Educational development: An essential tool to transform India’s destiny

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B L Sharma
Founder & Chairperson, BLS International Group of Schools

Education is each citizen’s right and past governments have ensured that almost every child goes to school. To secure India’s future in the next 70 years, we need to democratize education. Empowerment of stakeholders — students, parents and teachers — is critical to escape the depressing levels of learning plaguing our system.

As rightly said by late president of India, Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, “The primary focus of the students should be to excel in their studies. This is their first contribution to the development of the Nation. The education system should itself in the minds of student capacities of enquiry, creativity, technology, entrepreneurial and moral leadership.”

Education is each citizen’s right and past governments have ensured that almost every child goes to school. To secure India’s future in the next 70 years, we need to democratize education. Empowerment of stakeholders — students, parents and teachers — is critical to escape the depressing levels of learning plaguing our system.

The areas which needs to be carefully analyzed and worked upon in order to give pace to futuristic learning especially at primary and secondary schools at grass root level for quality education are enlisted below:

(i) Education so far has sadly focused on test-based accountability and proficiency of basic skills (numeracy and/or literacy). This reinforces a system that continues to be based on rote and recall. Not only does this hamper a child’s ability to engage with real-world problems on a deeper level, in the long term it also renders an entire generation unemployable.

(ii) India is also then saddled with a large population of young people who’re unable to think creatively and critically, understand and accept diversity, be open to new ideas and perspectives, and communicate and collaborate effectively.

(iii) Peer learning is almost absent with most schools working in silos.

(iv)Training programmes are few and far in between and almost always ineffective. Teachers and school leaders are the closest stakeholders in a school to the ultimate beneficiary, the students. Student achievement levels can improve only by empowering these two stakeholders, which is found to be either lacking or ineffective.

(v) Amidst all the stakeholders in the education landscape, the parent is the most ignored even though they spend the most time with the students. The lack of knowledge with most parents over estimating the academic levels of their children, is a big problem.

(vi) Without targeted support at home, the first-generation learners face a high probability of falling behind in school and eventually dropping out. This prevents them from breaking out of the vicious cycle of inter-generational poverty.

With the present cookie-cutter approach, India’s young population will never be able to compete with an international workforce or be able to meaningfully contribute to our democracy until the efforts and genuine inputs are not visible at root level.

B L Sharma, Founder & Chairperson, BLS International Group of Schools
B L Sharma, Founder & Chairperson, BLS International Group of Schools

Parents: as strategic partners: Since many of India’s 14 crore children in primary school are the first in their family to go to school or are going further in school than their parents ever have. Parents of these children do understand the importance of education and its power to break the shackles of poverty, but having never been to school, the support they can provide at home is limited. We all need to focus on designing programmes building the knowledge of parents and equipping them with skills to support their children at home. Having hardly interacted with the schooling system, they need to be trained how to partner with the schools. Most importantly, parents need to believe in their own power — that regardless of their income and education, they can play a meaningful part in their child’s education.

• Student: the ultimate beneficiary in any education system: Student is a beneficiary who is most often without a voice and has to depend on other stakeholders to understand their needs. It is important to make our system first student-centric. Students need to be empowered by catering to their multiple intelligences and by designing a pedagogic system based on understanding and application and not recall. We need to understand that only students who’ve mastered the basics can engage in higher order skills like collaboration, critical thinking and creativity.

• Empowering teachers: It is important to empower teachers by creating pathways for peer learning and mentorship, providing the majority of the decision-making power to school leaders and teachers, and by making it a more desirable profession.

• People-centric policies: The conversation in education has slowly started moving away from the importance of infrastructure and inputs. We are now talking about improving quality in terms of outcomes. But these outcomes cannot be achieved by designing policies that are process-centric. We need people-centric policies to catalyse a learning revolution in the country. We still have a long way to go.

B L Sharma is Founder & Chairperson at BLS International Group of Schools. A thorough gentleman, B L Sharma has an inviolate integrity that is serving in today’s world. He is committed to the cause of honesty and justice. He feels there is an increasing need to provide quality education to meet the demands of the fast growing community. He understands that offering good quality education is very important to generating good human resources and education plays a major role in coming century, and the BLS is committed to this cause. Sharma’s simplicity combined with his sharp intellect makes him a role model working of emulation. He believes that good quality education is essential to the creation of good human resources. A holistic education which includes physical activity, dealing with peer pressure as well as developing confidence to perform should be the key in making a good school. He believes that: “The race is not with the rest of the world, but with your own self.”