Sreelekshmi of Bhavan’s Varuna Vidyalaya, Thrikkakara, Kochi, is among the four students who emerged as joint first rank-holders scoring 499 out of 500 marks in the CBSE Class X examinations, the results of which were announced only a day back. Similar results were replicated by the toppers of 12th class examination of CBSE; where in Meghna Srivastava also secured exactly same marks i.e. 499 out of 500. Students, parents, teachers and principals of the schools were all jubilant, excited and celebrated the success and achievement of their students, rightfully so. Immediately after their result these students were labelled as intelligent, creative, smart, brainy, and hardworking and were also decorated with various other adjectives by their friends, peer-group, teachers, parents etc.
One thing is for sure that these high achievers had really worked hard, demonstrated a lot of perseverance to achieve their goal, and have achieved wonderful results, but the question remains to be explored that are these toppers really intelligent, creative, original and innovative?
Answer to this question is that we still don’t know.
Evaluating students on the criteria of intelligence, creativity, innovation, problem solving ability, critical thinking and originality through board examinations is asking too much, because the scope of these board examinations is limited. It might prove a reasonable screening device to screen the students who have a tremendous capacity to cram, retain and reproduce the memorized content.
What this system of examination encourages is practicing past papers in the hope of passing the tests and not the mastery of the subject, cramming the theoretical principles, but not testing the applicability of these principles, memorizing the mathematical formulae, not the application of the same in real life situations, learning the language but failing to articulate one’s thoughts emotions and feelings in the language they have learnt. Examination does not encourage the actual pursuit of knowledge so much as the pursuit of marks or grades. Intellectual exploration is inhibited with persistent efforts towards mastering guess work and memorising ‘standard’ methods of answering ‘repeated types’ of questions. Such examinations reflect upon the out-dated educational practices in our educational system.
The task of Education for future would be helping the students to enquire, discover, explore, invent, innovate, apply and enable them to design their own solutions and answers to their problems and be the master of their own learning.
“The purpose of education is not creating solutions, but creating movement in education in which people develop their own solutions with external support based on the personalized curriculum.“ Ken Robinson
We need to have a holistic perspective of Education which means that our curricula should include and reflect everything from ethos to the environment of hamlets and metropolitans, from present culture to past glory, from theoretical academics to practical skills, from thinking to relaxation, from games and sports to working in the laboratories, from lecturing to teaching through art and drama, from skills of learning to life skills, from monotonous classrooms teachings to vibrant discussions in the corridors, canteens and playgrounds of the school. An all-encompassing meaning needs to be added to the word “Education”.
Less time in classrooms, more time in field should be the mantra of this curriculum
I have a firm belief that Youth in India is moving away from playing safe mind-set of ‘getting a stable and a secure government job, to a more entrepreneurial and dynamic approach of engaging themselves. Young people today want to dream big and different and achieve big and different, even if it means treading on an unconventional path. Taking up the challenge of entrepreneurship involves taking risks, responsibility of success and failure, having the required mental, physical and financial strength to take up the task of entrepreneurship. I personally believe this cannot be taught in the classrooms of the school but needs to be nurtured over a long period of time by providing vicarious experiences to the child. This nurturing process must start from the early days. For this, the ambience of the school and how they teach and what they teach, will play a major role.
Teachers and Teaching style
Teachers of the future will have to teach the skills not the test. The fear of being held accountable for everything except what we can control in the classroom is a major aggravation and has forced many to “teach to the test.”(Stacey Donaldson)
Teachers should focus on being enablers in facilitating the students learning. The student should be the focus of learning in the class. It might seem clichéd and repetitive, still worthwhile to mention that the student should be made to take charge of his learning , in terms of what to learn ,when to learn , how much to learn , from whom to learn and the child should even be given the right to select or reject courses being taught to him. The physical and psychological burden of curriculum needs to be minimized. Out-dated teaching methodologies need to be replaced by interactive teaching strategies. Teaching should be a collaborative effort among peers, teachers and seniors. The teacher should try romancing with different pedagogical intervention to suit the requirements of the child.
The schools must organise and conduct most of its teaching outside the four walls of the classroom. Through devices or through hands-on experience, students will be ‘out there’ in the real world, which would contribute a lot, to their learning. And what will be the best tool for them to have hands on experience of their learning?
Assessment of the child
A whole new perspective regarding assessment and evaluation needs to be developed by which every child will be regarded as a valued participant in a democratic society. The education system would strive for identifying and nurturing whatever capacities the child has and evaluating him on his potentialities, rather than subjecting him to sit for a general examination, which he may or may not clear. We need to assess the child on different parameters such as originality and creativity of his thought, in terms of his communication skills, in terms of his ability to know, in terms of his ability to assimilate and adapt to the environment, and in terms of his life skills. In short, we need to know the child as A WHOLE rather than a shady and patchy configuration of his personality. Technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning can be used, to assess a child’s weaknesses and strengths with accuracy and focus on learning in areas where it is needed.
Indian parents and their expectations
I am of the firm belief that we as parents demand too much from our wards. A picture perfect image of the child who is sincere, obedient, focussed, high achiever, and above all smart and articulate has been fixed in our minds, which needs to change for the holistic welfare of both parents and teachers. Indian parental community is aspirational and has very high expectations from their wards. This phenomenon is all pervasive irrespective of gender, class, caste and in terms of urban and rural division.
A study conducted by HSBC on “Hopes and expectations of parents and their children” across various countries shows that most important goal of Indian parents for their children is that they must achieve successful careers in their adulthood. 51% of the respondents, who were parents this was their ultimate goal. This goal is achievable through the pursuit of EDUCATION. In the same study, it was found that Indian parents emerge almost at the top when it comes to higher educational qualifications they aspire for their children. In fact, the survey shows that 91% of Indian parents wanted their children to have at least an undergraduate degree or more, 88% wanted them to secure a masters or even higher degree. In contrast, only 60% of the parents in the United States wanted their children to get an undergraduate degree or more while, only 31% targeted a masters or higher degree.
A word of caution to parents
Academics from Wayne State University, in the US state of Michigan, highlighted that overly demanding parents may be discouraging their children from achieving at school and too much of parental demands could be detrimental to children’s success.
Prof. Arti Koul Kachroo
DEAN SCHOOL OF Education