A couple of days back I came across an online column about Finland’s evolving education system which is now looking at getting rid of “school subjects”, replacing that with a promising, in fact evocative, “phenomenon-based learning”.
This and the general ongoings make me wonder how this pandemic will have lasting effects not just on our lives, lifestyles, careers or professional settings; in my mind, the biggest wave of transformation will perhaps come in the Education sector.
Here is what comes to my mind:
By this, I mean not just coaching classes but also smaller universities, career consultations, and perhaps even our parents. Instead of treading the blurred gold-dusted footprints of some “Sharmaji ka beta”, we’ll finally be on our own. As individuals, we, even as children, will finally have agency—a say in what we want to learn, how and when. I predict a clear push first towards homeschooling but eventually towards a free-flow unschooling model where we can follow our guts and our nose.
Now, let’s look at what it will do to us.
My guess is the effect of this pandemic would first be a globalisation of education.
Think, why do we study in class 9? No, not as much to quench our curiosity, as much as to score a perfect 99.8 percentile in my 10th boards, and 12th, and so on.
What for? So, I can get admission in good colleges? What for? So I can get good degrees, lucrative career options and 8-digit job offers. Now, this entire premise banks on the assumption of “limited resources”—that there are only so many seats in a given college or university.
Now what if the online model of education crashes down that assumption? What if at the click of a mouse (keypad, okay!), I can attend a lecture from Harvard? Essentially teachers and professors who, in real life, wouldn’t have as much possibility of crossing paths in ten lifetimes will come in a direct competition now, and only the best will survive.
Will we see free access to education, through broadcasts on National TV? Well, it could be, could it not?
Will we see monopolised education? Yes, likely.
Will we see politicised education? We will have to wait and watch.
I think it will be two steps from here and two steps from there. While our worldviews become globalised with “roti, kapda, makaan, internet”, education modules will also perhaps be customise based on student cohorts (accentuation, examples, applications, etc.).
Thinking of the ‘inside’ effects of the shifting paradigm in education brings me to a keyword which might sound a tad bit philosophical but is not: Swadharma (Your own true nature).
What are we curious about? How do we want to be educated? When? How long?
Gaining agency over our own lives will perhaps begin with “free choice” in education. Education will finally become a personal pursuit.
Will that cause a lack of depth? Over-specialisation? Will be get stuck with misplaced choices made early on? Yes, perhaps. And yet, there is a certain thrill in imagining a world of education with interdisciplinary possibilities, curiosity-driven choices, and passion-based careers.
Will education move towards collaboration rather than competition as its measure? Will it pit us against our friends like before? Will education still be tested with scores? Likely not.
Will education continue to be specialised or holistic, now that we know chalk from cheese better than before? Will education include our feelings and not just our thoughts? Maybe!
Will education help us become better just at jobs or at life? Well, I’m hopeful for the latter!
Also, my belief is that this shift will be matched up on the outside, too. With walls of corporates melting down in the #newnormal, ‘work from home‘ or ‘flexi work’ becoming the order of the day with supplementary benefits such as insurance cover, as well as increasing costs of physical spaces at the same time, there is a likely shift to consultation and freelance-based work arrangements.
Choice of education—what, when, how and how much—will now become goal-based and dream-based. We’ll grow tiny entrepreneurs all around us and in our homes. Under such a regime, personal pursuits, personal branding and personal choices will become monarchs in a person’s lives (a welcome shift from “Sharmaji ka beta” syndrome.)
All in all, as the world is still shaking up and finding its new equilibrium, we can safely say we are up for some interesting times in the space of Education.
And it makes me insanely hopeful: that, finally the time will come. Our lives will change soon.
We will become ourselves through our education!