Issue :   
April 2018 Edition of Power Politics is updated.         April 2018 Edition of Power Politics is updated.
Issue:Apr' 2018


Between slashing of courses and high standards

M. R. Dua

Yash Pal Splashing a broad smile, Union Human Resource Development Minister Prakash Javadekar observed recently (February 24 last) in a television interview that most of our school students from class 1 to 12, were heavily overburdened with large, elaborate course curriculum, and that they rarely found time to relax, or straighten on the sports field.
He strongly advocated that the students' study loads need to be 'trimmed, with a view to giving them full freedom to develop and learn life's other skills.
Some years earlier, the committee, headed by a reputed scientist and former chairman of the University Grants Commission, Dr. Yash Pal, had also recommended that classroom teaching should concentrate on providing basic knowledge, and not rote learning or mugging of theories and theorems.
Many academics contend that the teachers aren't the only source of total student learning-inputs. The fact is that heavy study curricula does cast immense pressure on young learners' mind, causing intense loss of creativity, even protracted dent in curiosity .
Stress and anxiety do take a heavy toll of students' ability to stand up to exams pressures. A study in Gurgaon's 119 government school blocks has recently found that at least 65 per cent students (the 33,660-student sample comprised 14,467 boys, and 19,193 girls) are severely afflicted by stress and strain. (Of those surveyed were 57 per cent girls and 43 per cent boys).

K. Kasturirangan Though there're very few alternatives to measure or fathom students' learning outcomes, too much emphasis on test scores kills their initiatives and urges to learn. If a student fails to achieve certain scores, he's damned. The MHRD-appointed ninemember committee headed by Dr. K. Kasturirangan, former ISRO chief, to structure a new education policy, and revise Board curricula has been tasked 'to focus on experiential learning, with a problem-solving approach, reducing physical burden of books, and to abhoring mentally rote learning.In the new course regime, it is proposed that teachers should have more time to monitor students' learning, i.e.,'to ensure minimum level of expected learning.'

The standard measures and quantum of what constitutes 'minimum levels of expected learning' of students would be developed and determined by academic researchers and subject to scrutiny of experts of the National Council for Educational Research and Training (NCERT) for each class subject—English, mathematics, Hindi, physics, social studies, etc. Prime Minister Narendra Modi's booklet entitled 'Exam Warriors' also narrates steps to mitigate related worries.

A. Lakshmanaswami Mudaliar The Union HRD ministry has asked the NCERT to 'trim' the present course content by 50 per cent for 'introducing an integrated curriculum' that should comprise sports, vocational crafts and yoga along with adequate academic output 'for ensuring a holistic approach to the development of students.' This could be achieved by segregating academics, sports and extracurricular activities—all to be allotted equal weightage and given equitable importance for overall learning outcomes.

Nandan Nilkeni Over half a century ago, the A. Lakshmanaswamy Mudaliar Committee, had also made identical recommendations. It suggested that curricula should include crafts: spinning and weaving, woodwork, metal work, tailoring, gardening, modelling, embroidery, sewing and needle work, typography, workshop training. The academic streams proposed were: languages, humanities, social studies, sciences, fine arts, agriculture, home science, and commercial practices. These are almost the same suggestions now being proposed by MHRD.
It needs to be appreciated that it's only the 'learner-centric' approach that will make a difference if the schoolgoers have to be saved from stress and strain.
Nandan Nilkeni, the former chairman of the Unique Identification Authority (the Aadhar Card originator), and current chairman of Infosys, opines: 'Instead of looking at just solutions, we need to build infrastructure which distributes the ability to solve problems, which increases the agency of the teacher, the learner, the parent, the school, in solving the problems of learning in their specific and varied contexts.'
Incidentally,the 2018-19 budget has made ample allocations for improving the quality of education, the national aspirational skills centre, research and skilling, artificial intelligence; block chain for digital economy and numerous other allied areas. The Rs.1-lakh crore provision for the projects, entitled Revitalizing Infrastructure and Systems in Education by 2022, (RISE), and Eklavya schools in tribal areas are some of the moot proposals that should make a difference in the school education scenario in times to come.
Finally, it's time for academics and education administrators to remember that the future educational horizons—both streams of learning and knowledge and their contents and contours-- are bound to be shaped and manipulated by meteorically changing technologies.
And these technologies will profusely prescribe and limit what the future generations of learners need to be equipped with to play a meaningful role in 'developing and nurturing' the future learners' choices, preferences and priorities. These are herculean tasks, indeed.