Every year, thousands of students cross the thresholds laid by our educational system, armed with the best possible resources and guidance, to score the most in examinations that supposedly test their learning for the year. Toppers receive laurels for their high percentages, teachers are applauded, and schools proudly declare their standing, as the rest applaud and gape at the seemingly unachievable, exceptional performances. The average students are pushed to pace up, while parents and schools leave no stone unturned, to ensure children receive the best of education. Laptops replace notebooks, digital media makes its way into classrooms, and typical benches are replaced with discussion tables. Subject matter seeps beyond textbooks, into the internet and libraries, home work demand more attention, and education in general, becomes no child’s play, but a well-executed strategy to ensure student success. However, in the midst of it all, we forget to ask the most important questions – Are students really benefiting from it all? Does technology ensure transformation? Garbed in modernization and a few visible changes, are we still passing on the age old thinking process and education to our students? Are we giving the space and freedom to our students, to think and decide for themselves?
Study of The Education System
In the Programme for International Student Assessment held in 2012, with 75 countries as participants, India stood 74th in place! Ironic for a country obsessed with toppers, to stand next to last. This score is enough to jolt us out of the misconception that Indian Educational System is changing. There’s no denying that the system is modernizing, but it has a long way ahead, to meet the actual alarming needs of transformation. The need for academic success is so deep rooted in the country, that the competitive education system focuses more on tangible scores that reflect the same, instead of independent learning. When compared to the educational system in countries such as Sweden, Singapore and South Korea, India has a long way to go, and modernization alone will not get us there. The problems are deep rooted, and therefore, the changes we make, must also impale deep into the core of the system.
The Changing Trends
From times immemorial, our students are taught “A for Apple, B for Ball”…so much that it has become the first step of learning, as amateur students step into the learning world, rhythmically repeating these words. The student that gets A to Z perfectly, scores the highest, but what about the kid that may have a few misses, but is probably great at identifying the names of things he comes across in real life, with the alphabet they begin with? Unfortunately, this fixed teaching and learning methodology, doesn’t end with the primary classes. Further up the levels, more concentration is laid on learning to score, rather than learning to succeed. Like sheep in a herd, from the very first class, we teach our students what to learn, how to learn, without leaving enough space to actually get into the depth of learning, and to let students think independently. We hand hold our students all through the years, not just teaching them what and how to think, but also indirectly laying out the rules for success, eventually turning the education system into an engineer-doctor factory.
The Modern Classroom System and Schools
There’s no denying that schools all over, have taken up vast measures to modernize education, but this modernization, is unfortunately applied to the same surface level learning that is in need for dire change. Schools have now started to adopt ERP digitals, but this too remains at the school level, leaving no scope for use by teachers and students. Replacing blackboards with screens, would bring no difference, as long as we continue to restrict our students to the same comfort zones of subject matter, questions and examinations. With the advent of technology in classrooms, there is no lack of content, but without curation, the overflow of content eventually ends up doing more harm than good. It’s not just the classroom system that needs to change, but also the very approaches adopted in classrooms. For example, the traditional one size fits all teaching methodology, is the biggest drawback in the system. Very few schools take into consideration, that different students have different learning styles, and teaching methodologies must be customized accordingly. Forcing a common pedagogy irrespective of the learning style, is just one among the several alarming signals, that we need to take a serious look at not just what we teach, but how we teach as well. While much hullabaloo is made about student development, hardly any discussions take place on teacher’s professional development. How do we expect the best to be delivered to students, when we don’t lay equal emphasis on teachers? In the last few years, teaching profession has been witnessing a downfall in takers, with reasons scattered from increased duration of B.Ed, lesser perks and benefits, limited growth and challenges. Teaching is eventually turning into a mere job, and not the esteemed medium of educating as it was meant to, and should be. The ones in the field too, do not often get the resources and opportunities to learn and grow. Technology is introduced into the classrooms, but stay far from the doors of staffrooms, leaving an excellent empowerment tool for teachers untouched. If automated, time taking processes that teachers indulge in, could make way for teachers to use their time effectively, eventually benefitting students. No amount of technological intervention will be fruitful, when psychological aspects such as self-efficacy, grit, growth mentality, and empathy are ignored. Even today, creativity is brushed aside, instead of being effectively utilized to merge with learning. Despite a plethora of teaching methodologies being adopted worldwide, we tend to stick to the limited age old ones. Student centered learning is the need of the hour, yet innovative and effective mythologies like flipped learning, experiential learning, differentiated learning, integrated learning and multisensory learning, are not commonly adopted. Teachers must look beyond fixed curriculum and schedule, and aim to explore more deep learning and higher order thinking strategies.
Understanding the Human Mind
The brain is just like a muscle, and with the right approach, can be wired for progress and success. We need to teach our students to critically think beyond the apparent, jolting their conscious and subconscious minds, for lifelong learning. Mere introduction of technology into the system, and effectively applying and utilizing it, may as well mean the difference between a stagnant system of education and a dynamic one. By using artificial intelligence, schools can also pave way for enriched understanding of each student’s mind, assist teachers to cater to student needs in the best way possible, create better workflows, ease transitions and provide better coordination amongst everyone involved in the learning system, paving way for more clear paths ahead, doing away with the much trodden, outdated ones.
In a nutshell, Indian Education System, no matter how modernized, is still in the need for transformation. A better understanding of student learning, effectively combined with innovative pedagogies, constant teachers’ professional development and the right application and automation of technology, and artificial intelligence, could well be the elixir it is in need of.