Obligatory Reforms In Indian Education Sector

Posted by Aman Yadav
March 18, 2017

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विद्वत्त्वं च नृपत्वं च नैव तुल्यं कदाचन ।
स्वदेशे पूज्यते राजा विद्वान् सर्वत्र पूज्यते ॥

We all must be aware of Chankaya most useful Neeti, the above Sanskrit shloka means,”Scholar and king are never comparable. King is worshiped in his country, but Scholar is worshiped everywhere”. The great Chanakya explicate the value of education and its importance in people’s life. No one can deny, a well-educated person is more superior than any powerful person in this world. From ancient times, India had been a dynamic education sector in the field of science, arts, and commerce. In earlier days India used to follow Gurukul system to teach its disciple. People believe that those were the days where teachers were considered next to god. Gone were those days, in today’s demography the whole system of education has turned into a big money scam.

Is our education system truly sterling? We know the truth, yet we never ask for any shift. Irony! isn’t.

Even with such an impeccable advancement in science and technology we still lack basic education facilities on ground zero. Several schools and colleges in India are just running for the sake of mark sheets and degrees. It would be harsh to say but, one can’t deny that our education sectors turning into a negative elixir. It’s a high time now, we need to introduce a structured paradigm to bring out possible reforms in education models.

The real question is, what we need? How are we going to improve? To understand that issue we need to understand the problem at the ground level.

Issues related to learning crisis: Children aren’t able to read and comprehend. They have very little understanding of basic math and science concepts too. Children memorize and reproduce but do not internalize or understand what they have learned. They are not able to apply basic concepts to day to day tasks, whether at school or at home. The biggest tragedy of all – children do not develop fluency in any language, be it their mother tongue or English Employers complain about skill shortages, poor quality of workers and low productivity due to poor schooling. There is something very seriously wrong in education. We have not done things right, not just in government schools, but in private schools too.

Problems faced by the Indian students: Pupil teacher ratio can be as high as 1:60 when it shouldn’t be more than 1:30 teaching time is an issue. Teachers may come to school, but not teach. Middle-class parents deal with this by teaching their kids themselves at home. But what can parents from poor, semi-literate communities do? Whatever inequality they come with into the school system, the inequality only increases. Rote learning is an issue. Teachers are expected to finish the syllabus in a short time and so they force children to resort to rote learning. RTE’s No Detention policy is being interpreted as No Assessment policy up to class VIII. Teachers are overloaded with inane administrative tasks. Even with something like CCE, they spend their time filling forms rather than teaching or evaluating children. Testing and Assessments only test the memory of the child. What gets tested is what gets learned and how it gets tested determines how it is learned. Teaching to the test is common. Assessment systems are becoming corrupt. When assessments are based on internal assessments, teachers inflate the marks for all children.

What can be done to solve these issues? Well, the possible solutions lie with simple implementations.

Poland had many of the problems we have today, with their Soviet-era inefficient schooling system. But from 1999-2006, they initiated reforms and turned the system around. What did they do? They made sure teachers had much more autonomy and freedom in the school. The teachers and schools were told they had to bring children up to a particular level by Class 8. The syllabus was decided by the government in terms of what would be the minimum learning requirement. From Classes 1-8, the basic requirement in Sci/Math/Lang or reading was strictly followed. Children were tested at the end of class 8. Teachers had a lot of freedom and autonomy to do what they wanted and how they wanted to do it. Teachers instead of following orders from above actually had to innovate and figure out how best to teach their children. Each school was actually a practicing laboratory. They put in place qualification requirements for teachers and these qualifications were linked to a promotion path and the government provided continuing education opportunities. They gave generous retirement packages for many of those teachers who weren’t competent enough. Poland had a dynamic education minister and a dynamic prime minister at that time. They felt that the single most important wealth that the country had was the people and they had to reform the education system. Only with political will, things get done.

Move from just inputs, infrastructure and paper qualifications to an actual functioning of the school system. Change the way the education system is monitored. Look at what and how much children are learning, what and how teachers are teaching. Do they have the requisite facilities, knowledge, and equipment to teach?. Reform teacher education. NCTE opened up teacher training institutions in 2004 resulting in a 500% increase in the number of Teacher Training Colleges. Everyone knows that people at NCTE made a lot of money by giving away licenses to one-room teacher training colleges. Odisha alone has escaped the curse of mushrooming teacher training colleges because the Chief Minister said he did not want any low-quality teacher training colleges. In the name of reform, accreditation, and quality assurance, we have done exactly the opposite. We must shut down all the teacher training colleges of poor quality and set up good quality teacher training colleges in parallel. Introduce centralized assessments. In India, the education community is very allergic to centralized assessments. The aim of centralized assessments are not an assessment of the children, it is to assess the quality of the school or the average levels of learning of children.

Most countries around the world have used a combination of tremendous school autonomy, where teachers can do what they want, how they want and combine it with some kind of centralized testing which becomes a quality benchmark. I don’t know what that centralized quality test in India should be. The jury is still out on what we should do and how we should do it. But the fact remains that we have to start moving towards measuring outcomes. Decentralize in-service teacher training. 90% of teacher training programs are extremely poor. At a summer training program at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Education, IASE, in one of the better south Indian states, teachers were supposedly being trained on the National Curriculum Framework. They were taking turns to read out something from a paper. Teachers were given four pages of the National Curriculum Framework to translate and read out. Budgets are better spent by giving it to the school so that the school decides what kind of training they want for the teachers and make the principal responsible for that. As long as we don’t value and trust the knowledge that is there at the grassroots level, we will not be able to make much change. We as a country are so suspicious of teachers and the lower bureaucracy that we don’t want to give them any independence. The only way to bring about change is by altering the rules and the behavior of the personnel who are in the system. We have to have a system of humane as well as strict monitoring. The two have to go together. We need a mechanism to test what children are learning, how much they are learning and whether the learning is taking place across all children or not.

I guess these are just a drop of tiny suggestions into an ocean of problems. I’m sure things will change and that also very soon.


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