The Centre recently came out with a new draft education policy, and now, two questions come to mind—can we think of a composite system of education instead of fragmenting it? And while it’s true that school is the basis of education, is pursuing higher education an absolute necessity? In other words, a degree must preclude employment opportunities.
What if we laid a solid foundation till the K-12 level, integrating education with basics of language, science, and social sciences with core competences in skills, such as verbal and written, aesthetics, such as media and films, and technical vocational education, such as design and crafts?
We need education that is holistic at these levels, keeping in mind a basic employability potential. At the same time, we need to tone down the degree obsession, and at the intermediary level prior to joining collegiate or university education, there is a need to introduce short-term diploma and certificate courses. This can either be integrated in school education or be an extension of it.
Fine-tuning the link between learning and work
Education is mediated. It mediates between the worlds of work and learning. In that sense, it is a continuous process, but the basics have to be well grounded in school education. The continuity, or the higher echelons of learning, can come as a choice driven by academic and research interests.
Adult learning is imperative, but it may not always be compulsory. The fetish to pursue a degree can be obviated if, at the college level, advanced diplomas of exceptional standards are introduced. This will also impede the growth of private universities and coaching classes. A diploma or certification skills will stand in their own right, not meant to be compared to a degree, with respect to employability.
Unless we radicalise our views on education, there will be no change or innovation in the system. The rat race for hundred per cent marks will continue.
At the school level, more emphasis should be given to aesthetic vocational skills, such as music and performing arts. We have created hierarchies in the system, preferences egregiously given to science and commerce students in the battle for wits. This is misplaced; intelligence varies according to sensibilities and the spirit of communication and its aesthetics.
Again, in school education, we can have home schooling as a kind of adjunct to distance and open learning. Our methodologies must be clear, not only our pedagogies. We have anyway not witnessed much change from learning by the rote method.
Starting from the basics
Radicalising education is all about aptitude markers—what the student feels, knows, and wants to study. It is essentially learner-centric, not teacher-centric. The teacher is a facilitator and motivator.
Once education is connected to talent and skill, then the fear of failure can be suitably addressed, by giving more time to complete courses. Why only 12 years in school? Make it up to 14.
Segregating education as school, college, and university is compartmentalising it. Education is a holistic worldview, not to be learnt in segments. Yes, we can have higher learning, but the mismatch between employment and education must go. And this can be achieved by radicalising it, having alternative modes in terms of course content and pedagogy at a solid foundational level at school.
Regarding the latter, technology must play a catalytic role. It is the visual and the aural that appeals to a child’s senses.
Synergising the classroom with the world of applications is another factor. Some students have cerebral skills, some have practical skills. In this manner, education can be demystified, and we will have no student elites.
Once the fundamentals of a solid school education are worked out, we can think of adult and professional education.
Creating a holistic system without inhibitions
My point is that employability, self-employability, adjudicating finer senses, and giving equal opportunities to the talented must all go into the making of a holistic and robust educational system; not to create hierarchies and a preferential system, not to address failures but successes.
The latter can be gauged by the learner’s aptitude and self-interest, an innate flair for things around his/her world, and his/her observations. It is sensitivity in education that matters, not tautological expressions and commercial iconoclasm.
If at all it has to be iconoclastic, it has to reshape typical models and introduce atypicality with guts, overthrowing inhibitions over marks. It must impose new challenges from within and without and rework status of courses and the four walls of a classroom.
Enhanced focus on school education
The fault lines in the education system have led to exploitation in the form of private tuition, coaching classes, and capitation fees. School education is the foundation for the higher modes—college, university, and research—but it must be made self-sufficient and autonomous. At the same time, it can be made standalone with particular emphasis on skills and aptitude.
Structurally, education is a pyramid and those who complete only school education are unwanted. So when we refer to categorisation of education, we mean that the superimposition of educational structures for employment is a myth, which must be dispelled. Otherwise, how do we explain doctoral degree holders working in schools and engineers working in banks? This lopsided aspect has created serious schisms in our learning systems.
We must reinvent the process radically. The symbiotic essence of education is undoubtedly important, but it must work as a standalone method, especially after school.
Ananya S Guha is a retired regional director of the Indira Gandhi National Open University.