Sunday October 22, 2017

Education system in India needs overhauling

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New Delhi: The emergence of a knowledge-driven society demonstrated that everything can and must change and that the process is a continuous search for better solutions. Indeed, new scientific discoveries and technological innovations have become an integral part of our everyday biography. Objects we had grown accustomed to have been replaced by newer and more efficient products. If anything is truly permanent, it is change itself.

Yet the vast majority of people continue to have a pathological anathema towards change. They harbour feelings of great mistrust because they perceive change as an explicit acknowledgement of failure. Consequently, they are steadfast in their refusal to accept that the failure to shift thinking would, most certainly, lead to their obsolescence.

Research has substantively established an inter-linkage between countries that embrace innovation and thus, change, and economic prosperity. People in such countries think different. They are more adventurous, less risk averse and open to experimenting. Governments and the bureaucracy in emerging or developing economies, on the other hand, tend to suffer from an acute disavowal of all that challenges existing paradigms. New ways of seeing worry them. Consequently, our schools and colleges are unable to respond to the rapidly changing educational needs of a knowledge economy.

This has serious consequences. First, it adversely impacts economic growth because the quality of education is the principal driver of the growth engine. And second because bad education does not lead to employability in a globally competitive environment. This is a profound and not imagined disaster that India credibly faces and will, most certainly, undermine India’s aspirations as a global thinker.

So, what is the role of education?

To paraphrase Nietzsche, all human action needs to be based on what we wish to achieve. Education, similarly, must have an end-objective. For students, it is productive and sustained employability. For governments, this translates into contributing to the GDP. If education underachievers in this stated objective, it would be perceived as a failure, since more and more young people would become unemployable.

What this requires is the radical shaking up of the education system. First, this would ensure that the dead wood and dried-up leaves fall off. Second, the system would be reformatted to achieve the 21st century objectives. In short, we need to usher in an educational revolution and not just an evolution of teaching techniques. Yesterday’s curriculum and pedagogy has to give way to future needs and requirements. In effect this means shifting from an education system that was crafted during the industrial era to one that is in consonance with the present-day demands of an ever-changing environment. In other words, the very DNA of education – both at the school and university level – needs to be changed.

For India, this is the need of the day. She is at the cusp of transformational change. Global perception of her attractiveness is remarkably upbeat. She has been invited to the high table. However, all these positive developments are directly related to whether India would deliver on promise and expectation. Is she, in other words, a safe bet? The attractiveness of the Indian workforce would be the key for corporate investors. This means that education would need to produce a world-class workforce that is in consonance with the expectations of the corporate investor.

This requires a fundamental overhaul in the way we perceive what education needs to deliver. First, the education environment cannot be divorced from the external landscape. The ‘in-here’ experience needs to be directly linked to the ‘out-there’ experience. Our schools and universities are not a comfort zone or an idyllic island resort but rather deeply rooted in the here-and-now. The outside world is complex, volatile and unpredictable. Students need to be taught to embrace uncertainty and not be intimidated by it. Indeed, the job they would end up doing has not yet been created.

Did any of us realistically believe, when we were students, that a living could be made designing apps? Second, education needs to inculcate learning agility. In other words, education must craft persons who are open to new ideas, who are constantly learning new skills and willing to apply them but more importantly, learning from experience and failure. Third, we need to learn the importance of teamwork and focus. Teams are not a collection of silos but an integrated circuit with a clear objective. And finally, education administrators need to recognize that the teacher is simply a facilitator. Unless education is refashioned, we would embrace the 21st century with a 19th century mindset. The result would be failure.

Restructuring the approach towards contemporary education, accordingly, needs to incorporate the following, among others:

1.Learning about learning: The teaching community and education administrators need to recognize the need to shift from teaching to learning. This is the transition from the sage on the stage to a co-learner. Substantive evidence exists of teachers abandoning the chalk and talk methodology with dramatic results.

2. Shifting the mindset of education providers: The fundamental paradox is that teaching is provided by an older generation to a younger one leading to a credible likelihood of a mismatch and disconnect in thinking, understanding and communication. Education is all about connecting and thus, interpersonal relations. Students need to be able to relate to their teachers. If this is lacking, education would fail to meet the high societal expectations.

3. Embrace the Internet: The Internet has made learning possible 24×7 without the teacher. Unfortunately, while the teaching community acknowledges the transformative impact of the Internet, the whole-hearted embrace is perfunctory. Consequently, educational institutions are unable to take full advantage of the incredible world the Internet opens up, which, for the most part, is entirely free.

4. Redesigning Space: Design has assumed significance and rightly so. Studies have demonstrated how design impacts thinking. Various corporate offices are moving into open style functioning and a fluid utilization of space with funky designs that are immediately attractive. Schools and classrooms have, similarly, started changing. Indeed, even the term ‘classroom’ is being replaced with ‘learning centres’. The consequent requirement is for the campus and the learning centres to become interactive, engaging and functional. They play a dramatic role in shifting pedagogy to a modern mindset.

5. Globalization is Multiculturalism: A rapidly integrating world has substantially diluted geographical boundaries. The role of the educational institutions needs to recognize this dramatic new requirement and help open minds so that we are sensitive and welcoming of other cultures.

The future is hurtling towards us at an extraordinary pace. Unless education is refashioned by a visionary leadership, we face the dire consequence of being left out of the mainstream. This is one of the great challenges Prime Minister Narendra Modi faces.(Amit Dasgupta, IANS)

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‘Tribes of India’ : An Online Database to Document the Lives of Indian Tribes

The database would contain rare and exclusive videos and photographs, above thousands, which have been collected from various Tribal Research Institutes around the country

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Indian Tribes, Tribal culture
Tribal culture. Wikimedia
  • The ‘Tribes of India’ will showcase the lifestyle, culinary culture, conditions of living of the tribes
  • It is going to be amazing to form a database collecting all the information regarding the characteristics of the tribes, as those will be accessible in the distance of a click
  • Experts from the ministry has also stated that the database would be frequently updated with new research inputs from sources and scientists

New Delhi, August 10, 2017: The very first attempt at producing a documentation of the lives of the tribal in India, is ongoing. The ‘Tribes of India’ will showcase the lifestyle, culinary culture, conditions of living, and historical and chronological facts regarding the evolution of their traditions and culture. The ‘repertoire’ is focusing on answering questions such as- the difference between the Gond tribe of Uttar Pradesh and the Gonds of Jharkhand, whether the tribes in Jharkhand possess a secret cure for anemia, and the status of living of the Santhals in the remote forest-zones.

ALSO READ: Lalung Tribe of Northeast India: What Makes them Stand Apart!

A database on the tribes of India is to be created by the Ministry of Tribal Affairs. The project aims to bring into light the art and culture, history of evolution and anthropological facts, lifestyle and eating practices, the rate of mortality, education system, architecture and the contribution of the tribals in India’s struggle for freedom, Economic Times has reported.

It has been planned that the database would contain rare and exclusive videos and photographs, above thousands, which have been collected from various Tribal Research Institutes around the country. It is true that the research institute has always showcased such collections, but this is the first time it is going to be saved in an exclusive database.

It is going to be amazing to form a database collecting all the information regarding the characteristics of the tribes, as those will be accessible in the distance of a click, from now on. Techniques to introduce a feature that would enable a viewer to take a virtual tour of the architecture of a tribal hut is also going to be implemented, a senior ministry official said to Economic Times.

According to the report, about 10 crore scheduled-tribe people form an 8.6% of the entire population of the country. But it has been observed that there has been no sincere attempt to showcase and explore the unique lifestyle of the tribes. The official further stated that the database would pose as an excellent guide for the research-scholars because it will contain the necessary statistics. Experts from the ministry have also stated that the database would be frequently updated with new research inputs from sources and scientists.

The database is to follow the effort of the government to explore and showcase the lifestyle of the Indian tribes and dedicate some museums as well to the tribes. The Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi addressed the nation and asked all to explore and research on the contributions made by the Scheduled Tribes in India’s freedom struggle, Economic Times has reported.

The database will also include links to the museums of various states post their construction.

-prepared by Antara Kumar of NewsGram. Twitter: @ElaanaC

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West Bengal Topper’s name Archisman Panigrahi Appears in Jadavpur University Merit List without Applying

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Jadavpur University
West Bengal Class 12 topper Archisman Panigrahi tops the Jadavpur University merit list without applying to the varsity. Wikimedia

Kolkata, July 14, 2017: West Bengal Class 12 topper Archisman Panigrahi is in a unique predicament, his name tops the Jadavpur University merit list in four subjects without him ever applying to the varsity.

“I never applied to Jadavpur University but I came to know through a friend that my name figured in the top in the merit list for physics, chemistry, geology, and mathematics. The marks and birthdate were not mine,” the student said.

He said he has informed the varsity authorities.

“I have written to the dean highlighting that I had not applied and I can see my name on the top,” he said.

According to varsity vice chancellor Suranjan Das the matter will be taken up with the cyber crime department of the police. (IANS)


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Decoding Reservation in India: Is it a Constitutional Flaw or Unnecessary Favor?

The idea of 'reservation' has generated contradictory views from teachers and students all around the world

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Representational image. Pixabay

November 12, 2016: The word ‘reservation’ came up with the idea of representative government, where for the first time numbers mattered. The inequality of Indian society has solidified the need for numeric representation. The caste based representation, no doubt created a more confident lower class mass with their greater involvement in the public sphere. Reservation in education has evolved as a major challenge for lakhs of students. Far from providing an equal opportunity it has an electoral agenda. Education has been politicized based on reservation.

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However, the backward class proportion is still underrepresented. Article 15 (1) of the Constitution says, “State shall not discriminate any citizen on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them”, it also provides for compensatory or protective discrimination in favor of certain sections of the disadvantaged people. Article 15(4) of the constitution stipulates that notwithstanding the provision stated above, the state can make “special provision for the advancement of any socially and educationally backward classes of citizens or for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes”. Thus constitution itself provides contradictory clause.

The idea of ‘reservation’ has generated contradictory views from teachers and students all around the world. ‘Caste should no longer be the eligibility criteria for reservation, rather income should be’ said HemangoAkshayHiwale, an M.phill aspirant in Jamia Millia Islamia University. Prakash, another student of same university claims reservation as a ‘good thing but in present scenario in India need to be reformed.’

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In August 1999, the Supreme Court ruled that for admissions at super-specialty level in medicine and engineering faculties, no special provisions like SCs, STs, BCs were permissible. Even among the quotas there are also sub-quotas. For example, in Andhra Pradesh, 15% of the seats in each course of study reserved for Scheduled Castes are in turn allotted, in proportion to their population, to four categories of SCs classified as A, B , C and D.

This affirmative step has so far brought with it social justice. US Carnegie Mellon University, published a study in American Economic Review, which shows that reservations do place those who do not qualify for affirmative action at a disadvantage, 53,374 scheduled caste, scheduled tribe, other backward classes and general category students are at a loss.

Reservation in the past decades has increased the numbers of scheduled castes and scheduled tribe families with highly educated members, who can encourage and provide support for younger family members to continue their education. Thus, reservation in education as of now is more of a luxury scheme for these classes as the benefit is only confined to a limited population, whether they need it or not. The real needy ones are at a loss to whom the information or the financial access is debarred.

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Instead of favoring reservation, the government should increase the number of universities and government jobs for the benefit of its people. Nationalization of education can also be a solution to this issue. When the discrepancies within the universities are omitted; i.e. equal access to education without compromising the quality of education the disadvantaged students in remote areas will get justice. The proliferation of universities in villages with good teachers can also be an alternative.

Reservation should not be treated as a vote bank or an emotional quotient but a practical measure to help the lower section of the society. It should be kept in mind that the extended favor to the marginalized section might create an insufficiency for the other classes. With the critical Indian class structure, it should be kept in mind that any reform of upliftment will be judiciously measured before its implementation.

by Saptaparni Goon of NewsGram. Twitter: @saptaparni_goon