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The pandemic highlighted the shortcomings of our school education system that is more focused on rote learning. This system pays very low regard to the creativity and mental wellbeing of children. The government tried to cope up with the pandemic by focusing on digital education but failed to deliver the desired results.
The issue has again come in news after the government’s directive to cancel the class 10th board examination and postpone the class 12th examination. Revamping the education system is an essential condition for delivering an inclusive, sustainable, and quality education for every citizen.
Current Scenario of School education system
- The rising Covid-19 cases and the onset of the second wave in India induced many activists and parents to demand the cancellation of exams.
- This created pressure on the government. Finally, the government canceled Class X Boards and the postponed Class XII Board in 25000 CBSE affiliated schools.
- The government is again focusing on the same steps as it did in 2020 i.e. sustaining the education system through the online mode.
Government steps to improve the online education system
- The government used various means such as text/video/audio content through SMS, WhatsApp, radio, and TV programs to reach out to students and engage them.
- Further, the government also used various free e-learning platforms to deliver education. This includes,
- Diksha portal: It contains e-learning content aligned to the curriculum.
- e-Pathshala: It is an app by the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) for Classes 1 to 12 in multiple languages
- SWAYAM: It consists of 1,900 complete courses including teaching videos, computer weekly assignments, examinations, and credit transfers. It caters to both school and higher education.
- SWAYAM Prabha: It is a group of 32 direct-to-home channels devoted to the telecasting of educational programmes.
Challenges with online education system
- Millions out of the education network: As many don’t have access to digital devices like mobile phones and internet routers. Further, a study points out that inability to attend online school was the biggest challenge girls faced.
- It also disrupts the significant school programmes that enhance enrolment levels like the Mid-Day meal scheme.
- Neglect of Child emotions: Children in the pandemic are undergoing emotional turmoil due to reduced peer to peer interactions, confinement in homes and enhanced grip of adults on the lives of children. These all impact the child’s basic emotions.
- Poor Learning Outcomes: Teachers lack the skill and expertise to impart digital education. Similarly, children copy from textbooks during their exams as there is a shortage of invigilating software programs to check malpractice.
- A study by Azim Premji university estimates that 92% of students from Classes II to VI have lost at least one specific foundational ability in languages.
- Neglect of physical and mental well-being: Excessive focus on academic learning reduced the focus on physical fitness through sports and mental well-being through moral education.
- Mismatch with Industrial requirements: India Skills Report 2021 estimates that only 45.9% of Indian youth possess sufficient employability skills. Online learning will further affect the employability of students. This shows lacunae in the quality of the higher education curriculum.
- Appeasement Tools: Imparting education through a digital medium is just an appeasement policy that doesn’t cure the real problem in the education system.
Causes for these challenges in school education system
- Excessive focus on rote learning: The curriculum tries to encourage memorisation of text rather than cultivating a conceptual understanding of issues. To cater for the changing needs of online education, the government did not modify the rote learning education curriculum. Instead, the government continued with the same syllabus in an online way.
- Exams define intelligence: The system equated passing of exams with a student’s intelligence level. Online education also places excessive focus on completing the exam cycle and giving multiple exams.
- Discourages Creativity: Parents and teachers want to see children as doctors, engineers, bureaucrats etc. Children are rarely encouraged to become writers, artists or adopt any other vocational skill.
- Myopic View of Education: The focus of online education also tuned solely on syllabus completion. Thus, the education neglected other key elements like peer interaction, physical fitness, moral education etc.
- Digital Vulnerability: The digital systems of many schools and universities are using obsolete technology. This makes them prone to greater connectivity and security issues
- Greater hardships for the teachers: The school/college administrators failed to assess the mental health of teachers and non-teaching staff. They were forced to deliver regular lectures irrespective of their online teaching skills.
- Not considerable as a permanent option- Despite the high momentum, online options are still not considered permanent alternatives to classrooms.
Suggestions to improve school education system
- The government should adopt a new system of education that is fair, robust, and removes the dependency on time-tabled exams. It must focus on unleashing the creative potential and imparting greater resilience in children.
- In this regard, there must be a prudent implementation of National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 that aims to achieve this purpose.
- There has to be a bridge between higher education institutions and schools to ensure a seamless movement into tertiary learning.
- For this, the government need to review the higher education entrance exams and make necessary changes as per the new learning of this century.
- Further, the focus must be on imparting new-age skills like Big Data Analytics, Artificial intelligence, Digital Marketing etc. This will improve the employability potential of students.
- Schools should adopt novel methods of teaching. For instance, other states might adopt the Delhi government’s happiness curriculum for improving the mental well-being of students.
- The assessment of students must be based on an integrated approach rather than mere textbook exams. Under this weightage should be given to indicators like peer interaction, curiosity potential, creativity acumen etc.
- The bureaucracy must recognise that universities and schools have their own academic considerations. They must refrain from standardising academic requirements, calendars and learning processes.
- Finally, to implement all these measures we need to support the education sector with adequate budgetary resources. Hence, it is important to increase the share of education to 6% of GDP as envisaged by NEP 2020.
India has an opportunity to reimagine and modernise learning in order to combat future uncertainties. It must adopt a multi-step strategy for a more equitable and resilient educational system thereby coming closer to the realisation of SDG -4 (Providing Quality Education).