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Rooting for Educational Philosophy!

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By Roli S

A lot is being discussed, debated, scrutinised, accepted and rejected about the NEP 2020, about NCERT and its textbooks modifications, etc., in some parts of the country. There is no harm in frank debates and discussions because at the end of the day the conclusions should be in the larger interest of the school and college-going students of our country. I have closely looked at the main principles given in the NEP 2020 and, in essence, they reflect the basics of what is believed to be the best way to inspire learning in the young population anywhere in the world. In other words, they revisit and refine the basic philosophy and objectives of education. Let me once again bring to the fore the principles given in the National Education Policy 2020 quickly here: recognising, identifying, and fostering the unique capabilities of each student; flexibility, so that learners have the ability to choose their learning trajectories and programmes, and thereby choose their own paths in life according to their talents and interests; giving the highest priority to achieving Foundational Literacy and Numeracy in all students by Grade 3; no hard separations between arts and sciences, between curricular and extra-curricular activities, between vocational and academic streams; multidisciplinary and a holistic education across the sciences, social sciences, arts, humanities, and sports; emphasis on conceptual understanding rather than rote learning; creativity and critical thinking to encourage logical decision-making and innovation; extensive use of technology in teaching and learning, removing language barriers, increasing access for Divyang students, and educational planning and management; ethics and human and constitutional values like empathy, respect for others, cleanliness, courtesy, democratic spirit, spirit of service, respect for public property, scientific temper, liberty, responsibility, pluralism, equality, and justice; life skills such as communication, cooperation, teamwork, and resilience; promoting multilingualism and the power of language in teaching and learning; respect for diversity and respect for the local context in all curricula, pedagogy,and policy, always keeping in mind that education is a concurrent subject; focus on regular formative assessment for learning rather than the summative assessment that encourages today’s ‘coaching culture’.

When one gets acquainted with these principles that form the backbone of NEP 2020, one gets a very clear idea that the policy has all basic educational objectives needed to educate and nurture the human resource of the nation in the right place. There is not one principle that can be contested, in my opinion.

If we tune out the textbooks and curriculum debate for some time, we will come to realise that it is, in fact, the education philosophy that a particular school adopts, irrespective of the state, region, district setting that will determine the learning experience students are going to get in that school more than any textbook. There are a few students’ centric philosophical points I would like to mention that would help teachers make better sense of NEP 2020, its objectives and the relevance of textbooks, etc.

As a first point I would like to assert that having access to knowledge resources in the form of rich libraries and ICT environment is as important to a child’s education as the actual curriculum content. Relevant and current information must be at the teachers’ and students’ fingertips to provide them with answers when the questions are still fresh. Information “on demand” is more valuable than outdated information stored in resources.

Then the education philosophy must point in the direction of what students want and need to learn. An educator’s primary job should be to fulfill that primary need for learning by creating engaging and relevant learning experiences every day. The greatest gift a teacher can give students is motivating them to experience repeated learning success.

Relevant and purposeful activities designed to enhance student’s knowledge and skills, and leave her or him wanting to learn more, should be the tenet and teachers should be strongly aligned with student-centered and student-directed learning that embraces exploration, discovery, experiential learning, and the production of academically rigorous products.

The logic and philosophy that guide any assessment process in schools should be that collection of data on student performance must adjust the learning environment and instruction so that students’ learning needs can be targeted. Baseline tests must be conducted to find a starting point for learning and summative tests to determine the students’ increase in performance level and teachers’ effectiveness. This way, examinations become a collective responsibility of students and teachers.

A school;s philosophy of education would be incomplete if there were no robust lesson plans that could evaluate student learning. To create an exciting learning environment that makes it difficult for students to not learn should be the philosophy and ideology of schools. A teacher should know how to include all students in learning at their own level, and a teacher should be able to inspire the students towards higher goals.

Progressive textbooks and curriculum are needed but the debates, very importantly, should also revolve around what is more important. The quality of teaching and teachers in all small and big schools should also be debated across forums. Teachers must have skills and strategies to be able to work effectively in the different levels of the cognitive domains of students and they should make students aware of their own learning preferences. Teachers should assist with creating lesson plans to develop other learning skills. Educational tools are a means to an end. For example, technology used appropriately can greatly magnify the students’ capacity to learn and the teachers’ capacity to teach, inspire and motivate.

Every person has two educations, one which they receive from others, and one, more important, which they give to themselves. I hope that the educational philosophy of every school has the knowledge of this fundamental truth.

(Roli S is an Educator, Teacher Trainer, Author and School Reviewer based in Thane)