The NEP expects every teacher to develop a comprehensive perspective on life and living and follow an application-based module
For over six decades, one has never witnessed such a strong projection of the national resolve to implement a policy. This rare privilege goes to the National Education Policy (NEP), 2020. The President of India addresses the nation, the Prime Minister addresses twice within a week, the Union Education Minister and his team seem busy 24X7, conducting and guiding national-level webinars on specific topics that would require new initiatives and action at the implementation stage. It’s evident that the nation has realised that for equitable growth, progress and development, it has to be “education, education, and education.” India is now determined to create a pool of teachers who would not only be degree-holders but possess “personalities.” These would be people imbued with a comprehensive multi-disciplinary and multi-dimensional perspective.
In fact, the new approach to teacher preparation would expect every instructor to develop a comprehensive perspective on life and living. They would internalise the higher goals of education. The focus, henceforth, would be on them believing in Sarva Bhut Hite Ratah. And as was the ancient tradition, they would be life-long learners, yavadjeevait adhiyate viprah. It is, in a sense, a revolutionary recommendation that by 2030 all teachers would be prepared in multi-faculty colleges and universities through four-year integrated programmes. As one goes through the various sections of the NEP, this expectation becomes evident to everyone.
The objective of achieving scharyatwa would require a strong support system that must emerge from the establishment and society. There are clear indications to ensure that: “In order to improve and reach the levels of integrity and credibility required to restore the prestige of the teaching profession, the regulatory system shall be empowered to take stringent action against sub-standard and dysfunctional Teacher Education Institutions (TEIs) that do not meet the basic educational criterion, after giving one year for the remedy of breaches. By 2030, only educationally sound, multi-disciplinary and integrated teacher education programmes shall be in force.” This objective of restoring the credibility of TEIs is achievable. The National Council for Teacher Education (NCTE) had, during 1998-99, successfully exercised this authority, and certain well-known but sub-standard teacher preparation programmes were closed down. Once teacher educators accept this responsibility, they could transform the entire system. Let them never forget that the recommendations on teacher education arise from the expectations and aspirations of the young. But somewhere besides these is also the hidden pain and anguish which was recorded – with a heavy heart – by late Justice JS Verma: “A majority of stand-alone TEIs – over 10,000 in number – are not even attempting serious teacher education but are essentially selling degrees for a price.” One could mention it only with immense pain, as the first chairperson of the NCTE said, that all these 10,000 institutions selling degrees were certified by senior teachers, teacher educators, professors and other academics. The policy has done its part, no more stand-alone colleges. Now it is the responsibility of teachers, teacher educators and professionals in the field to ensure that in future regulatory mechanisms are not trivialised.
This policy suggests alternative regulatory structures, which would transform the manner in which future multi-disciplinary teacher preparations institutions and universities would emerge. The responsibility of teachers at every stage would grow multi-fold as autonomy would be the in-thing. When one goes through the various general recommendations in the policy, one finds serious concern for drastic change in teacher education in content and pedagogy, and the need to achieve an attitudinal transformation among aspiring teachers. It is now learning, learning and more learning. Examinations shall no more be days of nation-wide anxiety and widespread tension. The focus of assessment in schools shifts to application of knowledge gained and internalised.
The present pattern of examinations was transplanted in this country by alien rulers. It had been discarded in Britain much earlier but we still adhere to it in India. Teachers, and teacher educators, have a tremendous task ahead in implementing curriculum load reduction, to ensure that textbooks and textual materials are neither deficient on new knowledge nor too overloaded with obsolesce content. Teaching and learning shall become more interactive, and much would transpire outside the closed classroom. Skill development and bringing in vocational education elements early in schools would require TEIs absorbing them in their own curricula. Those who know the story of Richard Feynman would find it much easier to visualise its great transformative and inspiring impact on the system as a whole. It would be possible only when the promises to ensure the assured recruitment process are put to practice, and the assurances on the professionally acceptable teacher-student ratio is implemented without any aberrations. One must not ignore considerable dilution in the quality of education and decline in the acceptability and credibility of schools funded by the public. The policy realises this.
The ancient Indian tradition of knowledge quest spreads over four stages: adhyayan, manan, chintan and upayog. And its relevance is eternal. It is the essence of the process of transfer of knowledge to generations ahead. Every teacher, henceforth, would be expected to comprehend the essence of Indian philosophy of education that finds reflection throughout this policy. Let me recall three sentences of Sri Aurobindo; first being that the process must begin with “from near, to far”; and hence the mother tongue medium and other aspects. His second principle was that “nothing can be taught.” Every active, alert and vibrant teacher shall have to grasp its essence. It is “learning the treasure within.” It is the perfection within that the child is discovering, and teachers are assisting, supporting, guiding, and much more.
When Sri Aurobindo states that the “mind must be consulted in its growth,” he is emphasising how pertinent it is to “know the child.” It is the comprehension of these basic principles that has led to the restricting of the school education system to 5+3+3+4. The most significant is the addition of initial three years, after the age of 3. India would need very specialised teachers for this age group.
A couple of years ago, India had anticipated the importance of open and distance learning. That experience comes very handy as the global attention diverts to online learning. Creation of digital platforms and e-content had already begun in full swing and has come handy during the corona crisis, as children are confined to their homes. The pedagogy is undergoing unprecedented change, teachers associated with schools will have to gear up to learn new skills. While tools and techniques shall change – sometimes beyond recognition – the pedagogical principles would remain the same.
(The writer works in education and social cohesion)
The curriculum has been responsible for developing much-needed agricultural skills and encouraging an entrepreneurial mindset
The New Education Policy (NEP) focusses on re-orientation of school and higher education in India and inculcation of research-based studies and innovation in our education. However, the Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR) has already been doing this on the ground for years and hence is in tune with the objectives of the NEP. As part of its focus on innovation and research-based learning, the ICAR-Agricultural University (AU) system, through its network of 74 universities, offers degree courses at the undergraduate level in 11 disciplines with emphasis on learning through hands-on-practice sessions and field experience training.
As desired by the NEP, the postgraduate programmes in 96 disciplines and Ph.D. programmes in 73 disciplines make it multi-disciplinary. The AU system has generated the much-needed scientists, technologists, teachers, researchers, technologies and technology transfer systems to transform India from a “ship-to-mouth” nation to a “right-to-food” one. Much in line with the aspirations of the NEP, the curricula has been responsible for developing much-needed agricultural skills and encouraging an entrepreneurial mindset among the students. They are being inspired to take up self-employment, to sustainably enhance rural livelihood security, and to propel agricultural transformation through science-based policy-options and actions.
The Student READY (Rural Entrepreneurship Awareness Development Yojana) programme ensures hands-on experience and practical training, as does the Entrepreneurship Development and Business Management course. Rigorous implementation of the revised curricula has over the years been benefitting local communities, and promoting technology incubation and dissemination, which is one of the objectives of the NEP. Many new courses have been already introduced by the AUs in emerging fields like Precision Farming, Hi-tech Cultivation, Artificial Intelligence, Mechatronics, Nanotechnology, Food Storage Engineering, Emerging Food Processing Technologies and so on which align perfectly with the recommendations of the NEP. The AUs have developed more than 400 virtual classrooms and e-courses for their undergraduate programmes and are being supported through a centralised Academic Management System and shall be further supported for online classes through the recently-launched “Krishi Megh.” The post-graduate courses, too, are being converted into e-courses in all the streams of agriculture education.
Multidisciplinary universities: The AUs in India are modelled on the US land grant university pattern with integration of education, research and extension and have contributed a great deal to propelling agricultural growth in the country. Agriculture is a multidisciplinary science and AUs are based on the philosophy that the farmers need holistic solutions for their problems. However, in recent years, several domain-specific universities in horticulture, veterinary science and fisheries sciences have been established in various States, which may need to be re-oriented to make them multidisciplinary as per the NEP.
The NEP suggests a four-year Bachelor’s programme with multi-disciplinary education as a preferred option. In the AUs, the curriculum of undergraduates has been designed as a four-year residential programme with more than 15 disciplines. This includes both theory and practical classes. The contents of several courses are designed in such a way that practical classes can be simultaneously conducted matching with the topics of the theory classes.
Attracting talent to agriculture education: About 4,500 scholarships are annually granted by the ICAR to meritorious students selected through its All India Entrance Examination for Admission conducted through the National Testing Agency. The National Scholarship Portal proposed under the NEP shall afford students more such opportunities for stipends, boarding and lodging, and not just waiver of tuition fees. In particular, talented students from rural India, who have been exposed to agriculture during their early years and who have deep interest in farm education, will be further encouraged to build their career in the field of agriculture and allied sectors.
Internationalisation: The ICAR facilitates annual admission of over 250 foreign students from more than 20 countries to various degree programmes. To support their higher studies in India, several programmes/fellowships have been initiated like the Netaji Subhas-ICAR International Fellowship, India-Africa Fellowship and India-Afghanistan Fellowship. The campuses of the existing system of AUs shall immensely benefit from various provisions in the NEP to promote HEIs as global study destination hubs and restore India’s role as a Viswa Guru. Continuous professional development: Teachers will be given constant opportunities for self-improvement and to learn the latest innovations and advances in their profession as per the NEP. This fits in well with the ICAR’s schemes through which about 3,500 faculty from AUs are trained every year for their professional development.
The future: AUs have sufficient land available for experimentation, demonstration of various trials to farmers and training. AUs must develop schemes for adequate resource generation and convert themselves into self-governing institutions, which is reflected in the NEP. The AUs need to attain the highest global standards in quality agriculture education through linkages with global universities and provide platforms for research and innovation in frontier areas of research, greater industry-academic linkages and interdisciplinary research, including humanities and social sciences. The universities also need to make provisions of multiple entry and exit systems in their undergraduate programmes. These reforms shall help in meeting the challenges of Global Green Economy, Knowledge Economy, Global Zero Hunger Challenge, Sustainable Development Goals, 2030, and International Agriculture and Development Challenge, 2050.
(Mohapatra is Director-General and Agrawal Deputy Director-General, Indian Council of Agricultural Research)
Apart from conventional teachers we have some unorthodox ones amid us now who must get recognition and appreciation
We have different categories of teachers, depending upon the stages in our lives and the vocations we pursue. So, we have school teachers, lecturers, professors, research guides, trainers, instructors, tutors, coaches, mentors and so on. However, we have another set of teachers who don’t qualify in the strict sense, yet impart valuable lessons. The most important among them are parents. The foundations of intellectual, emotional and ethical grooming in a child are laid at home by the parents. In a joint family even grandparents play a positive roles as guides.
Again, at workplaces, bosses, seniors, corporate leaders are another set of educators. Equipped with knowledge, skills, expertise and experience, they often act as advisors, counsellors or mentors and help their juniors and colleagues progress in their careers.
Then, we have religious and spiritual gurus who preach from the scriptures and holy texts and offer guidance to their disciples and others on how to lead life well. However, apart from these obvious ones, we have some unorthodox and unconventional teachers amid us now who must get recognition and appreciation.
Children: In the digital age, it is important to be familiar with new age systems, processes and apps. Be it the smartphone, internet, video-conferencing/chatting, video games and other modern gadgets, we need to learn their operations to use them. These learnings help in vital activities like money transfer, booking tickets, ordering food or non-food items, or viewing streaming channels, all of which are now increasingly done online. In adaptation to new learnings, age being a factor, children have a distinct edge. They quickly adapt and learn. Their aptitude, familiarity and knowledge of the digital and online platforms are now much in demand at home, all the more during the lockdown. As digital tutors, they offer lessons to their grandparents, parents and senior citizens to make them digital savvy. Indeed, without their hand-holding, many of the older generation find themselves handicapped in adjusting to the virtual space.
Social media: We have been used to learning the dos and don’ts from the traditional set of teachers, professional or otherwise. Now WhatsApp, Facebook and so on are potent learning platforms where we get free advice on topics ranging from money, health, nutrition, fitness, to culinary arts, home décor, farming to even immunity boosting during the pandemic. The medium being popular, all these tips and learnings are widely read, shared and followed. The social media platform, as a teacher, is helping us to learn and share information. The only caveat is the tips or instructions need to be followed by us with fact-checks, particularly in the matter of health.
Siri and Alexa: Digital Voice Assistants like Siri and Alexa are the new teachers in the digital sphere. Like a friend, kids can unhesitatingly ask anything they want to know from Siri and Alexa. Not surprising, devices with Digital Voice Assistants are being installed even in remote tribal areas to infuse fun and excitement in learning and improve school enrolments. In smart classrooms, the Digital Voice Assistants act as the teacher. In the future, such devices and AI-assisted humanoid robots, as smart, interesting and trendy teachers, are likely to gain more popularity among children and schools.
Nature: Mother Nature has always been part of our existence. But we have forgotten to look at nature as a “healer” and “teacher” up until recently. Now, with the adverse effects of climate change ravaging us, coupled with the Covid-19 pandemic, we are realising the hard way the critical importance of nature as our sustainer, healer and teacher. In the collective confinement, we found to our great relief how nature is our constant friend and can lift our hearts and give us so much joy. It would indeed have been much tougher to deal with the pandemic, hadn’t nature been around us.
Nature teaches us the rhythms and cycles of life, selfless giving, continuous growth and generation, and the essence of sustainability, harmony and oneness. It also teaches us to consume wisely and responsibly. Now in close communion with nature, thankfully, we have discovered a friend, philosopher and guide.
Pandemic: Life itself is a teacher and we always knew that. But now, a catastrophe unleashed by the Coronavirus is teaching us novel lessons in life. Starting from coping with crippled businesses, loss of livelihood to handling enforced loneliness, an emotional see-saw, topsy-turvy routines, we are learning unique lessons and reinventing ourselves. The crisis has taught us to appreciate nature, create new networks, leverage the virtual world, look for new engagements, explore new hobbies, pursue passions, experiment with new ways and ideas, act collectively for the common good, and, last but not the least, to have a better world view and perspective. Welcome to all these unconventional teachers.
(The writer is former General Manager, Bank of India, Learning and Development and an author)
When faced with an existential crisis during the pandemic, primary education for children inadvertently doesn’t make it to the priority list
Ankita Ramteke,13, who lives in Bhandara, a small district town in Maharashtra, waits for a text message regarding a fund transfer on her mother’s archaic Nokia 1100 every month, waiting for her share of happiness that would mean another month of remaining in school and learning the things she loves. But who is Ankita? As of now she is a blip in this world, an invisible demographic detail who sits like an ornament on all Grameen Foundation of India’s (GFI’s) endless pleas and presentations. As long as the benevolent donors continue to sponsor her education, Ankita and her needs won’t be looked upon as a liability by her family. But truth be told, girls like Ankita accumulate a growth and nutrition deficit in the formative years of their lives. By the time they reach adulthood, aspirational deficit is systematically inculcated in their psyche, leading to another much graver deficit: Ambition. Most of the families living on the margins of poverty in any part of the country are usually just one health shock away from being sucked into the poverty trap all over again. Traditional gender norms and the lack of a consistent income source in Ankita’s family have pushed her to become a full-time care giver leading to irregular attendance in school. If not addressed, it will lead to her eventual dropping out of school altogether. But Ankita is not alone. Today, 62.1 million children in India are out of school. For every 100 elementary schools in rural India, there are just 14 offering secondary and only six schools offering higher secondary grades. Not to forget that most of the secondary schools are private ones, with exorbitant fees.
COVID-19 has brought an unprecedented crisis with devastating consequences for the girls of the country. A survey of vulnerable households revealed that 60 per cent mothers, who either worked in the farms or as housemaids, haven’t earned any salary in the last five months and 67 per cent of the fathers, who worked as daily wagers, are not just struggling financially but are also feeling emotionally drained. As much as 33 per cent of the families talked about pressing mental health issues plaguing children as well as adults in the household. Under these trying circumstances, it is very difficult for families to focus on the education of their children, particularly the girl child. However, there are always some who break the mould. For instance, 12-year-old Shrawani Choudhari’s parents dipped into all of their savings to buy their daughter a smartphone, so that she could continue her studies. “Our collective income has gone down in the last six months. I am out of work, while my wife is now working in only two houses as a maid, as opposed to eight houses before the pandemic”, says Choudhari, a daily wage worker in Bhandara. While we are witnessing an avalanche of innovative ideas being tried in the rural hinterland to help such marginalised children continue their education, the cost of smartphones, aka “dream enablers” in the post-pandemic world, remains an uphill task.
Most of these households in Bhandara have witnessed reverse migration. Family members who were working in big cities had returned because of lack of opportunities owing to the lockdown. “I stayed back in Mumbai even after the lockdown was imposed because I thought that when this gets over, they will need people like me to finish their work. But they still haven’t opened the factories and most of the acquaintances from my village have now gone back to farming”, says 39-year-old Ramesh Banapurkar, a father of three. It is no surprise then that the situation of primary and secondary education in Nawada is abysmal. With Government schools shut, children in these schools haven’t seen a book since March. Some cash support from donors has helped some of these families to sail through in this time and others to revive their small businesses. Some have even used the money to invest in Personal Protective Equipment for the elders in the family, but none of these families have invested in their child’s education, yet. Simply because it’s not a priority. Nawada, located between the historical districts of Nalanda and Gaya, is one the poorest districts in Bihar. The per capita income of Nawada is Rs 9,560, which is one-seventh of that in State capital Patna. The Scheduled Castes, the forgotten people standing at the bottom of the economic pyramid, are facing an unparalleled struggle. Acute caste discrimination and the pandemic-induced unemployment have left them far more vulnerable. Agriculture is the mainstay for 78 per cent of Nawada’s population and a significant chunk of youth is forced to migrate to cities in search of livelihood. The reverse migration back to smaller districts like Nawada has put unprecedented pressure on these migrants, who are now living in their homes in extreme poverty and without even basic amenities. When faced with an existential crisis, primary education for children inadvertently doesn’t make it to the priority list.
(Bhattacharyya is Manager, Communications and Deo is Senior Programme Manager, Grameen Foundation India)
As India aims to acquire better global rankings, policymakers must develop regional centres of excellence in education based on local trends, proclivities, resources and history
British educationist Alick Maclean undertook arguably one of the earliest attempts at producing a university ranking system. Maclean’s study Where We Get Our Best Men (1900), which betrays the late Victorian England’s obsession with its own laurels, remained unnoticed outside the university circuits in England. However, more than a hundred years later, the context, connotations and the scope of such rankings have changed dramatically. With the inclusion of higher education as an “internationally traded” service in the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), universities have become commodities that must sell to sustain themselves in a globally-competitive education industry. Rankings are loudly advertised and have become the very touchstone of marketability. Even in a welfare State like India, where the bulk of higher education is Government-aided and therefore beyond the pale of market vagaries, there has been, of late, a near-feverish fixation with rankings. And while (because) Indian universities weren’t performing too well at Times Higher Education Supplement (THES), Shanghai Jiao Tong University (SJTU) or Webometrics world rankings, we introduced leagues of our own in the form of National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) and National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF). To many of the stakeholders, “ranking” is an unwarranted western import which puts the institutions of developing countries at a natural disadvantage.
With their emphasis on measuring research output in terms of publications in English language journals, the global system of accreditation perpetuates the dominance of Anglo-American and to a lesser extent, European institutions. Besides the system of peer-review and mutual-referencing aren’t the most transparent of academic practices. Since the Government appears keen on incrementally linking an institution’s domestic and international standings with the volume and the manner of funding, some even suspect that the entire hoopla is a decoy for privatisation. And then there are those critics who believe that at a time when the majority of university graduates, as highlighted in the Government’s own findings, are unemployable, our pursuit of global stature reeks of waylaid competitive nationalism, hollow chest-thumping and the general lethargy of a stagnated eduction sector. They argue, with some merit, that it would profit the universities more if the staff are mobilised towards research and teaching instead of tedious report compilation. Till a few years ago, before the launch of NAAC and NIRF, many believed that better rankings accrue from user-friendly websites and perception management.
Under the circumstances, quality becomes a procedural casualty and our estimation of a university’s true worth, based on a set of universal parameters, remains delusional and misleading. For example, in several assessment paradigms, the share of international faculty and foreign students substantially propels an institution’s ranking. While this may not be the strength of Indian universities, not many countries of the world can boast of a higher education system which is more committed to affirmative action and social inclusion, than our own.
The massification of education and steep rise in enrollment rates may not deliver immediate dividends but these steps will see India rise as a leader in research and development (R&D) in times to come. Fortunately, the NIRF identifies an institution’s inclusivity at the levels of region, class, gender and physical disability as a parameter in quality assessment. But there are, as yet, no points for diversity in faculty.
As India aims to overhaul its higher education infrastructure through a New Education Policy (NEP), creating world-class institutes of eminence (IoEs) and acquiring better global rankings appear to be two of the priorities. It is expected that resources generated through public private partnership (PPP) and introduction of industry-centric courses will provide stimulus to these enterprises. The Ministry of Human Resource Development’s (MHRD) pitch for IoEs encourages international outreach. Under the scheme, the 16 designate institutions have been empowered to collaborate with foreign universities and recruit up to 25 per cent of their total faculty strength from outside India.
The success of the much-touted ‘Study in India’ campaign, too, is largely hinged on our ability to create IoEs and secure better ranking. The campaign, if successful, will not only bring revenue but the increase in the number of offshore students would also improve our global stature. The degree of internationalisation of higher education, which is partly consequent upon global ranking, will certainly augment India’s soft power. The Government’s website on the initiative lists instruction in English medium, the size of India’s market, recent start-up culture and pluralist campuses as our strengths. But when we leverage our educational infrastructure to entice the global student community, we need to ask the following question: who are we inviting to study in India and what do we have to offer? Given India’s financial constraints and our social commitment to bring the majority into the fold of higher education, planners and policymakers will have to make a series of difficult choices. They will have to choose between scaling a few hand-picked institutions to global stature and making the majority of Central/State universities competitive with respect to education infrastructure in Asia and Africa. Let us not forget that as of now, Indian universities cater mostly to students from South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) and Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries.
In some cases, to the wealthy South Koreans and Africans, too. In terms of their preferred academic destinations in India, these foreign students choose mostly institutions located in metropolitan centres. Therefore, we also need to choose between buttressing the existing patterns of student-inflow and creating regionally diverse centres of learning. Further, we have to decide between promoting subjects which feed the local industry and those that are most sought after in the target countries. If we are to invite students to study in India, when the domestic expectation itself is of a cosmic proportion, we must think of ways of marrying the two prerogatives. A balance must be struck between the strategic need to invite foreign students and delivering on the moral imperatives of the State.
Policymakers need to think of developing regional centres of excellence based on local trends, proclivities, resources and history. Delhi is nearly saturated, so are Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Pune. India needs to create more hubs, showcasing local strength and areas where Indians excel. To that effect, here is a modest proposal. Institutes based in the north-eastern States can be developed into hubs for training in cottage and small-scale industries. Maharashtra and Gujarat can become centres of commerce and trade education. South India could be developed into India’s science hub while Bengal and Bihar can shine as regions catering to humanities and social sciences. Haryana can do exceptionally well in sports and physical health and Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Odisha can lead global research on tribal knowledge systems and sustainable human ecology. At the same time, we must also think of capitalising on domains of knowledge to which we have had privileged access and that have traditionally been our strength. In subjects such as ayurveda, yoga and mental health, with an untapped global market, we have a lot to offer even to the most advanced countries of the world. There is an ayurvedic medical college in my own nondescript village in Bihar. But over the years, instead of attracting students from other States, let alone from other countries, the institution has shrunk both physically and in terms of footfall. Instead of investing in disciplines where global competition is stiff, the MHRD should think of promoting a few institutes dedicated to indigenous knowledge systems as IoEs. In these areas, the chances of becoming a world leader are bright, realistic and hugely rewarding.
But as we draw these schemes, we must never forget that a lot will depend on the quality of teachers employed at these institutes. Paradoxically, as things stand today, students studying outside India, with their international experience and exposure, are being projected as key to the success of the ‘Study in India’ initiative. We have to put in place a robust system of attracting and retaining talented students and teachers. Given the current state of affairs, appointment of teachers would be a good beginning point. Unless we engage and strengthen our workforce, these schemes will be reduced to corporate style weekend workshops on capacity building that offer nothing but a distraction from monotony. That too on a weekend.
(Writer: Gautam choubey; Courtesy: The Pioneer)
The feedback from corporate India and research institutes is that 65-75 per cent of the 15 million youth who enter the workforce each year are not job-ready or suitably employable
The amount of change in the world economy in the last 20 years and the rate at which it has occurred is staggering. It is inevitable that everyone will have to deal with a significant degree of professional change. This shift could be seismic, to the degree that the very nature of a trade or profession is transformed forever.
The great economist and Nobel laureate WA Lewis argues that an economy consists of two sectors: Capitalist (urban and industrial) and a subsistence sector (rural and agricultural). Wages in the capitalist sector are higher than in the subsistence sector, hence there is a tendency for labour to move from the latter to the former. However, in India, the growing population has led to an endless supply of cheap labour and this has also brought down wages in the capitalist sector. Moreover, the capitalist sector is not growing fast enough to provide jobs for this large population. With a small fraction of its workforce having formal vocational training, skilling in India has become increasingly difficult.
The imperative for skilling young people is well-recognised and has been flagged as a national priority for almost a decade, with significant initiatives being launched by the Government. The sad part is that only 10 per cent of the total workforce in the country receives some kind of skill training. The feedback from corporate India and research institutes alike is that 65-75per cent of the 15 million Indian youth who enter the workforce each year are not job-ready or suitably employable.
Technology is advancing faster than we can adapt, upending the job market and delivering unimaginable shocks to both our values and our patterns of thinking. Repetition-based jobs are declining the world over and will soon disappear. Most children entering school today will do jobs that don’t exist yet. Many of the children now being educated in the old system will find the norms, institutions and patterns of working and civic life they were trained for scrambled when they enter the adult world. The tools of most jobs are in a state of extreme flux. For example, spreadsheets, PowerPoint presentations and other boardroom documents have all been changed by the cloud and sharing and group editing are the new norm.
We are increasingly moving towards a world where evergreen skills like communication, empathy and the ability to “play well” with others are more valuable in the job market. They are essential to prepare our youth for the future. Empathy is foundational to social and relational intelligence. Empathy is the invisible giant. It is naturally hardwired into our brain and when harnessed, plays a crucial role in innovation, changemaking and solving systemic problems. Communication skills are essential to support both effective teamwork and creative linkages across disciplines and specialisations
Emotional and social “soft skills” such as possessing insights into other points of view, being supportive of one’s colleagues, problem-solving and critical thinking should be nurtured and developed as the key to future success for students and society in general. These soft skills need to be combined with other competencies such as English, digital literacy, arithmetic, financial literacy and basic life skills — together defined as “core employability skills” or “future skills.” We need to challenge the perception that these skills should only be taught to those going into business. Instead they should be seen as a set of transferable skills for all and are universally applicable, domain-agnostic and transferable. They hold the key to creating an impact at scale and with speed.
There is a huge gap between what is being taught to students and what they need to pursue as a successful career. To close this gap, we need to create a curriculum that would teach the skills that are most relevant for students entering a 21st century workforce. Thus we will need to give teaching and curriculum design a greater priority.
Technology empowers but will render millions of jobs obsolete, as smart machines take over repetitive tasks that employed previous generations. Many of the world’s schools and universities are modeled on the old, hierarchical elitism of the colonial times. Students are considered as empty vessels that simply need to be filled up with knowledge and skills readying them for their niche in a static labour market. The result is that educational institutions are disempowering students through their teaching methods and also failing to prepare them to capture the benefits of empowerment. A better way would be to treat students as creative, entrepreneurial problem-solvers and give them the skills, resources and power to generate and drive change both while learning and after they graduate.
The new emphasis on skill training should focus one “life cycle” approach which looks at all aspects of skilling, from the aspirations of people before training to counselling and following up with beneficiaries during their employment. Adopting this approach will ensure that the kind of skills imparted to trainees are marketable and linked to jobs.
It is also important to ensure that specific skills are not scaled across multiple areas in the same region as this saturates the market with limited opportunities for those who are trained. If everyone is trained in becoming a blacksmith, there will be too many blacksmiths and not enough jobs. Imparting locally-relevant skill sets like repairing bicycles, two-wheelers, solar lamps or mobiles, running a poultry unit, and the like, make families self-sustaining. To this end, governments should boost investment in lifelong learning to retrain, retool and reskill. For example, governments could provide training grants throughout people’s working lives, conditional on stronger private sector involvement in training and skills development. Governments should also reinforce the supply of skills by strengthening incentives for educational institutions to harness the power of digital technology and new business models.
While we continue our efforts to provide training in more advanced skills, it is also necessary to strengthen the ecosystems for basic subsistence skills in smaller communities. We can design new-generation skills for para-veterinarians, health workers, solar engineers, water drillers and testers, hand pump mechanics, artisans, designers, masons, accountants, technicians and computer programmers who support their fellow-villagers in building and sustaining collective livelihood projects and increasing their economic and social resilience. There is an important role for organisations supporting small producers to hone their skills, understand the marketplace dynamic, and to adapt their products for urban markets. They can encourage and promote environment-friendly products and processes, help in branding, packaging solution and also support primary producers in transitioning their subsistence livelihoods to reach sustainable levels. Education will have to be made available in more flexible and innovative forms to enable lifelong learning and deepening of skills and re-skilling as old occupations disappear and new ones evolve. It should also not be restricted to jobs that might be on offer, but encourage innovation and creation of jobs.
Graduates will need cultural competencies to effectively practice their skills in a multicultural world. Since the world is going to be dominated by digital forms of communication, everyone will need to have some proficiency in analysing and interpreting a world flooded with data. Higher levels of numeracy will be needed across many more occupations. Boundaries between educational institutions and the outside world would also need to be far more porous. Students will need opportunities to experience work environments as part of their learning system.
We require a more coordinated and collective impact approach from the various stakeholders if we want to enlarge the network of training programmes and ensure that training is closely aligned with specific demands of the industry. It would require developing a clear common agenda around the entire ecosystem of workforce training. It requires intervention at four levels: Quality trainers, market-aligned curriculum, assessment of learning outcomes, and effective matchmaking between youth and jobs
Individuals will have to cultivate a proper mindset to embrace changes and take a proactive approach to navigating the shock waves that may follow such powerful changes. Adaptability can quickly and confidently assimilate this type of upheaval and use it as a competitive advantage.
(Writer: Moin Qazi; Courtesy: The Pioneer)
Full access to the highest standards of education through better penetration would be a game-changer in India.
The least common denominator for any developed country is easy access to education at all levels. It is not serendipitous that the United Nations (UN) recognises the need for quality education as an essential element of growth for all. It has also enshrined this in its SDG 4, which aims to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education.
As one of the fastest growing economies, India has taken the world by storm. In order to maintain its stature, we need to provide the citizens with easy access to the highest standards of education at all levels. While this may seem like a distant reality, it surely is achievable by meticulously directing investments to the education sector, and ensuring development and use of innovative and robust technology.
For the Indian education system, the primary game-changer would be connectivity and penetration through innovative devices. As netizens, we are already living in a ‘connected world’ and understand the opportunities that internet and technology have thrown open for us. In the same way, technology can bridge the gaps in delivering high quality, uninterrupted education across India.
According to Census 2011, almost 70 percent of Indians still live in rural areas, spread across 600,000-plus villages. There are more than 125 million individuals in the age group of 14 to 18 years, of whom more than two-thirds, roughly 85 million, live in rural India, as per a latest study. The challenge with penetration of internet in the rural India is lack of electricity to charge devices, poor network quality and low affordability of internet service packs while on a global scale, people are now able to learn in ways that would not have been possible without digital technology.
But for India, there have to be solutions that allow learning by harvesting the benefits of multimedia education tools, without banking on internet connectivity alone. The current government has envisaged programmes like Digital India and Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan, which together focus on education and transforming the country into a digitally empowered society and knowledge economy.
One of the stated missions of Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan is to promote enhanced use of digital technology in education through smart classrooms, digital boards and DTH channels.
The delivery of digital education in the rural areas would become a mammoth task in the wake of the fact that we still struggle with providing uninterrupted internet speeds in the urban geographies. Hence, delivering quality educational content without total dependence on the availability of internet has become crucial.
In such a scenario, innovative technological solutions that harvest the benefits of multimedia education tools without banking on internet connectivity are important. Companies like Chhota Internet provide free Wi-Fi to scholars to access relevant content in their campuses and residential hostels through e-books, audio and video lecture formats. The most remarkable feature of this technology is that it achieves this without the need of internet connection, at no recurring cost. The solution solves the issues related to shortage of good teachers as well.
Writer: Sandeep Arya
Courtesy: The Pioneer
The decision of the HRD Ministry to make school bags and grades less burdensome for students based on their age is aimed at well-rounded physical and mental development of the students.
Education is a wholesome process which students should participate freely in and engage happily with. It should not end up looking like an exploitative practice or inducing performance pressure. Unfortunately, in our country, our kids are caught in an androidish drill of bookish knowledge and making the cut in competitive exams rather than savouring knowledge discoveries in the absence of application-based teaching modules.
Perhaps this norm on heavy-lifting will encourage alternative thinking in existing educational policies and prioritise student welfare. To begin with all schools — and some private schools have done it — should immediately formalise a book locker system as it is done in many countries abroad to ease the to-and-fro logic.
The effects of school bag load on the physical and mental well-being of students have been well documented. An ASSOCHAM survey conducted in 2016 found that because of a load of books in the bags of children, 68 per cent children in the age group of 7 to 13 years face the risk of backaches, hunchbacks, spinal and postural problems, some of which were irreversible and impede mobility patterns in their adult life.
The survey had also noted that over 88 per cent of students in the same age group carry more than 45 per cent of their own weight on their backs. The heavy bags, according to the survey, included textbooks, activity books, swim kit, lunch box and other things. To this extent, the directive is welcome. However, the regimentation of books, content and subjects that can be taught at primary levels, as recommended by the Ministry, defeats the very purpose of education being a free space and only perpetuates the “brick in the wall” approach.
While banning tests are welcome for classes I and II, limiting the number of subjects to only languages and mathematics — clearly sharpening skills of communication and logical reasoning, maybe even scientific temper — severely hampers the child’s overall development. True you free them up for exploratory outdoors and sports but why deny them the narrative of our history and culture, something that our kids are increasingly veering away from? Besides, a curtain-down approach does not work in digitally informed times and in the absence of a regime, could expose them to more sources of misinformation than information.
Even in higher classes up to class V, concession has been made for environmental science with total disregard for an approach that balances both left and right brain development. This becomes even more punishing with the clause that only NCERT books can be accessed with no provision for other sources of study material. The early years are crucial for shoring up self-sufficiency in our younger generation, so there cannot be an agenda-driven outlook for education policies that impact the wonder years between five and 12.
Reducing load is one thing — there can be several alternatives explored with school lockers and cheap e-books in a graded manner — but restricting subjects and codifying approaches, especially as part of public policy, will only make a generation literate but not knowledgeable enough. Agreed, we don’t need to push kids over the edge but the government should not have the sole agency to decide what they need and do not.
Courtesy: The Pioneer
Before getting into the details, it is important to understand the fundamentals and the basics behind the factors that need to be considered when designing a foundation for a new education system. All in all, several factors influence the decision, some of them include dynamic curriculum, an emotional bond between teachers, learners, and the school, and experienced teachers.
Education systems are under stress even in educationally developed societies. This is inevitable, as by its very nature, education is a dynamic process and, hence, it must keep pace with changing expectations of the society and emerging aspirations of the young. In India, as in most nations that suffered under foreign yoke for centuries, education received new impetus in the last five decades, more prominently after the World Conference on Education, held in Jomtien, Thailand, in March 1990, that resolved to universalise elementary education in the next 10 years with extensive global collaboration.
India can rightly boast of its achievement in widening access to education to the remotest, far-flung, hilly, tribal areas. It required extensive efforts, plans and programmes to reach an estimated enrolment percentage of over 96, in spite of a population increase of more than three times. India now has around 1.5 million schools and over 230 million children enrolled in these schools. This is not a mean achievement for a country that began after independence in extremely tough conditions, with a literacy rate of less than 20 per cent, and huge paucity of resources, both in men and material.
While the expansion of access meant opening of more and more schools, at a pretty fast pace, there was a serious dearth of trained teachers, and even States’ capacity to provide infrastructure support at the optimal level. Things, however, did move. One of the biggest and most tangible achievements was attitudinal transformation: Every community, social and cultural group, now realises the importance and value of education; is keen to give ‘good quality education’ to their children; and this includes both boys and girls.
Young people may today find it strange to comprehend that to prepare people to send their daughters to school was a daunting task during the first four decades after independence. They may also find it strange that before the National Policy on Education, 1968, it was officially accepted that girls were not fit to study science and mathematics, and were generally encouraged to offer such choices as spinning and weaving, home science or social science subjects only. It was possible only because of the presence of visionary educationists under the leadership of Prof DS Kothari that the National Commission on Education (1964-66) recommended compulsory teaching of science and mathematics to both boys and girls till they complete 10 years of schooling.
This can be one of the historic examples of dynamism needed in education, its policies and implementation. The shape of schools, laboratories and also the intent and process of education and teaching have undergone significant changes. From the Tat-Patti stage, India is rapidly transitioning to smart classrooms.
Dynamic systems, however, never permit lethargy or systemic slumber to relax/enjoy and gloat over achievements. Every issue resolved and every problem tackled generates new challenges. Indian education is no exception and one could list a plethora of issues and concerns that demand urgent remediation. It is because of such imperatives in educational advancements that the educational curriculum at every stage is consistently reviewed and revised. It requires regular execution of surveys, studies and researches to point out what needs to be changed, discarded and deleted; and added and augmented.
Normally, a five-year cycle is considered necessary to bring about curricular reforms in school education. Text books are revised after the curriculum renewal and formulation of syllabi for each area. Certain alert systems do realise that the pace of change is so fast that a five-year cycle may be a bit too prolonged and, hence, provisions for frontline curricula are also incorporated in broader guidelines, and made available to schools and teachers. This provision takes care of urgent requirements and students are not deprived of being made familiar with new developments.
In India, with over 50 school boards authorised to prepare their own curricula, syllabi and textbooks, the task becomes complex when it comes to national-level competitions. Students from different boards must come with equality of learning attainments. This requirement led to the creation of the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT), which is mandated to prepare a school curricula in consultation with State agencies; prepare textbooks; and leave it to the State Governments to adopt these as such, or prepare their own books with local elements of curricula included wherever necessary.
NCERT books should normally not be accepted for every subject. Take the example of environmental education. Books must be different in Tripura and Thiruvananthapuram, but the NCERT textbook can offer guidance in maintaining the level and standard. At this stage, even curriculum developers and textbook writers require regular in-service orientations on how things are being analysed and included in an era characterised by the advent of information and communication technology (ICT).
Textbook is no longer the only source available to the student. While it is universally acknowledged that in spite of all that is now available to the learner, courtesy ICT, Internet and ever-improving gadgets, the criticality of teacher-taught relationship shall always be necessary to bring in the human element in the growing up of the learner. This is also the time for every teacher to realise that life-long learning must be put to practice to remain relevant in the profession. Only such teachers can impress upon the child the real import of ‘life-long learning’.
In the Indian tradition of the knowledge quest, yavadjeevait adhiyate viprah was propounded much earlier. Teachers of today and tomorrow would do well if they recall the wisdom of Socrates: “I cannot teach anybody, I can only make them think.” Sri Aurobindo had said it in very simple but meaningful terms: “Nothing can be taught” and that “mind must be consulted in its own growth.” Once these simple-looking elements are properly internalised by the teacher, it would not be tough for him to visualise his changed role.
Only with such a vision, an alert teacher would be in a position to give wings to the nurturance of creativity and curiosity that are the nature’s gifts to every child. It is no longer implicit on him to transact everything in the classroom, he could support the learner to reach other sources of knowledge, and in the process, learn how to sift information and extract knowledge and skills out of it. In the process, the teacher is educating him in ‘learning to learn’ a skill that has to be a necessary acquisition during the process of schooling.
As the learner moves upwards on the learning curve, the need arises for flexible and individualised curriculum. It helps self-learning, self-actualisation and helps optimise their potential. Motivation and inspiration for all this must come from committed and performing teachers. Essentially, a teacher must be prepared to comprehend the imperatives of assisting the learner in the development of total personality and comprehensive abilities to enable him to contribute creatively in socio-economic, cultural, political and technological sectors. This would be feasible only when teacher preparation institutions realise their transformed role to help student-teachers acquire the skills of developing, what is now known as ‘multiple intelligence’.
At every stage, the role of the teacher educator and teacher remains. Changes in education, though envisioned and incorporated at various levels of expertise, must include teacher participation and his inputs. A teacher’s role is no longer limited to that of a mere transactor of textual material within the classrooms. He/she encourages the learner to ask questions, acts as an appreciator, guide, counselor, moulder, instructor and much more. In fact, he/she is the first icon after parents, he/she is an exemplar. Only such teachers shall succeed in the future who realise the criticality of their persona in the life of the learners.
What could be more critical to a community than the availability of a functional school nearby? Textbooks, teachers, Internet and other aspects come only afterwards. It is indeed intriguing that teacher preparation and recruitment leaves much to be desired. The situation has deteriorated gradually and has reached rather disturbing proportions. Several State Governments are now ‘merging’ thousands of schools situated mostly in far-flung, rural, tribal and hilly areas with nearby schools to make them viable. When a school has an enrolment of less than 10 or 20, its continuation may not be considered viable in the routine economic consideration but should that be the only criterion? How demoralising and demotivating it would be for the community and children whose school is shifted to another place?
Traditionally, India has successfully experimented with various models of schooling during initial years. Now that educated and literate persons are available in almost every habitation and village, models other than what is demanded in the RTE Act could also be tried to ensure that no child drops out of school because of merger and assimilation of ‘their’ school. Good education requires good teachers, dynamic curriculum and an emotional bond between teachers, learners and their school.
(The writer is the Indian Representative on the Executive Board of UNESCO)
Writer: JS Rajput
Courtesy: The Pioneer
The fundamentals of any education curriculum is to teach and promote core values of the society. Without values, education is incomplete. While a good education system creates values among pupils, ultimately becoming the fabric of social and political lives, the present education system in India is devoid of such characters. Aping the West, Bharat graduated into India only to have a lopsided education system that is a means to an end — to lead a luxury lifestyle at the cost of the value system which is already at a low ebb.
And therefore, sports and music are considered antidote to education. The overall development of a child is not possible without a proper set of sports system. One-third problems of the country are related to physical weakness of the youth, Vivekanand had said.
To address the issues, the Modi Government is leaving no stone unturned to refurbish the education system that empowers people through education. Under “Khelo India” scheme, the Government is trying to improve sport infrastructure in villages.
“One Bharat Shresth Bharat” aims to bridge the regional disparity. The Government is keen to synergies the ingenious knowledge system and modern technology. “Technology is the biggest driver in improving the quality of education,” said HRD Minister Prakash Javedekar. The digital black board is one of the top priorities of the Government. And efforts are on to use technology to enhance teachers’ skills as well.
There are several other initiatives that aim at improving the overall condition of the education system. More than hundred new Kendriya Vidyalayas and 62 new Navodaya Vidalayas have been opened during the last four years. Ekalavya Model Residential schools will be opened in the tribal areas.
Despite these praiseworthy initiatives, higher education is smitten with many ills. The scheme of upgraded autonomy is bound to create further problems in education system. “I am a Stephenian, a JNUite or a LSRite” will only widen the chasm. The existing apartheid system in educational system will further deepen if the Government policies are not implemented in toto.
The debate on the need for foreign faculty members is picking up, even as the concept of “Gurukul” has been pigeonholed as traditional. Rubbing salt into the wound is the exodus of brains from quality educational institutions in India to the US and the EU, indeed for greener pastures. To address this burning issue, the Central Government is trying to reverse the brain drain into brain gain through the scheme of Prime Minister Schemes of fellowships. Though it is not enough, well begun is half done.
One of the fundamental aims of the education is to identify the core values. The core values of India are world peace and betterment of the humanity. It flows from the cultural heritage of India. There is need to connect children with Indian heritage along with the western tips.
Writer: Satish Kumar
Source: The Pioneer
(The writer is Head of the Department of Political Science, Central University of Haryana)
In order to sustain our nation’s prosperity, it is important to make efficient use of abilities and talents of our citizens, bringing together individuals from diverse cultures
India is rich in diversity but poor in harvesting its fruits. Plurality in society is not just limited to inheritance, class or caste divisions, but it also exists in other fields like languages, cultures, religions, choice of livelihood, careers, knowledge, values, beliefs and practices et al. Currently, as many as 780 different languages are spoken and 86 different scripts are used in the country. In the same spirit, higher education institutions too should respond and accommodate such diversities, particularly now when several reform measures have been initiated viz, the grant of graded autonomy to universities, the grant of autonomous status to colleges, regulation of open distance learning for online degrees and the selection of institutions of eminence status, among others.
In continuance with these reform measures, a draft Act that seeks to replace the University Grants Commission (UGC) for setting up of a Higher Education Commission of India has also been proposed by the Ministry of Human Resource Development. But these reform measures will not lead to desired results unless the richness of this diversity is reflected by the higher education. Therefore, there needs to be a strong policy that ensures racial and ethnic diversity as one of the important factors among the many considered during admissions.
Campuses: The higher education sector has seen tremendous expansion since independence. With just 20 universities in 1950, today India can boast of 47 Central universities, 384 State universities, 123 deemed universities and 296 private universities. Many more are to come. One of the positives has been the Union Government’s effort to establish at least one central university in every State. However, some are public, others are private, some are large urban universities, some are deemed, and still others are small rural campuses. There are those exclusively for women.
Similarly, diversity exists in specialisations of various universities ie, some are restricted to performing arts, social sciences, sports, technology, veterinary sciences, health sciences, food technology while others are professional. This collective diversity among the institutions is one of the greatest strengths of India’s higher education system that can help make us one of the best places for education in the world.
Students: However, diversity today is conspicuous due to its absence in the student bodies, faculties and staff, particularly in State universities. In the late 70s, when I was a student at the Kurukshetra University, there were students from different parts of the country viz Bengal, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, North-East, Jammu & Kashmir and Kerala among others. Paradoxically, the number of students from other States saw a steep decline with time, probably with an increase in the number of higher education institutions.
State universities and colleges account for nearly 80 per cent of the total enrollments in higher education. Some students have even stopped moving from one district to another. A majority of students in universities are from local areas. The situation of Central universities is no good either. Over a period of time, universities have become ‘localversities’ as they have lost their ‘universal’ character. However, there is a provision of 15 per cent seats to be filled on an all-India basis to maintain probably some level of diversity. But State universities have managed to fill these seats by giving additional weightage to local students in the name of having passed their preceding examination from their own State university so as to give an edge to the students from other States.
The logic of these State universities is that their own State is also a part of India, and therefore, students must also to be considered in the category of ‘all-India basis’. Local students now have a double advantage ie, of weightage of five per cent and as well as of reservation (85 per cent seats are reserved for own State). The motive is to fulfill the theory of ‘sons of the soil.’ As a result, the very idea of creating this category of ‘all-India basis’ is getting defeated.
How to ensure diversity: In view of the above, it is proposed that the nomenclature of the category ‘all-India basis’ should be changed to ‘States other than home State’ so as to ensure admission from other States, which will in turn ensure diversity. In addition, percentage of seats in this category must be enhanced to 30 per cent because India aims to attain a Gross Enrollment Ratio of 30 per cent by 2020, which currently stands at 25.2 per cent. To attract talent in this category, the Union Government must institute scholarship for students.
Diversity should be at all levels of institution: It should also be mandatory for universities to appoint 30 per cent teaching faculties from other States than the home State. Diversity in teaching faculties in State universities has continuously declined to almost nil. The Government can, therefore, create a cadre of all India educational services. Similar arrangements can be made for secretarial or administrative posts. This will not only ensure diversity but ensure that bureaucrats are not able to undermine the status of teachers. Financial liability of these 30 per cent staff and students of all State universities should be borne by the Centre. It will be prudent to bear 30 per cent cost of State universities rather than creating Central universities because there cannot be any cost or an alternative to national integration. This is how our higher education institutions can be made more ‘open to diversity and socially inclusive’.
Need for diversity: Diversity enriches the learning experience, promotes tolerance and a healthy society. It will not only foster innovations and help enhance India’s competitive strength but will also help integrate the nation. Sustaining the nation’s prosperity in the 21st century requires us to make effective use of the talents and abilities of all our citizens in work settings that bring together individuals from diverse backgrounds and cultures.
It should be an institutional commitment to promote student body diversity and inclusion on the campus so as to help building democratic societies. The higher education system of the country should be such that the students coming out of this should be capable of making contribution to the growth of the nation.
(The writer is a professor of Biotechnology, Maharshi Dayanand University, Rohtak, Haryana)
Writer: SK Gakhar
Courtesy: The Pioneer