Re–imagining the school education in India

Re–imagining the school education in India

Synopsis:  We need to reimagine our school education system to ensure quality education for all and to make India a knowledgeable super power. 

Background:  

    • Currently, the school as an institution has been criticised by many experts for turning into caged jails, for being run like factories, functioning like corporate enterprises and for forcing the curriculum into the child. 
    • In this backdrop, we will evaluate how the school system has been envisaged by great personalities, what are the drawbacks in our present schooling system and how we need to improve it to make school education inclusive, knowledgeable and as an institution for self-discovery. 

How the school system has been envisaged by great personalities? 

Progressive thinkers have always envisioned “free schools” for children. They always believed that school should be made to fit the child rather than the other way round. For example, 

    • Leo Tolstoy (Russian Novelist) himself founded a school for the children of poor peasants at his home (Yasnaya Polyana) without any strict schedule, homework or physical punishment. 
    • Maria Montessori (The first Italian woman to become a doctor) educational philosophy too emphasised on children’s freedom and choice.  
    • Rabindranath Tagore in his classical tale The Parrot’s Training (Totaakahini) has vehemently criticised the rote learning method followed in the Indian school system. 

What are the issues with government schools in India? 

Government schools in India faces the following challenges, 

    • Firstly, the poor Infrastructure in government schools leading to instances such as roof collapse. 
    • Second, lack of effective governance and monitoring. For example, Children’s falling sick after consuming mid-day meals.  
    • Third, there is a deep segregation of school systems in India, ignoring the 1966 Kothari Education Commission’s recommendation for a common school system. 
    • Fourth, existing inequality among children’s due to widening digital divide, the poor do not have access to mobiles, laptops and internet connectivity. 
    • Fifth, lack of political will to strengthen the government schools in India which can be understood from the point that government is pushing towards privatisation by handing over land and managements to private organisations. 

What needs to be done? 

We need to improve on the following areas to provide a healthy education to our younger generation. 

    • Firstly, we need to improve the schooling infrastructure by providing Clean toilets, drinking water, library, a tinkering lab, and a playground. 
    • Second, we need to think on having classes with mixed age groups instead of segregating children by age. This will allow children to learn at their own pace and make learning a fun activity. For example, David Horsburgh’s Neel Bagh School in Kolar, Karnataka, Here, Children’s could study Class V Telugu, Class III English and Class VII math all at the same time. 
    • Third, we need to identify the champions from within the government system and use them as effective resource people. This will surely motivate many teachers to perform better and achieve excellence. 
    • Fourth, government needs to cooperates with best NGO’s like PRATHAM to bring in best practices from all over the country. 
    • Fifth, we need to envision a plan to bring tens of thousands of retired professionals as teachers as they will bring years of practical experience to learning. 
    • Sixth, as we reimagine the school system, we must strive to bring more neighbourhood learning spaces as places for community learning. This can be done by utilising community halls in large housing societies and by creating an “activities centre” in each housing society. 
    • Seventh, we need to build a free archive for Indian languages such as archive.org where nearly 1.5 million people log in every day. The recent announcement by the government that it will buy bulk subscriptions of scientific journals to make them accessible for all is a step in the right direction. 
    • Lastly, we need to reimplement the success of Delhi government schools throughout India where government schools have become better than private ones by improving infrastructure (no stinky toilets), giving dignity to teachers, constituting school management committees and by involving many good NGOs for innovating learning methods 

We need to reimagine our school as a place where children with different backgrounds class, caste, religions, abilities can study together and learn to care and empathise. They should also be trained to excel in soft skills such as cooperation, group work, compassion, human dignity and plurality of opinions.

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