Millennium Post

Returning to Stone Age?

We are producing more glorified clerks instead of research-oriented learners.

Returning to Stone Age?
The history of modern education in India dates back to 1835 with Lord Macaulay being the golden calf. His idea was to create a class of Indians who would be interpreters for the British. He wanted a class of persons Indian in blood and colour but English in taste, in opinions, in morals, and in intellect. In reality, he wanted to create an array of Indians who could be perpetual servants to them or clerks at the best. The examination reforms in India dates back to 1882 with Hunter Commission reporting on problems of secondary education and Sadler Commission reviewed the entire field from school education to university education.
Further, Hartog Commission of 1929 "devoted far more attention to mass education than Secondary and University Education. This commission in its report said that "out of every 100 pupils (boys and girls) who were in Class I in 1922-23, only 18 were reading in class IV in 1925-26. This resulted in a relapse into illiteracy. In 1937, Gandhi
This resulted in a relapse into illiteracy. In 1937, Gandhi ji came up with the famous Wardha Scheme of Education, which tragically never fully came into existence. This scheme calls for free and compulsory education for ages 6-14. The biggest irony of Indian Education lies in the fact that it took us 71 years to implement Right to Education Act in 2009 which made the elementary education compulsory for children of 6 to 14 years of age. The National Policy on Education of 1968 called for education spending to increase to six per cent of the national income which never saw the light of the day. The highest expenditure on Education in India remained at 4.57 per cent. In 2016-17, it was just 3.65 per cent of the GDP. In the last two decades, NCERT came up with National Curriculum Framework (NCF). The NCF 2005 documents draw its policy basis from earlier government reports on education as Learning without burden.
Adhering to the spirit of NCF and Position Papers of providing burden free education, Central Board of Secondary Education introduced Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation (CCE) in 2009. CCE gave equal importance to Formative and Summative Assessment of a child. It gave value to the holistic growth of a child. In 2011, CBSE made the Class tenth exams optional. CBSE is one of the premier education boards of India. More than 16 lakh students appeared in Class tenth examination and close to 11 lakh students appeared in Class twelfth examinations in the last session. CBSE is considered liberal and modern in its approach towards imparting education as compared to the other state boards of the country. Of late, CBSE became the buzz of news items when it announced the change in its class tenth examination pattern. Earlier, the question papers were sent to schools which remained responsible for conduct and checking of the examination papers. Due benefit was given to the child for his or her co-scholastic performance. New methods of teaching-learning were incorporated and stress was given on learning by doing. ICT became an integral part of teaching. Students prepared projects using ICT and it opened an immense platform for them to learn. CBSE invested huge amount of money in training teachers and opened new Centres of Excellence across India.
A teacher teaching in a CBSE school has to mandatorily undergo four capacity building training programmes in a year. They are beneficial in order to learn the new tools of assessment and various new pedagogical techniques. Rajasthan Model Schools which were a part of Rajasthan Board earlier decided to switch to CBSE board in 2015-16 citing the advantages of CCE. Massive training programmes were conducted across the state by CBSE in order to train the teachers and make them compatible with the CCE guidelines. The introduction of CCE was full of hiccups; its implementation at pan India level took a couple of years and as things were about to get settled. CBSE's notification to restore Class tenth Board examination (from 2017-18) came more like a 'fatwa' nullifying the efforts made in the last ten years. All the energy and money invested since 2009 came to a standstill with a stroke of a pen.
The root of this problem lies in 2000. The Birla-Ambani committee to study the reforms in Education came with the policy framework laying stress on making the students a skilled workforce, rather than thinking-questioning rational. This committee further undermines the importance of subjects like philosophy, history, culture, and literature. For them, language needs to be taught merely as a skill and just enable the learners to write business letters. Secondly, the framework document laid stress on technology rather than Science per say. The Research and Development will be based on the expectations of the industry rather than the requirements of the subject or the needs of the knowledge-hungry students. It is more like returning to the 1835 principle of Macaulay where we are producing more of glorified clerks today rather than research oriented pupils.
According to a 2016 report by the Montreal-based UNESCO Institute for Statistics and Global Education Monitoring - India has 47 million youth of secondary and higher secondary school-going age dropping out of school. The enrollment in class 10 is 77 per cent, but enrollment in class 11 is only 52 per cent, according to a report from the New Delhi-based Institute for Policy Research Studies (PRS). Six million children aged 6-13 are estimated to be still out of the school system, according to a 2014 survey by the Ministry of HRD. This shows that we have moved very little since Hartog Commission's report of 1929.
The abolition of Class tenth School based examination on the pretext of improving quality of education is just a mirage to cover up the shortcomings of our education system. With more students failing in class tenth, what kind of progress our education system will be making is beyond thought. Suicide rate in school children is alarmingly high. In the year 2014 alone, more than two thousand students committed suicide because of failure in examination. Failing a 15-year-old will neither serve any purpose nor improve the quality of education. Abolition of CCE and school-based exam system will de-motivate the students as well as teachers. Students will resort to the age-old practice of cramming and teachers will now focus more on syllabus completion rather than learning. This wrong step will flourish the markets with guides, examination keys, and kunjis.
It has been more than 180 years since Macaulay came to India and wrote the destiny of millions of young Indians then. We are still struggling to find the right education policy for our children. This sudden change in exam policy by CBSE is under criticism as a class tenth mark-sheet is more of an age proof rather than the success card of a child's future. Every child is special and no one under 15 years of age deserves to be failed just on the parameters of some bogus examination system. It is like evaluating a fish, a monkey, a lion, and a cat on the ability to climb a tree where a fish is destined to fail. We should strive to take our education system forward rather than going back to the Stone Age.
(The author is an educationalist. The views expressed are strictly personal.)
Jagdeep S. More

Jagdeep S. More

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