In COVID times, the education ecosystem is staring at challenges of high dropout rates, low attendance for online classes and non-completion of learning objectives and more fundamental issues like mental health and low nutrition. Although the government has started taking major initiatives to reform the education sector, much more needs to be done. Our education system is still based on the old colonial style of learning. We still follow the ‘knowledge’ centric style of learning, unlike the ‘enquiry’ centric style of learning.
Both the curriculum and infrastructure models have the scope of complete redesign basis the current learnings. Unfortunately, our basic education infrastructure is poor. The majority of our students, especially those studying in rural areas, are technology challenged, and only a few of them have access to the internet and modern tools of learning, thus resulting in low attendance and dropouts.
Most schools do not possess modern teaching aids or even modern well-designed buildings. The majority of our teacher fraternity is still to be imbibed with modern technology tools for training the students in both the school and home environments.
The way forward
The approach needs to move towards a student-centric, self-directed learning heutagogy model from the current teacher-led pedagogy models. Involving student right at the design stage would bring about a sea change in the way the learners approach learning. Skill-based learning should be made part of the curriculum. Skilling should be initiated at a very early stage in a student’s life so that he/she is skilled enough by the time they leave school.
Improving the quality of educators
Teachers are the most important assets in the education sector; hence they should be given the best of class training. They need to be trained such that they are able to bring empathy and love among the students and which can then be reflected in their behaviors. Our teachers also need to be trained on using technology in classrooms as well as online. Teachers specially belonging to smaller towns and rural areas need to be trained in all aspects of modern teaching methods. As an approach, teachers need to be motivated to be great facilitators and who can gather all the required resources for the learner and leave it for the learner to learn in the most suitable way.
Bringing in more technology tools in education delivery
Schools must encourage technology-led tools in education because it is here that their future lies. Students must be taught about technology right from the early years of their education so that they are comfortable using it as they grow in life. The concept of smart school needs to be propagated, especially in government-owned schools and in rural areas. Every student, rich or poor, must use modern technologies. Of course, this will call for huge investments, but it’s a small price to pay for building a smart nation. Usage of handheld devices during learning needs to be included as part of anytime, anywhere learning.
Currently, marks are an important factor in deciding the future of children and this remains a burden, especially for weak students, often leading to dropouts. This needs to change. Instead of focusing on evaluation on a time-bound exam, the focus should be on participation by the student, projects, communication, leadership skills and extra-curricular activities.
Improving Education infrastructure
India needs to work far more on building its education infrastructure. Heavy investments are required in building modern schools in remote towns and villages. Good quality education should be within the easy reach of every child. Every school must be equipped with modern teaching aids and strong internet bandwidth. The concept of ‘smart class’ needs to be promoted widely. The idea is that every school offers the same standard and quality of education across the country.
Improving the mental health
More fundamental areas like providing support to students for coping up with current stressed times need to be made available in a structured mode. The government needs to intervene and announce policies to ensure that no school student is deprived of the right nutrition while ensuring that there is no dearth of experts to counsel the students on various mental health-related issues, 24x7. Ensuring high mental health for learning is an integral part of the student learning cycle.
It is evident that our current education system is not geared up to deliver as per the needs of the learner and the industries of the future. Hence, we need to evaluate and explore some fundamental shifts from the design to delivery to outcomes to success for the learner. Every stakeholder like government, academia, industry and most importantly students have to come together not only to ensure better health and mental fitness but also superior levels of learning objectives.
(This is a slightly modified version of an article originally published in BW Education. The original article can be found at http://bweducation.businessworld.in/article/Initiatives-That-Government-Should-Take-To-Improve-The-Curriculum-And-Infrastructure-Of-The-Education-System/02-06-2021-391710/)