The focus of our policymakers has primarily been towards improving the access to education rather than improving quality.
With 1.5 million schools and over 260 million enrolments, India has the world’s largest K12 (primary and secondary) education system. However, with a literacy rate of 77%, India lags behind other BRIC countries that have literacy above 90%. The learning in our education system is driven by the fear of exams and a one-size-fits-all approach. Young students are taught to solve questions, not ask questions. The Achilles heel of our education sector is the lack of enough focus on quality, including instruction medium, curricula, infrastructure and faculty. The focus of our policymakers has primarily been towards improving the access to education rather than improving quality.
Though academicians acknowledge internationalisation of higher education as a priority, they somehow overlook that it is the foundation—primary and secondary education—which prepares students for higher education. We have to evolve a system where the absolute academic score of a student is considered as a benchmark for her capability, to a system where the focus is on all-round development. Digitisation of education cannot alone fill the gaps; we need a practical and application-based approach to education. Indian institutions following the International Baccalaureate (IB) programme for primary and secondary education levels differentiate themselves by offering a non-conventional learning experience to students, rather than just rote learning.
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The core of IB pedagogy is ‘how to learn’ rather than ‘what to learn’, with an objective to create global citizens. The high standard and rigorousness of IB is recognised; it is considered a superior academic programme and serves as a strong university entry credential. To improve the education system, we need structural changes:
* Curricula and pedagogy: The first step is to adopt a learner-centred paradigm of education—multidisciplinary, immersive and skill-based curricula focusing on a balanced approach towards learning. Equally important is to boost the efforts in adopting pedagogical techniques like blended learning, flipped classroom and experiential learning.
* Arts and sports as a career option: Policymakers and parents need to accept arts and sports as mainstream careers for children and not just as alternate subjects.
* Faculty transformation: We have to motivate teachers and offer incentives such as tenure-based and rewards-based systems. Faculty exchange programmes with top schools, both in India and abroad, can open new avenues to education.
* Collaboration and partnership: The role of industry-academia linkages across the education value chain can’t be ignored.
* Strengthen infrastructure: There is a need to incentivise private and foreign participation to widen the applicability of virtual classrooms and MOOCs. Government initiatives in ICT can play a role here.
* Nimble governance and leadership: A regulatory framework focusing on autonomy, mandatory accreditation and regulation of schools is quintessential.
Globalisation is not the future; it’s right here. Besides continuing other initiatives, the Indian education system must adopt a balanced approach towards learning, and focus on the merits of internationalisation to position itself on the world map as an attractive education destination.
By: Navyata Goenka
The author is advisor, Mount Litera School International, Mumbai