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Analysis of Sansad TV Discussion : ‘Parliamentary Panel on Education Reforms in India’

 Context

  • Recently the Standing Committee on Education, Women, Children, Youth, and Sports submitted its report on the ”Reforms in Content and Design of School Text Books” on November 30, 2021.
  • The committee held consultations with a wide range of stakeholders, including the State and Central institutions, responsible for drafting textbooks and curricula, as well as education experts and civil society representatives.

Key observations and recommendations of the Committee 

  • The Committee noted the need to have more child-friendly textbooks. It recommended the use of pictures, graphics, and audio-visual material. It also inputs by experts from multiple disciplines should be sought.
  • The Committee recommended that the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT), and State Council of Educational Research and Training (SCERT) textbooks should be published in all the languages mentioned in the eighth schedule of the Constitution. Further, efforts should be made to develop textbooks in local languages (those not a part of the eighth schedule).
  • The Committee recommended the Ministry of Education and NCERT to set up an internal committee to examine suggestions received from various stakeholders for updating the syllabus of NCERT textbooks. It also recommended the Ministry explore the possibility to develop a core class-wise common syllabus for various subjects for implementation by CBSE, CICSE and State education boards.
  • The Committee recommended that NCERT should undertake efforts to (i) make textbooks gender-inclusive, (ii) portray women in emerging professions, and (iii) adequately represent the role of women in the Indian freedom movement.
  • The Committee recommended: (i) updating history textbooks to include certain details (such as post-1947 history and world history), (ii) reviewing depiction of freedom fighters from various regions and communities, and (iii) adoption of new technologies for better pedagogy of history.
  • Further, it recommended that NCERT should relook at the guidelines of writing history textbooks. All books, especially history, books (other than those published by government agencies) used for supplementary reading should be consistent with the content and structure of NCERT textbooks and a mechanism should be developed to monitor the same.
  • It recommended that textbooks should: (i) highlight the adverse effects of drug addiction, and (ii) contain separate elements spreading awareness against internet addiction and other aspects harmful to society.
  • The initiative of the Maharashtra State Bureau of Textbook Production and Curriculum Research is known as Ekatmik Pathya Pustak (2018-19) created a single book for several subjects for class one students in order to lighten the school bag. Such an initiative is in line with the School Bag Policy by the Ministry of Education, which suggested having long periods of one or two subjects to reduce the number of books students carry. The Committee recommended that other states should also follow a similar approach.

What Need to Transform in Indian Education System?

  • Education System in India is super-duper overdue for Disruptive Transformation from Relevance, Affordability, Employability, Adoptability, Manageability, Reach, Technology adoption, and other similar reasons.
  • In the last three to four decades, more so in the last two decades, the World has changed as never before; not even as conceptualized and/or thought of by people.

Why does India Need a Robust Education System?

  • India spends nearly 4.6% of its GDP on education, much less than most of the G20 nations and doesn’t meet the aspirational value of Indian students. Now, with students being unable to travel to colleges abroad, the country will have to build world-class resources for them to access.
  • For India to become a world superpower, education will be the catalyst along with the opportunities provided by industries. There are five areas where a public-private partnership can help make the education system robust, transparent, inexpensive and accessible to all.

Which Global Best Practices should India adopt to strengthen its grassroots educational infrastructure?

  • Central repository for records: This should be one of the biggest exercises India should undertake in the education sector, where all academic records are stored in a single repository.
  • Better connectivity: Investment in research infrastructure and uninterrupted high-speed Internet access are among the reasons for the success of western countries.
  • Develop international standard teaching: The government, in collaboration with the industrial sector, must invest in continuous skill enhancement and training to bring our teachers on a par with global standards. This will also help reduce ‘brain drain’ and enable India to merge as one of the bigger education hubs.
  • Regulatory framework for innovation: The government must formulate a reform-oriented regulatory framework to allow innovation and new models where the focus can shift from pedantic degrees to practical and need-based learning. Increased focus on an apprenticeship will help aspiring youth find livelihood options.

Key Takeaways From National Education Policy 2020?

  • The policy clearly states that kids will be taught in their mother tongue or regional language ‘wherever possible.’
  • In school education, the policy focuses on overhauling the curriculum, “easier” Board exams, a reduction in the syllabus to retain “core essentials” and thrust on “experiential learning and critical thinking”.
  • In a significant shift from the 1986 policy, which pushed for a 10+2 structure of school education, the new NEP pitches for a “5+3+3+4” design corresponding to the age groups 3-8 years (foundational stage), 8-11 (preparatory), 11-14 (middle), and 14-18 (secondary).
  • This brings early childhood education (also known as pre-school education for children of ages 3 to 5) under the ambit of formal schooling. The mid-day meal programme will be extended to pre-school children. The NEP says students until Class 5 should be taught in their mother tongue or regional language.
  • The policy also proposes phasing out all institutions offering single streams and that all universities and colleges must aim to become multidisciplinary by 2040.

The pandemic is an opportunity to critically examine our education system and change it for the better

  • Even before the pandemic, there were attempts to recalibrate systems that have become completely outdated. This is an opportunity to reimagine and modernise learning.
  • Now there is no time to lose because there is no certainty on what the situation will be in March 2022. We cannot as a country transit from one learning crisis to another using cancellation or postponement of exams — they are only tools of appeasement.
  • We need to find means of assessment that are fair, robust and remove dependency on time-tabled exams. Changing how we transact content in classrooms and framing questions that encourage a student to think requires a competency-based learning approach to be embedded in the system.
  • Creativity and the ability to be resilient will be the most in-demand skills. They cannot be ascertained when we mine the minds of children for three hours for predictable scores.
  • There has to be a bridge between higher education institutions and schools to ensure a seamless movement into tertiary learning.
  • The method of exams needs to be revisited along with the content of classroom learning.
  • The lesson plans in every classroom from nursery to Class XII should be woven in a manner that emphasises certain key necessities: Transversal competencies, cultural competencies, interaction and self-expression, a focus on taking care of oneself and managing the requirements of daily life.

Conclusion

To thrive in a globalised world using 21st-century skills, learning must be seen as a pathway to attain well-being and happiness and create opportunities to contribute to humanity. So, we must initiate an integrated curriculum that enables students to address their future with imagination, creativity and purpose, and encourages them to move towards individual and collective well-being.

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