Tuesday November 12, 2019

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 Objects we had grown accustomed to have been replaced by newer and more efficient products.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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India Needs to Improve its Educational Outcomes to Catch up with China

To catch up with China, India needs to lay emphasis on improving its educational outcomes

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The Article 30 of the Constitution gives religious and linguistic minorities “the right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice.”
India needs to improve its educational outcomes to catch up with China. Pixabay

By Amit Kapoor

Both China and India started building their national education systems under comparable conditions in the late 1940s. Different policies and historical circumstances have, however, led them to different educational outcomes, with China outperforming India not just in terms of its percentage of literate population and enrollment rates at all levels of education, but also in terms of number of world-class institutions in higher education, and greater research output.

The roots of China’s successful education system date back to the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), which unintentionally expanded access to the primary education through democratising the schooling system, which was previously elitist in character, thus addressing the problem of mass illiteracy.

In contrast, India continued to focus on its higher education system since independence and only realised the importance of basic education in 1986, keeping it behind China and many other countries in Asia in educational development. In terms of enrollment, China reached a 100 percent gross enrollment rate (GER) in its primary education in 1985, whereas, India attained that level only in 2000.

In terms of secondary school enrollment, India and China both started at the similar rates in 1985, with about 40 percent of their population enrolled in secondary schools. However, due to a wider base of primary school students, the rate of increase in China has been much faster than in India, with 99 percent secondary enrollment rate in China and 79 percent in India in 2017.

India is closing in on the Chinese rate in terms of access to education, but on the literacy level front, there is a huge gap in the percentage of literate populations in the two countries. In the age group of 15-24 years, India scores 104th rank on literacy and numeracy indicator, compared to China’s 40th rank.

The OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), which assesses after every three years the domain knowledge of 15-year-old students in reading, mathematics, science and finance, revealed that students in China performed above the OECD average in 2015. Moreover, one in four students in China are top performers in mathematics, having an ability to formulate complex situations mathematically. Further, China outperforms all the other participating countries in financial literacy, by having a high ability to analyse complex finance products. For India, the comparable data is not available as it was not a participating country in PISA 2015.

abroad, study
Representational image.

However, in India, the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2017 provides data for rural youth, aged 14-18, with respect to their abilities to lead productive lives as adults. According to this survey, only about half of the 14-year-old children in the sample could read English sentences, and more than half of the students surveyed could not do basic arithmetic operations, like division. For basic financial calculations, such as managing a budget or making a purchase decision, less than two-thirds could do the correct calculations.

With regard to the higher education system, both India and China dominate the number of tertiary degree holders because of their large population size, but when it comes to the percentage of the population holding tertiary degrees, only about 10 per cent and 8 per cent of the population possess university degrees in China and India, respectively. By contrast, in Japan, almost 50 per cent of the population holds a tertiary degree, and in the United States, 31 per cent of the population hold a tertiary degree.

In terms of the international recognition of universities, the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Ranking for 2019 places seven of the China’s universities in the top 200, compared to none for India. The global university rankings, which are based on various performance metrices, pertaining to teaching, research, citations, international outlook and industrial income, shows progress for several of China’s low-ranked universities, largely driven by improvements in its citations.

In fact, the Tsinghua University has overtaken the National University of Singapore (NUS) to become the best university in Asia due to improvements in its citations, institutional income and increased share of international staff, students and co-authored publications.

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While India has progressed in terms of massification of education, there is still a lot which needs to be done when it comes to catching up with the China’s educational outcomes. China’s early start in strengthening its primary and secondary education systems has given it an edge over India in terms of higher education. Moreover, Chinese government strategies are designed in line with the criterion used in major world university rankings, especially emphasis is on the two factors which weigh heavily in the rankings — publications and international students.

The relentless publications drive, which is very evident in China, is weak in India and has led to a growing gap in the number of publications contributed by the two countries. Further, China enrolled about 292,611 foreign students in 2011 from 194 countries, while India currently only has 46,144 foreign students enrolled in its higher education institutions, coming from 166 countries. The large number of international enrollments in China is a reflection of its state policies granting high scholarships to foreign students.

To catch up with China, India needs to lay emphasis on improving its educational outcomes. Massification drive for education has helped India raise its student enrollments, but a lot needs to be done when it comes to global recognition for its universities. Further, it needs to focus on building the foundation skills which are acquired by students at the school age, poor fundamental skills flow through the student life, affecting adversely the quality of education system. (IANS)