NEP: Creating a necessary conducive atmosphere to take it forward
The Government of India has already introduced what is called the New Education Policy. It does seek to bring about drastic reform. However, there is an urgent need to first think through all the basics, at the school level and create the needed condusive atmospheres in schools and colleges for it to work. This article is an attempt to discuss the "how" this can possibly be made to work.
IntroductionGiving the students, at the school level, a large number of choices to take in the ninth standard and then making him or her take up such career choices, is a superb idea indeed. However, one needs to ask just a few questions to understand harsh realities. The questions are: Where are the teachers? Are the students ready to come out of their shell? Will the parents readily accept the change? Can the changes work all of a sudden? If it is indeed a work in progress, how does one go about systematically addressing the problem?
In this context, the "how" of building the correct atmospheres in schools, would mean, a) Preparing the students for the change b) Enabling parents to understand the new changes and opportunities c) Creating several new courses and jobs for teachers d) Providing the best career advice on a continuous basis and e) Making continuous improvements based on successful experiences.
Preparing the students for the changeIf one takes the example of South India, there is a clear obsession among the students and parents to think that only medicine and engineering are gateways to success for every single student. There is a mad craze for such courses, and even if a student studies in one of the upcoming engineering colleges, the parent does not know what to do next.
There are too many new courses and it is really sad that the parents are blissfully aware of these. However, it is the students who need to be counselled properly and the urge to understand different subjects or careers, should start with a massive dose of out-of-the-box thinking. For example, can't a sixth standard child not be taught what is demand and supply when he or she reaches the sixth standard? Can't he or she understand what is religion at this stage? Today, everything is based on Google, and a massive dose of information floats around. Only if the child is aware that there are many changes happening the society, and that there are too many lucrative career choices, the necessary mind-set changes will occur. This is a process of constant dinning. It will take at least ten years to get this in shape.
Worse, there is remarkable tendency, even among most science teachers, to sort of brand a child, who does not show any big interest in learning mathematics for example, as "dull" or a "slow learner". This is atrocious. The duty of the teacher is to help such children acquire the basic interest in the weak subject through some innovative method and then align him or her to her passion.
In most of these cases, the child will be really interested and even creative in one particular discipline. For example, those who are successful in media are those who particularly not those with excellent grades in their school or college studies. But the gift of the gab and the ability to articulate themselves far exceeds the job requirements. So, the "passion" is what makes the big difference.
The job is not going to be easy. Years or decades of social conditioning cannot so easily change the attitudinal disposition of students. But a big beginning has to be made, rather urgently to ensure that it can indeed happen.
Enabling parents to understand the new changes and opportunitiesIf there is an option of three subjects, say, Economics, Political Science and Sociology, for example, in the ninth standard, and the student can go to do a doctorate in India, in either of these subjects, or become an inter-disciplinary expert, or go on to become a civil servant, as these the best and most opted choice of subjects by even engineers who aspire to become civil servants, the crux of this story will be the parents, who need to understand the deeper passion of their children and if there is some interest shown by the children in these subjects, then they should indeed not hesitate to make their children study the same.
However, this is expected to take at least ten years. Firstly, the parents need to be convinced that the teaching careers that will open up in such a big way, when the NEP actually rolls out over a period of say, three years, in teaching students at the school and college levels and the massive need for advanced research as well. Secondly, the success stories of eminent people need to be told to the parents. Thirdly, there should be a concerted move to encourage the teaching of these subjects in the local languages.
For example, it is eminently possible to teach a subject like Sociology up to the plus two level, staring from the ninth standard, in Tamil, Hindi, Telugu or Kannada. Once the student is able to understand the depth of such a field of study, the convincing of the parent can take place easily. However, enabling the availability of a huge number of trained teachers is always going to become a big problem.
Still, a start has to be made, and it is time that the different State Government Ministers and their IAS officers get to interact with each other, to understand the nuances of NEP, as it were and then take the appropriate actions that are relevant in their States.
Creating several new courses and jobs for teachersThis initiative should come from the State Governments, who should immediately constitute committees of experts to make meaningful advances in terms of new courses. For example, there could be new BA (Honors) and MA(Honors) courses in Social Sciences, that goes into depth, the entire range of options in Social Sciences. The PG degree should become the minimum requirement and the teachers may also be trained in the art of teaching the subjects in the local language. Both English and the local language texts, with the same content, can help a great deal in the transition. The State Government should fix a salary and grade for such trained teachers. Only this step will encourage a new set of teachers to take up the jobs in schools and colleges.
There should be an additional requirement that those employed as teachers in colleges, should get their doctorate within the next four years, while the school teachers should acquire the B.Ed and M.Ed qualifications at the earliest.
Providing the best career advice on a continuous basisOnce the career advise to the students is given on a continuous basis, there will be some change. The mindset changes do take a lot of time to take shape and it is important that the students and the parents on the one hand, and the teachers on the other, are made to understand what it takes to succeed in the new environment of the NEP.
Making continuous improvements based on successful experiencesTake the successful deemed Universities like SRM and VIT, for example. They are the best examples of educational institutions that have quickly adapted to the changing requirements of the industry and then re-oriented their syllabuses to those requirements.
Such institutions are bound to take advantage of the huge changes that become imperative in the NEP. These changes also bring in new opportunities for advanced teaching, new courses and new research as well. This is exactly why such experiences can become the source of learning for all educational institutions, as we go along. Let us hope that there are several islands of such knowledge that will open up over a period of time.
ConclusionThere can hardly be any doubt that the New Education Policy has brought in a number of good changes at every level. The time is now ripe to create the infrastructure needed and it does take time. In the meanwhile, it is essential to learn at every stage and bring in the changes that are required in the short-term. The points discussed above, would obviously pertain to the long-term changes. But a beginning has to be made. The sooner the better.
A good article from the author touching upon the various important points that are to be taken care of for the new education policy to be successful.The children these days are very active and have a lot of exposure. In their early years, they can understand the needs and there are sources for them to get the information.
As mentioned by the author, the state governments should form committees with experts in the education field and industry and decide on various useful courses and skill sets that will be useful for the students. Instead of offering a fixed combination of subjects, giving the options to the students is a very good system. Here the role of parents and teachers is also very important. They should be able to suggest to the students various factors which influence the selection of subjects.
The government should think of strengthening the skills of the teachers and special training for the existing teachers should be planned so that they will also get equipped with the required knowledge about the developments in teaching methodologies. If their capabilities are not given a push we can't expect them to deliver their duties properly for the benefit of the students.