It will help India chart its own learning path
By Mala Kapoor & Naman Jain
Experts and policymakers are often found leading discussions on best practices in education by citing examples of other countries. Many a times, there is a clamour for overzealously emulating policies that have been deemed successful in other countries without fully grasping the context of their application in India.
With the launch of the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020, some people tried to find parallels with other nations and highlighted ways in which certain best practices could be replicated. While the sentiment is appreciable—after all, the entire point of calling a best practice so is because it is a replicable and scalable solution—such an approach requires a combination of caution and self-awareness.
India has a set of unique characteristics that set it apart from other (often, smaller in size and different in composition) countries. Sure, there are lessons to be learnt from others’ experiences, but those cannot be blindly copied.
The NEP is a forward-looking document focused on providing universal access to quality education to propel India’s leadership on the global stage in economic growth, social justice and equality, scientific advancement, national integration, and cultural preservation. While the policy has been lauded, this is also an opportune moment to turn the gaze inwards to identify the gaps in our existing system so that these can be fixed.
Diversity as our strength: Every few kilometres the dialect and food habits change; India is a melting pot of cultures and any move that attempts to enforce homogenisation is not likely to bode well.
On-job development of teachers: In nearly every profession or domain, employees are offered opportunities to upgrade their skills. But teachers in India lack such avenues. Very few have access to educational upgrades or a support group of peers who can enable exchange of ideas. There are infrastructural or administrative challenges that teachers tend to spend their energy on. Many teachers are compelled to rely on knowledge they gained through their degrees.
In-depth subject knowledge: Deep subject knowledge and high-order thinking skills, the ability to bring the world to the classroom, an open mind that can embrace novel techniques easily, an ability to take initiative are some requirements for a teacher to be future-ready. Unfortunately, one finds these elements missing in many teachers.
The NEP is a nylon thread in the hands of a man who aspires to be a fisherman. Unless he is equipped with the skills and competencies that enable him to fish independently, he will end up sailing through troubled waters for saving own life rather than reach out to the shore with desired outcomes.
Need for forward and backward integration models: Another glaring gap in the K-12 system is that schools tend to recognise the growth of their faculty on the basis of age or work experience-related seniority and not updated skills or academic mastery or their ability to grow as a futuristic pedagogist. This results in an inability to cater to student requirements as well as industry needs. There is a need to build solid integration models where all stakeholders come together to increase the pool of teachers.
Integrating tech-based solutions in pedagogy: The pandemic has cemented the need for embracing tech-based solutions to ensure inclusivity and minimise loss of learning. But this cannot be achieved without the cooperation and support of stakeholders in creating infrastructure that can support solutions to ensure seamless last-mile delivery of learning.
Stakeholder management: Another neglected area is the involvement of all stakeholders in connecting the dots to ensure the best possible academic life of a child. Parents, the school management, teachers, students, policymakers as well as industry experts seldom come together under a single umbrella to create an edifice for wholesome learning for both teachers and students.
Absence of monitoring and evaluation: The flaws of the current testing and examination system are well-known. We need holistic assessment methods that can assess the skills and competencies of a learner. Cultivating a multidisciplinary approach through inter-school networking initiatives can play a vital role in creating a benchmark for testing and assessment that is strictly outcome-based. This is possible only when done via continuous and practical assessment.
To conclude, the NEP 2020, if implemented with a serious intent at the ground level, can play a critical role in ensuring an overhaul of the system. Finally, comparisons with other countries must stop. It is necessary that as responsible citizens, we display a sense of belief in our country’s ability to execute an effective policy. All that is required is the desire to learn and willingness to travel that extra little mile to educate our present and future generations well.
Kapoor is founder & director principal, and Jain is education policy expert & director, SilverLine Prestige School