Today's Editorial

08 March 2018

India needs a new education system

Source: By Jagdeep S More: The Statesman

Amongst the civilizations of the world, India has always been a torchbearer. History has been the witness of our rich education system. This rationality of Indian thought produced just and lawful rulers. We propounded the ‘Gyan Yoga’ school of thought and paved the way for the philosophy of unification with the almighty through knowledge. ‘Gyan’ which according to our ancient scriptures is considered as the highest virtue is not confined to bookish knowledge but is the amalgamation of knowledge, wisdom, values and Dharma.

India had always been the land of gaining enlightenment through knowledge. We promoted the world’s greatest universities when half of the planet was under the darkness of barbarism. These universities are showering knowledge on not only the natives but to the foreigners as well. The recent news of excavation of another university named Vikramshila at Telhara near Nalanda glorifies the rich past of our nation. Telhara was visited by Chinese traveler Hsuen Tsang in the 7th century A.D., and it was mentioned as “Teleadaka” in his account. These institutions were ransacked and destroyed by rulers of the Mamluk Dynasty gradually taking India into darkness. With the advent of the British Raj in India, the ancient education system got the last nail in the coffin.

Since independence, we have failed to carve out an education policy for ourselves. Numerous commissions have been set up for this purpose but failed to deliver a policy to take the entire nation in their purview. From elementary education to research and development, the chains are all broken. The state has failed to produce even a single university to feature in the world’s top twenty. The school education is amongst the worst of sufferers. There is no state-run school in India known internationally. Only a handful of institutions have progressed, that too with private aid and support.

Educationalists are of the view that we are currently in the third phase of the education system. Education sector comprises of three vertices i.e. teacher, syllabus (subject) and student. The first phase of education had its focus on the ‘guru’ (teacher). The teacher had autonomy to decide the time, place and domain of education. Neither the subject nor the student had any predomination. It was the teacher who enjoyed prestige and power. Ancient Gurukuls are the examples of this system of education.

The second phase shifted the limelight to the syllabus (subject). Neither the teacher nor the student enjoyed any privilege. There would be a fixed syllabus for each subject. Markets were flooded with guides and help-books. Even if there was no teacher, one could manage to pass the examination. All those above thirty years of age are the products of this system.

Phase three commenced about a decade and half ago where the focus shifted to the student. Now the student has become the focal point of the education system. Neither the teacher nor the subject enjoys any prerogative. With over a decade of practising this system, the teachers and students have been conditioned accordingly. Private schools have gradually become pampering agents rather than agents of education. Continuous feeding of undue attention since childhood has made students attention seekers even at senior secondary levels. There is a huge paradox between the proposed moral values and actual practices. Being a teacher, particularly in a private school, in today’s employment pyramid is seen at the bottom. The respect this profession used to command has been lost.

Degradation of values among students did not happen overnight but is the outcome of the silent churning in society that has occurred over a period of time due to the gradual decay of the fabric of the education system. Private schools play host to teachers drawing salaries ranging from as low as a thousand to ten thousand rupees which is less than even a government fourth-class employee.

The Finance Minister proposed an increase in education expenditure in this year’s budget speech. He even talked about reforming the sector by introducing new schemes like in-service teacher’s training, setting up Ekalavya Model Residential schools and instituting “Revitalising Infrastructure and Systems in Education (RISE) by 2022”. This is a positive step but it’s not enough; our education system needs a complete overhaul.

In order to refurbish the education system, some immediate steps need to be taken by the government. First of all, government should announce a uniform pay system across the country for all school teachers, both public and private. The education boards should monitor this and dereliction should be liable to fine and even loss of affiliation. This will attract the best young minds towards this profession and will help it regain lost ground. This single step will bring uniformity in fees and will bridge the unhealthy gap of school rankings.

Secondly, the state should allow professionals like engineers, management degree holders, chartered accountants, doctors, national level sportspersons and lawyers etc. to teach in schools. This will not only open new employment opportunities for them but also help in building quality of education. The students at senior secondary level will draw immense advantage both in terms of knowledge and career counselling. These professionals will also inspire them to chase the best career graph in life.

The government should implement the recommendations of the Subramanian Committee on new education policy. An Indian Education Service (IES) should be established as an all India service with officers is being on permanent settlement to the state governments but with cadre control vesting with the Human Resource Development (HRD) ministry. The outlay on education should be raised to at least 6 per cent of GDP without further loss of time. Licensing or certification for teachers in government and private schools should be made mandatory, with provision for renewal every 10 years based on independent external testing.On-demand board exams should be introduced to offer flexibility and reduce year-end stress of students and parents.

A national level test open to every student who has completed class XII from any school board should be designed. Top 200 foreign universities/schools should be allowed to open campuses in India and give the same degree/certificate which is acceptable in the home country of the institution. In this upcoming age of artificial intelligence, we need teachers equipped with such technological expertise, more importantly equipped with the mental make-up to learn the ever-changing intricacies of education. The need of the hour is to make the education sector alluring for today’s youth entering the market as a precious human resource. “The future of the country is in what lies in my classroom today.”



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