TRANSFORMATION REQUIRES TRANSFORMERS

The aim of education has not changed since the ancient time. It has never been merely the acquisition of knowledge. It has always been preparation for life and liberation of the self. We can’t ignore what our predecessors believed. As Einstein said, “Bear in mind that the wonderful things you learn in your schools is the work of many generations. All this is put into your hands as your inheritance in order that you may receive it, honour it, add to it, and one day faithfully hand it on to your children. Thus do we mortals achieve immortality in the permanent things that we create in common”.

Education is based on four pillars, says an UNESCO report. The first pillar acquires knowledge and the ways of learning. so as to benefit from the opportunities education provides throughout life. The second pillar acquires, not only an occupational skill, but also the competence to deal with many situations and various challenges of working life. The third pillar teaches us to live together and appreciate the spirit of interdependence. The forth pillar helps us to develop our own personality and our ability of autonomy. We expect our students to develop ‘foundational skills’ of literacy and numeracy, ‘higher-order’ cognitive skills such as critical thinking and problem solving skills, social and emotional skills. All education systems do not have all the pillars. More the pillar an education system has, better itserves the purpose.

The Draft Education Policy 2019 prepared for the Government of India envisages education in phases. The first phase of five years (between the ages of 3-8 years) is for equalizing of the multiple cognitive abilities of children. The next preparatory phase of three years (Grades 3,4 and 5) are for formal classroom learning. The Middle school education (Grades 6, 7 and 8) would involve developing more abstract thinking and subject teaching. The Secondary education phase (Grades 9, 10, 11 and 12) are earmarked to facilitate multidisciplinary studies with appropriate exit options besides preparing for the next phase of undergraduate programme of study. A strong base of Liberal Arts education and provision for vocational education at different levels are part of undergraduate education. A fourth year of undergraduate education can also seamlessly integrate itself to education at the Masters and Doctoral levels. This integrated concept, it is hoped, will lead to bringing professional education into mainstream undergraduate education, “thereby creating an overarching integrated approach to education, embodying the spirit of the Policy in totality.” The Policy sees the engagement of the community extending to ownership for the success of educational endeavours. To address issues related to research the draft policy recommends establishment of National Research Foundation (NRF) to provide, besides funding, the seed to build research capacity in universities and colleges. Another suggestion is the creation of National Education Commission (NEC) to cater the needs of knowledge society under the leadership of PM.

Caretaking is not possible unless there are caregivers. Transformation requires transformers. For the development of good education systemthe primary requirement is the availability of good teachers. Only Rabindranath’s can envisage Santiniketan. Only Rabindranath’s and their ilk can sustain the functioning of Santiniketan the way Rabindranath envisaged it.

Multidisciplinary training is required for the teachers. Multidisciplinary training, not only in imparting education, but also in school administration is necessary. In short, in the spirit of multidiscipline lies the essence of education. Another important aspect of the policy document is the need for the sharing of the resources. “An attitudinal change needs to be brought in so that the implementation effort is carefully nurtured, and best practices and processes developed at successful school complexes can be replicated at many places.”

Other salient features of the draft policy document are: piecemeal autonomy in institutional administration can be counterproductive, accountability norms must be put in practice, development of multidisciplinary environment is the need of the time to make education a truly holistic exercise, regulation, provision of education, accreditation, funding, etc, need to work separately to eliminate conflicts of interest and the concentration of power.

With the rapid multiplication of education system, corruption (not only financial but also moral) has crept in the education system a big way. Some educational institutional have completely lost sight of the purpose of education. Therefore, most of all, our education systems require effective leadership and resolve at different levels. Good transformers are required to transform any enterprise, education or otherwise.

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© 2017 by Dr Purnendu Ghosh