An agenda for the Indian education sector in the disruptive era

‘Values’, ‘knowledge’ and ‘skills’ should mandatorily be part of the disruptive educational strategy.

With technological advancements, disruption and rapid globalisation, our future economy is dynamic and evolving

By Surjith Karthikeyan

Author is an Indian Economic Service officer. Views are personal

The Indian educational sector has evolved through various stages of economic development witnessed by agricultural revolution, heavy industrialisation strategy, government’s schemes on generating skills among the working population, and finally the knowledge based period kick started by economic reforms, undertaken till date. This evolution witnessed inter alia phases of survival, efficiency, ability and aspiration driven lacking student centric and values. Even the key schemes of the Government at present too focus on generating skills for undertaking specialised jobs. However the present disruptive and innovative era requires applied learning programmes. With technological advancements, disruption and rapid globalisation, our future economy is dynamic and evolving. It is therefore critical for us to nurture lifelong learners who will be confident to navigate through increasingly complex world.

The New Educational Policy (NEP) 2020 adopted by the Government of India is a guidance in this regard but the fruits of the same may not be visible unless it is implemented in letter and spirit by the respective State Governments. Customisation of policy with the technological disruption with specific targets and outcomes are imperative. The launch of student learning space may be a vital element in this context, coupled with the expansion of language elective Programme. At upper primary level, code for fun programme for students with new primary school leaving examination scoring system may be required. The mother tongue support programme envisaged in the NEP may need mandatory focus. Applied learning programmes in all primary schools, full subject based banding in all secondary schools, and junior college rejuvenation programmes may also require key focus.

Balancing trade-offs in our system while implementing the NEP is a challenge requiring fine tuning and phasing. Firstly, a robust and comprehensive curriculum which is presently followed in the school curriculum versus one that makes learning fun; requires deep analysis and customisation with assistance of educational experts. Secondly, catering to different learning paces but not inadvertently stigmatising certain groups of students who are less academically inclined, may require syllabus restructuring. Thirdly, examination results as a useful tool for school placement, against less finely defining learning outcomes and avoiding an overly competitive culture in our schools; have already been kick started in few states and may not be an issue. Fourthly, attaining credentials versus acquiring skills that make a person effective for the job is an area necessitating key improvements, requiring third party evaluation on the existing technical educational structure prevalent across the Country. The fine tuning of the above requires alchemy led by experience and knowledge sharing of multi-disciplinary stakeholders in the educational sector.

The broad agenda of disruptive educational strategy should be diverse and flexible educational landscape, holistic education, learn for life and education as an uplifting force. Nurturing qualities and attributes for life should be a key component of the educational strategy in the era of disruption. Emphasising character and citizenship education curriculum with values in action is the need of the hour. Enhancing education and career guidance to help students discover interests and aspirations may be another key component. Greater emphasis on outdoor education to develop resilience and ruggedness, nurturing strong minds, hearts and bodies in our young; trains them to face the realities of life with courage. Thus, a comprehensive take off towards a student centric structure which allows for greater customisation of learning is imperative.

Ensuring that education continues to uplift with a more seamless support ecosystem is equally important. Mobilising community assistance and resources to better support students from disadvantaged backgrounds should be part of the strategy to be adopted by the States. This is in line with the strategy adopted by developed countries like Singapore as an effort to safeguard social mobility. Each of the schools in our Country may step up ‘after school care’ and support for vulnerable and at risk students to improve connectedness to school. This strengthens school community partnerships and case coordination to help vulnerable families. The teachers may also be trained in special needs with introduction of school-based support programmes and forming Case Management Teams comprising of key personnel.

The redefinition of merit is another major area for reforms. Rather than completely based on grades, the focus should be on aptitude based admissions which recognises skills, interest and work experience of students. This ensures technically brilliant students to get admissions in their area of interest without any mandatory school grades. The start-ups platforms and innovation hubs should be linked to the school curriculum and for this, the international exchange programmes already experimented in leading colleges across India may be replicated to the well performing schools. Lifelong learning programmes to prepare one for future economy with skill as the currency should be mantra. Rather than limiting to the distance education centres, this should be replicated across all institutions of excellence where students may have access to its facilities and infrastructure.

Thus the gist of the disruptive education strategy should have three components viz; ‘values’, ‘knowledge’ and ‘skills’. While ‘values’ are ensured by adherence to holistic, student centric education, anchored on values and character development, ‘knowledge’ requires understanding their strength, interests and needs coupled with updated content and understanding of the changing world beyond the classroom. ‘Skill’ on the other hand involves harnessing technology to design, enriching and customised learning experiences leading to adaption to meet evolving needs. Adherence to these three components wholeheartedly by the implementing agencies may eventually disrupt Indian educational sector.

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