Looking beyond marks!

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Many people like Dhirubhai Ambani, Azim Premji, Kapil Dev, Kiran Bedi, Prof. Yash Pal are more competent and smarter than many of the captains of the respective domains. In fact, if we juxtapose with existing provisions in education, what they might have achieved had they enjoyed the rich dividend of modern education like all of us have.

According to Vartan Gregorian, then President of the Carnegie Corporation, “Education is the bridge that allows us to travel from where we are, to that further place,where we can become who we want to be, and do all the wonderful things might otherwise only dream of.”

A recent research report reveals that the instructional demand for 21st-century skills is being met by only one-third of schools, majority of them being private schools. Remaining schools in a way are those where the misconception of 21st-century skills are being practised, like teacher controlled-dictated-managed classroom. In doing so, teachers unintentionally deploy those misconceptions to reinforce the narrow and shallow skill set associated with test-based accountability.

ASER report (2018) further reflects a sorry state of affairs in our schools in terms of learning. Our students are promoted from lower to a higher class with sole intention to increase their score (grades) rather than incremental learning as is expected from them. Majority of schools intentionally neglect student’s diverse intellectual capabilities in the name of getting good scores in the board examinations thereby ignoring students multiple abilities, strengths and intelligence which they inherit from their birth.

UNESCO (Institute of Statistics, Global Education Monitoring) 2016 report states that 47 million students drop out before reaching standard X.

Further, in our country, school grades have become synonymous with students progress and academic capabilities are assessed through test scores in a very narrow spectrum. The result is that if children score well in their tests, there is a fair chance to become successful that may lead to a happy life. The hype that is created around the child by the school, parent and society is that good score means a guarantee of a good life which is not true either because every year our country is churning out toppers from their respective exams, yet there is a poor sign of academic advancement. The fundamental argument is (1) In spite of having 800 universities why our universities are not figuring in top 200 world class universities? (QS&THE-rankings) (2) Why our students are not topping in PISA & TIMSS rankings? (3) Why our country is having a very poor global innovation index of 57? (4) Why our country is having poor world happiness Index 133 ? (top being Bhutan) (5) Why our students are not figuring in the world of sports in proportion to our population? (6) Why in Human Capital Index (HCI) conducted by World Bank,(TOI,2018, Oct.13) India is in 115 position as compared to 157 countries world over?

What next?

India to become a global leader in the 21st-century knowledge world, needs to take bold steps and redefine the education policies right from Pre Primary, Primary, Secondary-Higher secondary and University education. NCERT has rightly initiated the move called outcome-based education and CBSE has already implemented this in its 20,000 plus schools all over the country which is a welcome step. Other boards need to follow the suit.

The major paradigm shift that is needed in our country is ability-based education, learning based curriculum, competency-based teaching, result-oriented research and innovation culture. Particularly in schools the major focus must shift from grade centric to greatness, memorization to learning, consumerist to producer-centric, dependent to self-directed learner, ordinary student to confident student, greedy receiver to happy contributor, passive learning to active learning, lawlessness to law abiding, 19th century mindset to 21st century competencies & skills based system. The guiding principle of 21st century skill is human values based (like truth, righteous conduct, love, peace and non-violence), inner core surrounded by social competencies (like social awareness,self awareness, relationship management, self management, decision making) and globalized world view (like cross-cultural skills, compassion & concerned citizen having respect for all religions and cultures).

We have to liberate our learners from the academic chores of copy and paste to explorative, self-directed, guided inquiry learning where every learner is free to think critically, analyze systematically, generalize simply and crystallize the learning which is lifelong. Experiential learning is to be the repertoire of the teacher’s daily activity library. Interdisciplinary and multi disciplinary approach based learning at higher secondary and college level. School should be the happy place for both the teacher and students, who are constantly engaged with each other, explore their potential and develop imagination.

Cognitive research suggests that it may be time to rethink existing grading practices; instead emphasis should be given to encourage deep and authentic learning. Standards-based grading is a viable reform because it makes teaching and learning more focused, effective and enjoyable. To make it happen in our schools we need to focus on important stakeholders such as teachers, parents, students, & curriculum..

Teachers: Teaching for test performance requires teaching a relatively shallow and narrow skill set, while for deeper learning requires teaching a much broader and deeper skill set. Teaching competency should be strengthened and professional development programme be aligned with the pressing need. CTET &Teacher Professional Olympiad like CENTA-TPO to be made compulsory for all teachers like in Singapore where teacher undergoes certification & compulsory professional development practices every year. Student evaluation of teacher may be the wildest idea to rope in the teacher appraisal process.

Curriculum: It should be nation development specific, international outlook laden, learning centre and creativity oriented. Grading criteria must be embedded in the curriculum so as to limit bias of school based assessment.

Students: Choose the activity that interest you, work on it, expand it with your learning and stand on your learning. Develop critical thinking skill, solve problem by self-exploration, love yourself and nature, and be compassionate to your fellow human beings.

Parents: Allow your ward to explore the world on his own rather than prescriptive Class-Coaching-Card (result) model. Help them to believe in themselves, their capabilities and strengths.

On a concluding note…

Time has ripened for all Indians to go for another renaissance like Bengal Renaissance of the past that helped our country to achieve its freedom. In a similar way, we have to lead this momentum, the momentum is learning for all as learning is our fundamental right. Government must enact “right to learn” legislation for all schools and colleges so that we can still take lead in the 21st century knowledge driven world.

Bibhuti Narayan Biswal started his career as lecturer in chemistry for four years before joining the school education system as Principal in the year 2004. Since then he has been working as a school educational leader. He has to his credit 21 research papers, four book chapters, one book entitled Bigyan Kathamruta in 2010 and 149 articles. He is currently pursuing his doctoral research in Science Education in the M.S. University of Baroda, Vadodara. He was the founder principal of Sri Sathya Sai Vidya Niketan, Navsari, Gujarat from 2007 to 2019. He holds a Post Graduate in Chemistry, M.Phil (Chemistry), M.Ed, Post Graduate Diploma in School Leadership Management (PGDSLM), Dipl. in EHV from Institute of Sathya Sai Education, Mumbai. Presently he is working with Reliance Foundation as Academic Coordinator, Reliance Foundation School Academic Council (RFSAC), Navi Mumbai.

The major paradigm shift that is needed in our country is ability-based education, learning based curriculum, competency-based teaching, result-oriented research and innovation culture. We have to liberate our learners from the academic chores of copy and paste to explorative, self-directed, guided inquiry learning where every learner is free to think critically, analyze systematically, generalize simply and crystallize the learning which is lifelong.