative skills. The education system needs to be revamped to produce innovators, able administrators who can administer justice based on the ground realities, people who can work with passion and compassion in whatever field, job or position they are placed into. But not, surely, as a cheap labour force that would become tech coolies for the developed countries. Despite having the highest number of engineering graduates in the world, we have no tech innovators.
As pointed out by a scholar on education, the goal of our education system should be to create entrepreneurs, innovators, artists, scientists, thinkers, and writers who can establish the foundation of the knowledge-based economy, rather than the low-quality service provider nation that we are turning into. The policymakers need to focus on improving the quality of teaching in the country.
VJN Rao is the Chief Public Relations Officer to the CM of Telangana. Views expressed are personal