Monday, December 28, 2009

2010 Wishlist for Education


As I look forward to the year ahead I am acutely aware of how backward the situation is in reaching my wish list. Yet, the show must go on. Let me begin with the scenario.

As a citizen I am saddened by the enormity of corruption in our public life and environmental degradation that we are all contributing to. There was a time when I thought it is the need that breeds these two evils and once the poverty is overcome we will be free of it. How naive I was. It is the greed that is breeding them with immorality as its feed. We do talk of morality in public but in private we stay put with a conviction that it is impracticable. Education, Health and Judiciary are the field that must brook no corruption as it causes incalculable damage if we do to generations of people and tears their moral fabric that hold society together. As with any problems in society we look for Education as salvation to these evils too but without realizing that Education cannot remain independent of the prevailing social ethos.

We have seen great revolution taking place in our country since the Independence that launched us on the growth plane. Social revolution ushered in by Ambedkar, Industrial revolution of the Nehruvian era, Green revolution of Punjab, White revolution of Gujarat, Economic revolution ushered in by Manmohan Singh, Information revolution of Karnataka are the cases in point. However, there is virtually no revolutionary changes that has taken place in the field of Education, however much needed they are. Surely, there were several Committee Reports in this direction – like the recent ones by M. R. Srinivasan’s in Karnataka and Yashpal’s in the Centre – but they are either not implemented or implemented with such mutilation, to serve the vested interest, causing no serious change in the prevailing system.

Our Education System is too much syllabus centred, examination centred, system centred than student centred. Academic consideration and teachers stature is overridden by non-academic political and bureaucratic considerations in all aspects including choice of the leaders, approving curriculum, running administration and serving students. The uniformity bug has bitten the system hard, we want uniform calendar, uniform syllabus, uniform examination and so on and all are camouflaged as student interest which in actuality serves the System’s interest. Uniformity bodes death knell to individual initiatives, individual responsibility, accountability and innovation. Creativity thrives on variety, divergence, autonomy and unfettered exploration.

Education need to be holistic aiming at developing Head, Heart, Hand and Soul together simultaneously by introducing along with subject curriculum, the Performing Arts, Physical Education and Spirituality to all students. The System need to be more student centric that aids student self exploration to uncover the unique talents within and the courses tailor made to harness it. Our heritage has a highly evolved methodology for self discovery that could be profitably employed here too. As self discovery is a continuous and changing process there must be freedom of choices to opt for different or additional or parallel courses in the same campus. Choice based credit system offers such a possibility. Student must be able to take examination at his pace and confidence and by going to his teacher when he is ready, the teacher drawing up the required difficulty level of questions from the Question Bank stored in advance Online , student answering them Online and the result announced an hour after the examination of the subject. Application of modern technology to the speed, transparency and bias and corruption free academic process is an urgent necessity. That it is not being done in spite of its possibility adds to the poignancy. Teacher must be at the very centre of heralding all such academic process, he must be trained continuously in the subject as well as in the art and science of reaching out to the students with his unique best to help student reach out with student’s unique best. The system must recognize, reward and fully support excellence in teachers and students immediately. A system in which academic consideration overrides all other consideration, has autonomy and is empowered to rise the resources to provide quality education at the affordable cost to the vast majority of students with least interference from government and bureaucracy must be put in place. A dedicated group of leaders within the system who can stand above the vested interest can achieve the stated wish under such circumstances.