One of the stakeholders, I believe, in India’s development is education. Even articles in the Indian constitution promote free and compulsory education as a fundamental right to children between 6 to 14 years of age. The present day India has seen/is seeing a lot of reforms in the way education is being imparted (or as in these days – broadcasted) to the masses. From Kerala achieving universal primary education to the innovative technical ways to make education fun, India seems to be witnessing all that is needed for entire India to achieve Universal Education status.
Being raised in a family of teachers and having pursued it (both as a student or sometimes as a teacher) for most of my life till now, the Hows and Whys of the way education is being imparted by teachers and the way it is received by students have always made me curious. Most of the times I have been able to sense an answer but present day reforms seem to have taken my sixth sense for a spin!
In India education is provided by both public sector and private sector and apparently both of them are behind reforming education system in their own sweet ways. Let’s take a look at few reforms happening in both the sectors
Government outlook: With the Modi wave gracing India’s political atmosphere, it seems to be also strong holding the imposition via educational changes. Schools and books are turning saffron (I mean literally too, a school in Rajasthan was gifted orange cycles to put a check on the drop out rate), the uniforms are changing from khadi to khaki (RSS coloured), FIRs are being filed against a professor in Rajasthan for having invited a professor from a college in Delhi, chapters in history books are being changed to NOT highlight a great ruler because he was NOT Hindu, a national leader (J.L Nehru) is no more being taught about and his act of emergency being turned as a dark period in Indian democracy, all of this in the name of curriculum restructure. This doesn’t sound right! Does it!
Chronologically, let’s talk Akbar . The newly rewritten textbooks say Akbar is no longer ‘Akbar – The Great’ because Maharana Pratap defeated him at battle of Haldighati! So what! Was ‘winning the battles’ only thing that made him great! No. The answer is No. He was great because he knew the difference between defeating and humiliating his opponent. He was great because after defeating them, he made alliances with enemies who in return acknowledged his leadership as their king, which kept the then India united. If Ain-i-Akbari (the third volume of Akbar Nama, history of Akbar’s reign, by his close friend and courtier, Abul Fazal) is to be believed, Akbar is the initiator of sulh-i kul or “universal peace” – An idea of tolerance that did not discriminate between followers of different religions in his era. Instead sulh-i kul focuses on ethics – honesty, justice, peace which are universally applicable. This made him great and definitely students can still learn how important these virtues are to have even in a modern day’s global leader.
Let’s move closer to independence and talk about our first prime minister of independent India. Chacha Nehru . Chacha, who? This is how future generations are going to react few years from now! The new Science book for Class VIII in schools of Rajasthan erased Chacha Nehru from the pages of history. It fails to mention who India’s first Prime Minister was! Yes, he was not entirely a hero but we don’t simply abhor him. He made a bold move in being ambitious and focusing on Industrialization more than agriculture barring which India could also have emerged as a vibrant industrial nation had it organized it’s land ownership, irrigation and other agricultural activities so as to first generate surplus income for its masses. Yes, he is associated with all the dynasty rule, red-tapism, corruption and minority appeasement but he is also responsible for stable democracy, secularism, establishment of IITs & IIMs and Nuclear program – don’t we anymore want the future generations to adore the good in a leader while also learn a lesson from his failures. Don’t we want the next generation to have their own views and opinions by knowing both sides of the coin!
Private Sector also has a lot happening, thanks to the start-up boom India has witnessed in the last couple of years. These people are not just changing the ways India can learn, from personalisation of courses to use of VR technology, but also trying to penetrate education deeper to the masses.
Plastic Water Labs is trying to solve the ‘poor comprehension’ problem by introducing VR technology. With students gaining the experience of observing and interacting with the subject matter, seems to be a near perfect ‘digital education’ platform .
Dost Education provides a platform for women who wish to be a part of their child’s education but lack the knowledge and resources in doing so. It is a mobile based platform that provides voice-based curriculum via mobiles, allowing mothers to be better involved and educated about their children’s’ education
XPrep provides an aggregator platform for tutors to improve the visibility and engagement not just with students but also with parents of these students.
Edudharma is trying to bridge the gap of affordability issue to avoid drop out rates at higher education levels. It has created an online crowdfunding platform for corporates & individuals, to finance the needs of students in a systematic manner.
Not to forget, a name which most of you would be familiar with, BYJUs. As the recent TV add depicts, BYJUs has almost succeeded in changing every students first love from teachers to mobile based subject matter. The man behind this, BYJU himself has made learning both engaging and personalised. His passion to reform this experience keeps him continuously working on innovative ways to do so. With the launch of mobile platform BYJU is witnessing 20% month on month growth when it comes to converting students into serious paid users.
Remember, my sixth sense going for a spin! Here’s why that happens – Both these public and private reforms seem to take me into a state of cognitive dissonance. At one end there are all these attempts to provide free elementary education that have resulted in Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) improving from 81.6% in 2000-01 to 97% in 2015. Education has also succeeded in inducing gender empowerment and equality. Gender Parity Index (GPI) at primary level has already crossed 1. Then on the other hand we have the so called ‘curriculum restructuring’ which seems to fade away some important aspects of Indian history from future generations. The feeling is no different when it comes to private sector. At one end there is technology that is providing on the go ‘everything’ literally everything what you need to know to understand a course and on the other hand you have the schooling experience that is getting, if I can use the word, individualistic. Schools were meant to not just be an institution of marks but rather an institution of morals and beliefs, which when I see missing in the new generation, fears me. Schools were called a child’s second home. No matter how much we hated those moral science lectures at school, we grew up learning the application of those beliefs and values at school itself.
Education is one area that everybody is working on be it the government, the NGOs or the entrepreneurs. These reforms seem to be exploring every aspect of education experience. With the ratio of public schools to private schools in the ratio of 7:5, will this era of education reforms go down in history as one big step which will help India achieve a developed status or will this be a big leap which, at the cost of secularism at one end and concept of institution at the other, result in may be a universal literacy but only an educated few!
Well, They say Nothing beats time, I should let time provide an answer.