Education reforms must emerge from the past and the present

Education systems the world over resist change but are also aware that by its very nature, these have to remain dynamic and keep pace with the changes taking place all around.

Education systems the world over resist change but are also aware that by its very nature, these have to remain dynamic and keep pace with the changes taking place all around. Only then it could initiate change and reforms. India shall have its new education policy by the year-end. That could reshape future not only of the young but of the entire nation. It could also lead to wide-ranging international imperatives. At present, it is tough to inspire millions of young persons waiting to enter the job market, currently being the victims of quality deterioration and skill inadequacies in education across the spectrum. Major initiatives launched after 1968 and 1986/92 policies have helped the nation in several ways. However, the extent of decline and deterioration in quality and credibility often overtakes the achievements. It creates an environment of considerable demoralisation witnessed among those seriously concerned about education reforms.

The time to blame Macaulay and the British is long over. Wherever India stands in its balance sheet in education, it must own the responsibility. If the country is still pursuing a transplanted system of education, the post-Independence leadership must accept responsibility. India deserves an education policy free from ideological constraints, biases, prejudices and apprehensions. It is globally accepted that education in every country needs to be ‘rooted to culture and committed to progress’! No truly educated person would have any reservations about it, unless weighed down by extraneous considerations that would be globally unacceptable. Normally, none would consider it prudent to deprive his children of their own culture, history, heritage, and mother tongue.  Every policy initiatives in education must be truly woven around the spirit of the Constitution, reflected in terms of equality of opportunity of access and success to every child and young person irrespective of his socio-economic or cultural station in life. All the general and specific plans and projects launched over the last seven decades could meet this objective only partially. The ‘haves’ in the society have private institutions available to their children.

For the weaker section, the sarkari schools are the only alternative. These schools have suffered prolonged neglect from practically every quarter, and on every count. The gap is widening at an alarming pace. Serious steps are necessary to reduce it substantially. Fresh, bold and sound initiatives are urgently necessary on issues like teacher absenteeism, swindling of scholarships meant for weaker sections, transfers and postings, community interactions and teacher preparation, issues of preparing and providing leaders and leadership in educational institutions. These seemingly routine steps could substantially enhance quality within a couple of years.

ICT could greatly help in launching new corrective measures in ensuring upgradation of institutional work culture and administrative reforms. It could also lead to school teachers being freed from non-teaching assignments. The emphasis on working with hand, skill acquisition and value nurturance has to be followed up with renewed vigour and vitality. Science education requires serious overhauling in approach, content and process. Unfortunately, experimentation in science subjects in large number of schools and colleges has been reduced to a farce. Such serious aberrations must be confronted with, without delay. Implementation strategies shall become pragmatic only when the stark realities of the system are truthfully acknowledged. India just cannot keep on preparing educated manpower that is not equipped for acceptance in the job market, both nationally and internationally! All the aspirations aroused by the ‘golden period of demographic dividend’ require extra effort at policy level, in implementation strategies and within institutions. There are serious issues to be responded to; like of curriculum load reduction, an overtaxing examination system, absence of a learning environment in schools, and a curriculum that persistently emphasises rote learning. We have gained considerable experience and insight on what really needs to be amended, restructured and redesigned. The challenge now is to ensure its implementation in classrooms; and outside.  

J S Rajput 

Former director of the NCERT

Related Stories

No stories found.

The New Indian Express