Changing Education needs

Education has 3 core purposes – connecting with the self, connecting with the world around, and building knowledge. This is not new in the world - Piaget, Maria Montessori, Aristotle, or in India - Tagore, Gandhi, Vivekananda, Krishnamurthy – all spoke of the same values in education a while ago. We stand in the long shadows cast by these scholars and pedagogists and still we as a society have failed to deliver this education.

Many current academicians, scholars and pedagogists, including Tony Wagner, Guy Claxton, Yuval Noah Harari, and many others, have spoken of the transitions needed in education:

  • From Consumption to creating more
  • From being risk averse to becoming risk-taking
  • From being specialists to being transdisciplinary
  • From extrinsic motivation to intrinsic motivation
  • From celebrating individual achievement to valuing teamwork

And many frameworks exist to think of the skills learners need - the 4C framework, etc. The changes that are needed in education to meet all this include:

Education must move beyond either/or

Schools are often forced to make false choices; Either academics or creativity, Either science or humanities, Either thinking or discipline. This binary thinking of either/or is not a choice that parents and students want to, need to, or should have to make. Good education is beyond either/or - it is both /and; Both Scores and Thinking, Both Math and arts, Both Discipline and Freedom, Both global outlook and Identity, Both service and excellence. Leading Universities and Organizations value students who think at the intersection of humanities and science, discipline and creativity; learners who are interdisciplinary, and know how to connect bodies of knowledge and facts to solve problems creatively.

Education must be holistic and relevant

A 21st century education must have balanced choices, understanding the world around beyond textbooks - learning from the world, about the world and through the world. It must recognise different learning styles and many kinds of smart. This needs bringing the world into the classroom and many different learning opportunities, defining literacy to not just mean reading & writing, but also physical literacy, artistic literacy, mathematical literacy, digital literacy, scientific literacy, historical literacy, etc. and according to all forms equal importance, creating concurrency of learning across these areas.

Education must nurture decision-making and fairplay:

Education's purpose should be Learning for living not just learning for earning. Personal, Social and Emotional Development (PSED), through sensitivity to one's own and others’ needs, encouraging choices & understanding trade-offs; difficult to create quickly can only be a taught process over a long period – 15 formative years! Environments that encourage fairness grow children with a strong emotional core, appreciating rights and getting the most out of them. Making choices on the academic front – setting the pace for their own learning and choosing to learn in specific ways, instills accountability. Making choices and living with the outcome regularly, leads to stronger decision-making capabilities and responsibility in the long run.

Education must integrate known best practise programmes/ teaching strategies:

Progressive global research in all areas of learning has resulted in many high quality, enriching, exciting and challenging teaching programmes in numeracy, literacy, sciences and other fields. Assessments for, of and as learning need thoughtful integration and much work on this has been done globally to ensure objective qualitative and quantitative monitoring and reporting. The use of technology for teaching and for learning exists around the world, with available guidance on the right way and place for integration. There is also the right use of time and space to optimise learning through learning cycles, learning environment planning, flexible timetabling for self directed learning and so much else. Using existing knowledge coupled with teacher training substantially raises learning standards (taking curriculum quality, planning and tools off the table) while simplifying the teaching/learning process. Fixing the what of the programme leaves teachers free to think and focus on the how - how every child can best achieve the impact of desired learning.

Education must meet the guidance of NEP2020

The growing demand for schools over the last few decades has made Indian education system mechanical; all we talk about is the IIT’s, and the coaching culture that encourages. This culture pervades all school years and tutoring is an accepted routine in school life. COVID has only exacerbated this corruption as evident in the growth of online tutoring companies. Schools are not ed-tech, and ed-tech is not school. The low level equilibrium of our education system that makes room for all this, has to change, with schools questioning their purpose. The new National Education Policy (NEP2020) recognizes the importance of learning that is developmentally appropriate, skills focused, and multidisciplinary. It recognizes the need for foundational literacy and numeracy, along with exploration and relationships in the first 6 years of formal education. From Grade 3 and beyond, the policy provides guidance that is logical, implementable, research based and age appropriate. The skill building and multidisciplinary approach for the upper primary grades and middle school, lays the path, for a highschool programme based on vast subject choices. The emphasis is on 21st century skills like critical thinking, inquiry, analysis, collaboration, communication, problem solving but it also removes walls between arts and sciences, integrating scientific and mathematical thinking with humanities, to create education that is multidisciplinary, working towards ‘how to think’ instead of ‘what to think’, building what our PM in his address called ‘bacchon ki Neev’ (the foundation for children). In conception NEP is a fantastic step forward, especially the focus on EY and primary education. What children lose there they never catch up on. But the vast resources it needs for implementation, and the time the teacher training change will take to make an impact is a challenge we all need to work together to meet.