By ROLI S
It has been some time since the National Education Policy came into prominence and became the subject of much discussion. I remember writing an article in GP when the National Education Policy was newly introduced, with the title – ‘Menu is Impressive but Where is the Recipe?’ The menu still remains impressive and for the last two years many recipes are being formulated to serve a delicious and useful platter of knowledge experience to the students and parents of this great nation.
What I have noticed mostly is that people either declare the whole education system and the new education policy as a totally gone case or they weave unrealistic fairy tales of hope and progress. Even I have found myself oscillating between the two sentiments often.
Most of the time, the reaction that I get from teachers is – ‘We know about the problems, give us some concrete solutions please.’ Teachers are made the punching bags and they keep receiving deadly punches from school leaderships, the administration and parents. Whereas, in my opinion, the clear cut, well defined and measured solutions to the problems must come from the principals, administrators and parents. Teachers should only act on those SMART solutions. Remember what SMART stands for? Yes, it stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timebound solutions. Solutions that are good for the students, the schools and the nation, and these solutions must come from the principals of the schools.
Often the problems or issues that make the rounds about the schooling system of India are more or less the same. There is too much syllabus, there are too many activities, there is no encouragement provided to innovative and imaginative thinking. There is too much emphasis on marks in the board exams. Students do not develop love for learning and reading. Students are not interested in day-to-day happenings in their community and simple things around them. They do not develop love for their roots and culture. They are becoming more undisciplined and distract easily because of technology invading their lives. They are not interested in history or philosophy, so on and so forth.
Schools are graded according to the performance in the board examinations and not on aspects like their involvement in developing innovative curriculum or the issues of community. Nor their representation in the field of arts and sports, their role in solving an environmental issue or redeeming a social condition.
Teachers in the schools are so overworked and so underpaid that they have lost the will to learn and improve.
Most schools are crying for help and are like rudderless boats in the fast-flowing stream, looking for ways. Who does not know this? We all know it. Right? Wrong. In fact, schools get a lot of help and this help that comes their way from the National Boards like CBSE, ICSE, etc., but is too much for them to handle. I am often told by my friends who are teachers and principals in reputed schools that we keep completing the tasks sent to us by the board in their circulars and we keep struggling to meet the deadlines for various activities set by the boards that we have no time left to think about anything else but do just that.
That leaves me thinking, are the instructions coming from the Education Boards too interruptive or intrusive? Are they not SMART goals? Because Principals take a very convenient route, ‘Follow the Instructions of The Education Boards’. Has the Education Board every thought of grading schools and principals on the basis of most imaginative, innovative, significant and unique curriculum for the school?
All this exercise of analysing the school system and its loopholes has left me heartbroken. As I think of all the Sundar Pichais and Satya Nadelas and the likes that have come out of the same system and the Indian Education system for decades has been boasting and basking in the glory of the few. How has the system benefitted an average youth of this country and in turn has benefitted the nation in the field of research and innovation is a big question mark that needs to be answered by all of us who wish well for the Indian education system and the country.
The objectives laid down by the National Education Policy, especially for K-12 schools, are clear and well defined. If at all schools want to find real solutions to the never-ending problems, they can start working on the first point of the educational objective of the NEP 2020.
Recognising, identifying, and fostering the unique capabilities of each student, by sensitising teachers as well as parents to promote each student’s holistic development in both academic and non-academic spheres.
I developed interest in Multiple Intelligences by Dr Howard Gardner some fifteen years ago and since have continued to generate awareness about the same in my own limited way. This, because my classroom teaching experiences left me with a feeling that, as a teacher, I was not doing justice to the potential of all my students. Especially on Open Days looking at the sorry, unhappy faces of parents whose wards had not secured good marks, I desperately wanted a solution that would make me capable of recognising the true potential of each child and, to some extent I found it when during the course of my work I came across the Multiple Intelligences Theory. I have done my own reading and found out about Learning Styles, VAK, etc. In fact, I realised that whichever learning or intelligences theory schools follow, the end goal should be to make the child,’ a winner’. I have found that the suggestions given by the Indian educationists of the past are very valid and significant. In fact, Sri Aurobindo had often mentioned in his essays that, if we do not know very clearly what education in general truly is or should be then it means we know very little about what national education must be. A national education must be nationalising, upgrading, and enriching to the national, mind, soul and character and, to achieve this, recognising, identifying, and fostering the unique capabilities of each student and sensitising teachers and parents to promote holistic development of students in both academic and non-academic spheres is vital. The same is given as the first objective of the National Education Policy 2020.
It is now high time that each school develops it’s a unique database of its student population and their unique potentials and opt for some innovative ways to run the school. Employing a greater number of teachers, following personalised and differentiated instructions, establishing hybrid school schedules, adopting blended approach to learning and making each school a unique school, which thrives on its local resources, culture and flavours while remaining connected and being appreciativeof the global mindset and universal good values must be the goal of the school leadership. Just by being a little enterprising and thinking out of the box the schools will be able to meet the goals of the National Education Policy and by doing so churn out skilled and a wide variety of talents from their school.
I hope in the future we will have schools that will have teachers who do not impart only knowledge to the students but also show them how to acquire knowledge for themselves. We will have teachers who do not call forth the knowledge that is within but show students where the knowledge lies and how it can be habituated to rise to the surface.
To begin with, isn’t it the way forward for all the teachers to learn and empower themselves in the ways that would enable them to get maximum output from their students with minimum and quality input coming from their side? If only there is a will there will be a way.
(Roli S is an Educator, Teacher Trainer, Author and School Reviewer based in Thane.)