Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Constantly changing educational policies

It is a popular notion that Education is a process through which knowledge, learning, skills and understanding is passed on to the next generation through interaction, sharing and teaching. It is not innate but acquired. In our country, education is passing through a transitional phase and all stake holders are trying to cope with the same.  It started with the introduction of CCE by CBSE and since then many more steps have been taken to make things easy for the children and those aspiring to become engineers and doctors. I would like to emphasize on the word used ‘easy’ because it is very important for us to understand this and respond accordingly. Our great philosophers and educationists defined education in their own ways but one thing common is that this is the manifestation of the potential already possessed by an individual. As we know that all seeds grow into plants or trees if they are provided with a proper and conducive environment. They can grow anywhere whether it be a cultivable land or a difficult terrain. So the feeling which the children and the other people associated with them, are getting, is worth deliberation. Education should help an individual to know and understand self and that will enable him to understand others better. Unfortunately, last two to three decades have seen education to be equivalent to a piece of paper called - degree and this degree has been associated with the jobs and packages. However, the understanding is that education means that a person should get a lucrative job and that really is the cause of stress among the students which is not the reason. Three four decades earlier, the students were more comfortable with their studies than now despite the fact that the method of teaching was not as innovative as it is today. The children used to study to learn and not necessarily to get a particular percentage of marks. Marks were important but not everything, as these have become in the last few years and the race of the marks began with so called reformatory and innovative steps taken by CBSE when the pattern of the question paper was such that all children should be able to solve it. With this the number of the students getting more than eighty or ninety percent went up sharply and we presumed that the students became intelligent overnight. The students studying in other boards felt as if they were inferior or less intelligent than the children studying in CBSE affiliated schools. That forced some other boards also to follow the pattern adopted by the central board and thus began the race of marks. Our thinkers and well wishers of the children further thought of making things easier for the children and the syllabus was the next thing to be revamped and so was the pattern of the assessment and evaluation. More emphasis was given to examination reforms than the real teaching learning process in the class rooms. The quality of teachers’ training schools and the university was not paid that much attention as required and the result was that the number of knowledgeable and dedicated teachers started reducing though the number of qualified teachers was all right. The meaning by the qualified teachers here is the ones who possess the teaching degree like B.Ed etc. When the environment of the teaching learning did not get proper attention and the race of more marks was rising, the number of cases experiencing stress among the students was also pacing-up; then CBSE again took a step to do away with the board examination for class X. We can debate on this separately but what I want to convey is that the steps which have been taken in the name of change and reforms must be assessed whether these really have helped the quality of education to improve or not. The variants that are added in the curriculum, are they really implemented keeping in mind the aims and objectives or they are a mere eye-wash? A lot of debate and discussion was held for the evaluation in formative assessment, but there is still some ambiguity regarding the same.
I shared it earlier also that the future growth and prosperity of any nation depends upon the quality of education system. Making things easy may not necessarily prepare our young generation for the future struggles and they may be deprived of a necessary quality and trait of working hard. I always assert that education should facilitate an individual to face the challenges of life in present and the future. We have to understand that nobody has succeeded without hard work, be it the field of sports, politics, teaching or any other profession. Examples can be stated from the unit of a family and this would be very evident that those who work hard are more likely to succeed than the others. What I want to put across here is that the children should not be made to understand that anybody can be successful without hard work and without facing hurdles and failures. The word failures should not be understood as something negative as it is done now-a-days because even failures teach us much more than thought and at times more than what is learnt by success.   
Indian education system since times immemorial has been the bedrock of the society. The kind of literature and great thinkers this country has given is as good as any other nation but on the way our system was tempered by those very people who ruled us and our mindset was changed as they wanted. Our Gurukuls are still remembered by all and the kind of the practical education the students got there can be realized by going through the examples in our history. In all cases it will be found that the students of that era were very hard working and fully devoted to their Gurus. The Gurus were also equally devoted to their students irrespective of the social and financial background they were from. This devotion was the real essence of the quality learning which used to take place in those days. The scenario in the last few decades has changed and now education has become more like a commodity rather than a pious attainment of knowledge. Those who can afford to pay high fee send their children to air conditioned school not necessarily for quality education but for status and class. And to add wood to the fuel, is the mushrooming of coaching centers which concentrate more on propaganda through a handful of achievers. Notwithstanding the fact that the long term effect of education must be to fill India’s talent void, by development, sustainable income, empowerment, economic prosperity by alleviating poverty, creating a safe and secure environment etc., along with ethics, morals, equality and respect. Though the right to education act has taken care of this problem up to some extent but the mindset of the people must be changed first and for that education should not be allowed to become a tool to get jobs only. The children of our county are very hard working and have potential to face any challenge and we should allow them to exploit this potential to the optimum. Education should be such that it makes a person brave to fight against the evils and stand for the good. The kind of problems faced by the society today is the result of not so good education of these people who get influenced and involved in negative things.
The schools can play a very crucial role in this case. Whatever may be the system but the schools should not forget that they have the major responsibility to make the children more sensitive towards the issues related to equality in the society. The teachers must play more active and positive role for giving the children opportunity to grow in the right and required manner. I know this may not be an easy task for them but the nation needs that sacrifice and hard work from the schools and the teachers and all expect them to take this challenge. We should learn from the mistakes committed by other nations in the name of making everything child friendly. Rather humanity friendly policies must be devised and the children should be a part of the same. The habit of declaring holidays on small pretexts of a little bit of heat or cold, does not make somebody sympathetic towards children. The people have started calling it a popular gimmick. Not unless an exposure to difficult situations is given, can our children become hard task masters. Swami Vivekananda’s life is an accurate example here. Severed by time and situations, how he managed to sail through all odds of life. This is what is, the need of the hour. Salute also to all the heroes guarding our boundaries in all the adversities. This can certainly be identified as real courage, bravery and sacrifice. I should not be misunderstood for writing all this because I am also equally worried about the health of the children but for that, there are other measures also. The children should be given nutritious food and they should have proper physical activities so that they can fight the disease caused due to the change of season etc. If we are so much concerned about the children then there should be some age limit below which the parents should not be allowed to send their children even to the play schools. No child should be exposed to formal schooling before the age of five or six. Though this may not be the practical solution but because of the nuclear families and both parents working, there is no alternative, hence, we should have the concept of neighbourhood schools for which the government will have to take immediate steps to improve the quality of the existing schools thereby adding many thousands of them as early as possible.
In the end, I would like to say that we should use urgent and pressing methods for the matters related to education and introduce interdisciplinary programmes to teach our students to sustain themselves ethically and morally, in the prevailing scenario. Also we must have long term policies keeping in mind the requirement of the present and the future. The reforms and innovations should be an ongoing process and not one time solution of these problems. 

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