Reforming the Indian Education System – A Way Ahead….

Indian education system is in dire need of reforms. Equal opportunities need to be provided, weight from mind & shoulders of students need to be removed, examination policy needs a thorough review, major up-gradation required in government schools especially in rural areas, caste & community based reservation system definitely needs a re-look, the fee structure being charged in private schools needs to be brought under control, dependency on costly tutorial classes to clear the competitive exams has to be systematically removed, all schools including the ones in rural/ remote areas got to go digital. The list is long, and a thorough deliberation is required before action worthy solutions are found. But one thing is

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for sure, the Education system needs urgent attention of people in power and time is running out.

Pragmatic reform process requires a deliberation by unbiased minds without any political considerations with only the future of students and the nation remaining the focus of attention.

What is required to be done?

Syllabus. The syllabus requires a thorough revision. The weight on the shoulders of students (in the form of school bags) and on the minds (in the form of exams & grades) has been constantly on the increase over past few years. The content of the textbooks must be reduced. The methodology of imparting education must undergo a change. The syllabus must be divided into ‘must learn’ & ‘could learn’ in terms of importance and students be taught and tested accordingly. Important subjects should be covered in class while online data / videos be provided of ‘could know’ topics to students to learn in their own time.

Exams. Our examination system is the cause of maximum stress in the minds of students. There should not be any exams upto class IXth and for class XIth while for class Xth and XIIth only internal exams be conducted by schools. Boards exams conducted centrally by State Education boards and CBSE/ ICSE to be done away with. This will bring in tremendous financial saving for boards as also save time and effort. Teachers & Parents will certainly raise objections against implementation of such a proposal, but a careful analysis will easily establish that the laborious process of conducting exams has not brought in much change in the quality of students being produced. Let us stop ‘force educating’ and shift the onus of learning to the students; anybody who wants to learn will learn and anybody who does not want to, will not learn under any pressure. Instead of tutoring and mentoring few ‘Arjunas’ the schools should look at finding, encouraging, and developing more ‘Eklavyas’. Focus must shift from ‘testing and grading’ to ‘educating and igniting’ the mind.

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Quality of Schools. The difference in quality of education being imparted in private and government schools can be easily made out. Given the present circumstances a student of Government school cannot or will find it very difficult to compete with a private school student in any competitive exams, given that both have not had the benefit of Tutorial classes. The governments must give due importance to education and make requisite funds available to government schools. It is not difficult to bring in a qualitative change, only a will to do is required. The quality of the teacher matters more than anything else. ‘Training of the trainer’ is the sole responsibility of the management and all-out effort must be made towards achieving this. Most of Government schools specially in rural areas are deficient of teachers, this should not be acceptable at any cost; especially when you are dealing with the future of the nation.

Primary Education. A vast divide exists between private schools and the government schools specially the ones in rural/remote areas. Primary education is the base on which depends the height which a student will attain later in life. The child has to be conditioned to think big and this cannot happen in dingy seepage affected classrooms under the guidance of some uninterested teacher. This area requires immediate attention and improvement; teacher deficiency and adhoc arrangements must be done away with.

Equal Opportunities. Governments must ensure that equal opportunities are provided to students from any background in the field of education. The ‘visible divide’ existing between the rich and the poor, city and villages must be removed. I know it is not easy to accomplish but know for sure that it is not impossible. Certain actions like implementation of Right to Education Act have already being taken by the government and require a greater push.

Reservations. Reservation, based on caste, creed, race, income in professional institutes has been a bone of contention since years. Reservation which was started in 1951 as a 10 years package for upliftment of certain class of citizens was very much a need then. But instead of seeing an end, it has gone on and now includes many more classes and castes in its fold with total reservation being 59.5 %. It has seemingly become more of an appeasement tool for all political parties. If reservation was the best method for upliftment of any caste or class, then why it has not succeeded till now in achieving the aim? It only creates further divide among citizens; there are students belonging to so called ‘upper classes’ studying in government schools, having no access to high standard resources being from rural areas or lower income group (not covered under economically backward sections) families and don’t qualify for any reservations too. It is well understood that reservation cannot and should not be abolished in a hurry, it has to be a gradual well thought out process. Reservation based on caste or class has never benefitted anyone, what is required are equal opportunities and a level playing field to compete.

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Governments must undertake the undermentioned measures to provide a level playing field for all to compete.

(a) Free education to all ‘backward’ class and rural students in government schools. Implement Right to Education Act ruthlessly.

(b) Improve the quality of education in government schools.

(c) Ensure subsidised coaching facilities to backward class & rural students in renowned coaching classes in cities.

(d) Open Government run coaching classes for backward class & rural, students. Quality of educators has to be ensured. Students should be selected for these classes based on their performance in schools.

(e) Admissions in all colleges to be based on entrance exams so that only desirous candidates join.

(f) More Poly-technique colleges and facilities for earning professional diplomas be opened. Quality must be ensured in such institutes.

(g) Graduation should not be essential for all Class A jobs. Certain diplomas should also be made eligible. This will reduce the mad rush for college admission to an extent.

(h) Psychological counselling/ conditioning should be made compulsory for all students from VIII standard to build their mental strength and shape them towards a better future.

(j) Once adequate measures to provide level playing field in competitive exams have been institutionalised then gradually the process of reducing reservations should come into effect. A start can be made by raising the ‘cut off’ marks laid down for reserved category students for admissions. Any reserved category seat left vacant due to non-availability of suitable candidates must be offered to general category candidate.

Fee Structure. While it is understood that Government must not interfere in every issue but in matter of education, which is a right of every child, it must. The fee being charged by private schools must be governed by a legislation and they should not be allowed to charge whatever they want, at will. Commercialisation of education should be curbed at all costs.

Digital Connect. Online education is the need of the hour. COVID -19 has forced it on the schools and it is here to stay. While private schools, due to the location and the facilities available can manage but the schools in rural/ remote areas are lagging. These schools must be provided with all possible support to implement e – education otherwise there may develop a great ‘digital divide’ and students from rural/ remote areas are bound to suffer. CBSE and state Education boards should develop and host their own e-education portals for benefit of government school students. The facility can be made available to other schools too on payment. High speed internet facility must be provided to all schools and all areas to help teacher and students connect. The teachers need to be empowered to help them in handling online classes.

Conclusion

Education is the basic pillar on which the society stands. The ‘quality of life’ index of a nation is directly dependent on the education standards of the citizens. This sector cannot be neglected. The school going students may not be voters who affect the outcome of elections but on them depends the future and the quality of future leadership of this great nation. I request the people in power to pay attention and work towards bringing in qualitative changes in the education system and make available high-quality infrastructure and resources to students and teachers.

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PS: I am not a schoolteacher or an administrator, I am just a parent who has a limited knowledge of management of educational institutes/ schools (having been part of the management of some government run schools). I have had privilege of experiencing school education only till 10th standard (that is the only Board Exam I have faced) beyond that it was more of ‘On the job training’ (I have never been to a college). The views I have expressed are solely personal, part based on my own experiences gained from being a proud father of two children who have gone through the paces of acquiring formal education and from being married to a lady who has been working in the field of education last nearly 26 years with some breaks here and there.