The disruption in Indian school education system is long due and somehow never got its due attention from its stakeholders. Over last several decades, particularly post liberalisation, adoption of new economic policy, technology & telecom revolution, upsurge of service sector over manufacturing sector have fundamentally influenced both, ‘future of jobs’ and ‘jobs of future’. The inability to adapt to these changes in the form of content, deployment and evaluation, has not only made it more irrelevant & indifferent to the aspirations & developmental goals of new learners but also counter- productive in many ways.
Here is a broad overview of some fundamental changes that has a potential to make it more aligned and relevant to the demands of the future. Let’s divide these into four broader areas:
Learning pedagogy: For centuries, the school learning in India has been confined to a classroom teaching, fixed hours and unidirectional flow of communication. Teachers focus only on knowledge transfer. This was good enough till the time teachers were the exclusive source of gaining knowledge to the learner. However, with changing times, not only learners have access to knowledge online, both often end up having same source of content. The teacher has to shift the role from ‘knowledge giver’ to ‘facilitator of thinking process’. The online education has been knocking the door for last whole decade but was always kept at the bay. With corona, the situation forced schools & parents to allow gadgets & screen times to students, which was condemned till just a day prior. But this transition of learning from classroom to online is not as easy as a click of a button. Besides making the infrastructure, connectivity and electricity available at schools, one must also need to take equal, if not more, efforts in building the mindset of online learning among the learner and teacher. Learning and teaching online is just not adoption of classroom environment in digital form. It requires fundamental changes in the content and delivery to make it more engaging and impactful. Gamification of the learning is one such powerful tool that needs to be explored in a big way. This also needs a well thought-out plan of integrating online learning with classroom learning as schools reopen post pandemic, to ensure that the transition, which was undertaken painstakingly, don’t go waste. This also puts urgent demand on the government to build infrastructures in the rural schools and link them to virtual learning sessions with urban teachers. This may require to create a pool of teachers who proficient in online teaching and can deliver online sessions to rural students leading to uplifting of the quality of education at remote places. The government can look at reallocation of their budgets complimented by CSR and foundations efforts in this regard.
The content & curriculum : A lot has been debated on education moving from ‘offline’ to ‘online’. But the larger debate is due on ‘what’ should be taught instead of the ‘how’. This pandemic has underlined the importance of teaching life skills & need for building capabilities to manage uncertainties of the future. The focal point of content needs to shift from ‘knowledge’ to ‘skills’. An objective evaluation of the current syllabi with respect to jobs/ careers of future throws a gloomy picture. As per various research reports, 62% of today’s jobs will seize to exist by 2022 and 85% of jobs of 2030 are not known to us today. We must introduce life skills learning in curriculum along with academics that will prepare children to mould themselves with the changes around them and build an ability to look at careers in the area of their passion. Internationally, schools have recognised this need and India has no choice if we want to build a youth of tomorrow who will be competing in global markets.
Responsibilities of stakeholders : The focal point of current school education has to shift from ‘school or a board’ (ICSE/CBSE/ State board) to ‘a learner’. The school is currently an ‘assembly line’ with a prescribed menu for a child who has to go through the motion without a choice with added pressure of achieving proficiency. It should instead be a ‘laboratory’ for child to go through his / her self- reflection and explore their own talent and then look at opportunities to excel. For eg a children good at drawing / music should not be compelled to be good at maths that make them go through frustrations without their fault.
This can be achieved by creating modular curriculums with basic and advance levels in each subjects and build options for a child to opt. This will lead to (a) children identifying & building on their natural inclinations & talent early in life, (b) reduce tension of competitive exams and (c) nurturing more ‘job creators’ than ‘job seekers’.
Examinations & evaluation: The damages caused by competitive exams, rote learning, memory testing evaluation methods are evident. Various alternatives such as project based evaluation, experimentation, internships, psychometric assessment tools can proxy the need of evaluation replacing current outdated methods. Encouragements to music, sports, performing arts beyond ‘top-up’ marks can change the canvas of future careers making them ‘great’ and ‘happy’.
While fighting a battle with corona, we all have demonstrated a great resilience and fighting spirit to protect our present & future. If we extend the same willpower in building fundamental changes in the current school education system, then that will go a long way in shaping our own future. Failing which, we continue to endanger the future, the consequences of which will be far worse than current pandemic.