Kamal Gaur, deputy director programmes, Education, Bal Raksha Bharat (Save the Children), shared her views on opportunities and challenges of the Indian education system with FE Education Online.
What is the best thing about today’s education system?
The education system has today recognized the primacy of early education as an urgent and necessary pre-requisite to learning. The steer provided by NEP 2020 has led to an inter-departmental convergence and the 3-8 age group is now viewed in continuity so every child gets the ‘right start’ in life. In doing so the trend of low levels of learning evident for more than a decade and the role of quality foundational learning to mitigate inadequate language and maths skills was recognized.
What is the one thing you would like to change in the system?
To fulfill the NEP 2020 vision and make foundational learning for every child a reality budgetary provision, for it has emerged as a need especially since public sector provisioning of ECE services through Anganwadi services and the pre-primary sections in government schools covers only 31.4 million children. It implies that only 32 per cent of all children in the 3-6 years’ age group benefit from public sector provisioning of ECE services in the country despite the presence of a range of ECE service providers. Save the Children has estimated the Cost of Quality ECE for All Children in India through a multistate research study. The study concluded that to ensure quality education for all current beneficiaries (both government and others) as well as children not covered by any government ECE programme, there is a need to make a budgetary allocation to at least 1.5 – 2.2 percent of the GDP. Hence spending on education especially early education is an urgent need when a downward spiral in budgetary provision is being observed year after year.
What is the role digital has played in the evolution of the education system?
Digital education has made learning more engaging and interactive between the students and teachers. This initiative has made students not just gain textbook information but also gain practical and technical knowledge. The need for a physical learning space has also diminished as there is no limitation to the place of learning or studying. With digital learning, a student can engage in online classes or learning anywhere, at any time. Basic understanding around use of computers has now been replaced by SMART classrooms and STEM labs providing opportunities for experiential learning. At the same time teachers’ ability to use digital tools and its availability and accessibility at home vary across geographies and school systems.
What has been the disadvantage of digital in education?
School in India faced loss of 62 percent of instruction days, and partially for 38 percent during the pandemic. These closures placed 320 million students including 158 million girls at risk of dropping out and reaching large learning gaps. During this period, nearly 1 in 10 parents purchased a smartphone for online learning. However, within Asia-pacific, India continued to have the widest gender gap in internet usage in recent years, a gender gap of 40.4 percent with only 15 percent of women accessing the internet versus 25 percent of men. Save the Children’s WINGS Report (World of India’s Girls) 2022 also revealed that families exhibited a preference for male family members during the COVID-19 period. They ensured their sons had the privilege of digital devices and data packs access even when facing income constraints, but did not extend the same treatment to their daughters. Hence digital education has been inequitable with the most marginalized especially girls left at the margins.
What is the career advice you would like to give to students?
Developing a breadth of skills is essential for a child’s development and wellbeing. Children need certain skills to thrive in today’s interconnected and complex world. These include among others physical skills, creative skills, social skills and emotional skills. Higher education institutions and employers say these skills are most in demand in the workplace. Imparting these skills needs to be integrated with school curriculum from early years. Teachers need to be exposed to these skills so they can impart these to children from a young age. Using technology meaningfully, constant upgradation skills with focus on innovations to tackle emerging problems and be meaningfully engaged.
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