Friday December 14, 2018

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 Objects we had grown accustomed to have been replaced by newer and more efficient products.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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The Critique Of The Indian Education System

The country's higher education system must be restructured, redesigned, and renewed.

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India needs a world-class higher educational system Pixabay

India has the third-largest higher educational system in the world. In 2016, there were 799 universities and 39,071 colleges spread across the country. These numbers are staggering. The growth of higher education in India over a little more than half a century has been even more staggering.

Between 1950 and 2014, the number of universities in India increased by 34 times. And, between 1950 and 2013, colleges increased by 74 times.

This quantitative explosion in higher education institutions has not been matched by the quality of the education they provide. In fact, the gap between quantity and quality is so large that it stands as one of the major obstacles in the way of India being a world leader. To become such a leader, India needs to develop a world class higher education system.

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School Children in India. Pixabay

Two years ago, the Narendra Modi administration attempted to put some focus on quality in higher education with its introduction of draft regulations for a new initiative called the “UGC (Declaration of Government Educational Institutions as World Class Institutions) Guidelines, 2016.” By 2018, when the first six institutions were named under this initiative, they were designated as “Institutions of Eminence” as opposed to “world class institutions”.

Although the label has been changed, the intent remains the same. That is to give considerable discretion to and elevate the status of these institutions. This is not necessarily a bad thing. But, it will do little to address the underlying problems of higher education in India.

This is true because the focus is completely wrong. These universities are the tip of the higher educational iceberg. Enhancing the capacity of a few institutions, thus possibly enabling them to be rated a little higher in the world rankings of higher education institutions, does nothing for the many.

India, education
Smart boards projectors used in government schools enhancing the quality of education. AP Janmabhoomi

That’s not to say that India does not need world class institutions of higher education. It is to say that more, importantly India, needs a world class higher education system.

A world class higher education system is one that is student- or customer-centred rather than institution-centred. It comprises certified and caring institutions that have the resources required and the core mission of ensuring that students/customers acquire the knowledge/skills/abilities and dispositions that they need to achieve their individual goals and to maximise their contribution to society.

India’s current system has been almost exactly the opposite of that. The emphasis has been primarily on a select group of institutions and individuals rather than embracing and addressing the needs of the whole.

There are many steps that must be taken to change this and to make the Indian higher education system world class. They include:

India, education
The higher education system must meet the needs of potential employers and prospective employees.

– Increase public financing. The federal and state governments currently provide limited funding for higher education. As a result, over 70 percent of the higher education institutions are operated by the private sector. These institutions are not well regulated and are of highly variable quality. Public sector financing could be used to support existing public institutions and to establish new ones in regions in which there are limited higher educational opportunities.

– Enhance the infrastructure. Colleges and universities throughout India have inadequate physical settings, lack equipment, and suffer from a shortage of competent teachers. Ensuring that each higher educational institution is infrastructurally sound, establishes the proper environment for learning and growth.

– Expand access to and participation in higher education. The enrollment in higher education is approximately 15 per cent of the eligible population. This percentage needs to be much higher for India to be considered and to become a developed or developing country. It also needs to be representative of the entire population, including females, those from the weaker sectors, and rural areas.

India, education
he emphasis has been primarily on a select group of institutions and individuals

– Enforce standards and requirements appropriately. The announced replacement of the University Grants Commission (UGC) with the Higher Education Commission of India (HECI) created considerable debate within and outside of the educational community. The essential question regardless of whether there is an UGC, HECI or some other agency with an acronym. must be: Is the proper data being collected and used to monitor performance and ensure accountability for each institution in the higher education system?

– Place an emphasis on vocational education. The higher education system must meet the needs of potential employers and prospective employees. Currently, there is a mismatch. The higher educational system must equip itself to be the provider of first resort and give the country the skilled workforce it requires.

Also Read: The Biggest Casualty in Yemen’s War- Education

There are many other steps that must be taken, such as addressing politicians controlling many educational institutions, to make India’s higher education system world class. But there must be only one mindset. That mindset must be that the country’s higher education system must be restructured, redesigned, and renewed in a way that benefits all of India and all Indians. (IANS)