Ananya S Guha
Can we think of a composite system of education instead of fragmenting it? This will radicalise educational systems. It is true that school provides basic education. But is it an absolute necessity that one must compulsively pursue what is called higher education? In other words, a degree must preclude employment opportunities! What if we lay a solid foundation till the K 12 level integrating education with basic foundations of language, science, social sciences with core competences in skills such as verbal and written, aesthetics such as media and films and also technical vocational education such as design, crafts and say the more rudimentary but necessary in the unorganised sectors, such as repairing of equipments to cite an example. We need education which is holistic at these levels keeping in mind basic employability potential. At the same time we need to narrow the degree bias or obsession and at the intermediary level prior to joining collegiate or university education there is a necessity to introduce also short term diploma and courses of certification. This can either be integrated with school education or could be an alternate extension of it.
Education is mediated. It mediates between the world of work and the world of learning. In that sense it is a continuing and continuous process but the basics, the foundations have to be well grounded in school education. The continuity or the higher echelons of learning can come as a choice driven by academic and research interests. Adult learning is an imperative but it may not always be compulsory. The fetish to pursue a degree or a masters degree can be obviated if at the college level advanced diplomas are introduced which are of quality and exceptional standards. This will also impede the growth of private universities and coaching classes. A diploma or certification skills will stand on their own right, not meant to be compared to a degree, with employability in mind.
Unless we radicalise our views on education there will be no change or innovation in a system. The rat race for hundred percent marks will continue. At the school level more emphasis should be given to aesthetic vocational skills such as music and performing arts. We have created hierarchies in the system, preferences egregiously given to science and commerce students in the battle for wits. This is misplaced. Intelligence varies according to sensibilities and the spirit of communication and its aesthetics.
Again in school education we can have home schooling a kind of adjunct to distance and open learning. Our methodologies must be clear, not only our pedagogies. Anyway we have not evinced much change from the learning by rote method.
Radicalising education is all about aptitude markers. What the student feels, knows and wants- to study. It is essentially learner centric and not so much teacher centric. The teacher is a facilitator and motivator.
Once education is connected to talent and skill then the fear of failing or one time failure will be suitably addressed, by flexibility, giving more time to complete courses. Why only twelve years in school? Make it up to fourteen as an upper limit.
Segregating education as school, college and university is compartmentalising it. Education is a holistic world view not to be learnt in segments. Yes we can have higher echelons of learning but the mismatch between employment and education must go. And this can go by radicalising it, having alternate modes in terms of course content and pedagogy at a solid foundational level at school. Regarding the latter technology must play a vital and catalytic role. We must extend the classroom and create more classrooms vide technological abetment. It is the visual and the aural which appeals to a child’s senses and hands on work to many.
Synergising the classroom with the world of applications is another factor. Some students have cerebral skills, some do not, they have practical skills. In this manner education will be demystified and we will have no student elites.
Once the fundamentals of a solid school education are worked out we can contiguously think of adult and continuing/ professional education.
My point in this essay is that employability, self employability, adjudicating finer senses, giving equal opportunities to the talented must all go into the making of a holistic and robust educational system. Not to create hierarchies and a preferential system. Not to address failures but successes. The latter can be gauged by aptitude and self interest of the learner, also an innate flair for things around her world and her observations. It is sensitivity in education which matters not tautological expressions and commercial iconoclasm. If at all it has to be iconoclastic it has to reshape typical models and introduce atypicality with guts overthrowing inhibitions even of grades and marks. It must impose new challenges from within and without and rework status of courses and the four walls of a classroom.
The fault lines in the education system have led to exploitation in the form of private tuition, coaching classes and capitation fees. School education is the foundation for other continuities of education such as college, university and research education but it must be made self sufficient and autonomous so that choices for the future can be made easily and transition to it is smooth. At the same time it can be made stand alone with particular emphasis on skills and aptitude. Simply making the echelons of education interdependent and hierarchical is to invest education and its bearings a caste and class status. What about those who cannot afford higher education? So structurally, education is a pyramid and those who complete only school education are unwanted. So when we refer to categorisation of education above we mean that the super imposition of educational structures for employment is a myth which must be dispelled and unplugged. Otherwise how do we explain doctoral degree holders working in schools and engineers working in banks? This lopsided aspect has created serious schisms in our learning systems. We must reinvent the process radically. The symbiotic essence of education is undoubtedly important but it must work as a stand-alone method especially after school, 12 plus to generate work and giving an opportunity to alternate between work and education. The world of work and the world of education are intricate layers of connection. Part time or ‘sandwich’ courses must be introduced at collegiate levels in off campus modes initiated by e-learning or technology aided learning.