Ever heard of a subject-less academic curriculum?
That’s what Finland’s National Curriculum Framework 2016 has set out to do. Eliminating the need for specific subjects, Finland’s schools will now teach phenomena, such as global warming or World War II, from a variety of approaches such as the scientific, the mathematical, historical, literary etc. Working in small groups, students will try and understand the cause and effects of these events through different perspectives and analyze to suggest ideas for a better future.
The area of academics is the essential building block of a nation’s human resource. While it has undergone subtle or substantive changes across the world, in our country, however, it is still, operated on more or less the same routine as employed during the colonial era. Various experiments have been implemented now and then but without any vision. As a result, while our students and professionals are desired all over the world for their individual brilliance, the education system is still frowned upon as archaic.
Even today, India faces a collective shortage of 10 lakh teachers in government schools. The figure, in itself, is quite astonishing. However, when you bring into perspective that up to 55 percent of India’s 260 million school-going children attended government institutions, the future of a ‘Young India’ cannot be seen with a high degree of optimism. Still, this figure, which has been an admission of truth by the government itself, does not account for the vacancies in private institutions. This explains the constant degradation of the educational standards within the country, something which was also visible in the much-slated class 12th result recently declared by the Bihar Board.
Growing technological penetration, however has given Indian education a glimmer of hope. Whilst on one hand, immense population pressure on academic institutions once led to the proliferation of after-school tuition centers (something now hailed as a $40 billion industry), the rising presence of Ed-tech players has allowed students to boost their performance by combining tuitions with self-learning. Ed-tech has enabled delivery of educational content to students with a few clicks and swipes on their smartphones. Since smartphone penetration is expected to reach 650 million by 2020 in India, such platforms have largely mitigated the extremely troublesome aspect of long-distance travel to access quality education.
The internet has become a massive leveller as well as an information treasure trove. Students do not need elders to tell them who Wordsworth was, they can look him up at the click of a button. They, however, need a ‘mentor’ who can help them understand the aesthetics and appreciate the craft, i.e. sensitize the students rather than just ask them to ‘memorize’ chapters. Acknowledging this vacuum, start-ups which initially were just providing digital study content, gradually realizing the need to provide ideal teachers to the students of this generation, metamorphosed into hybrid tutoring platforms.
Now, they provide study materials to students as well as enable them to access teachers that fit their intellectual and aesthetic needs through prior interaction and demo classes. This provides the students with a scope to develop their own academic acumen by self-studying through the study notes, making their own observations and then discussing them with an expert in the specific field to understand the areas of weakness and how well can their thoughts be structured.
India’s ancient system of education was fundamentally based on the concept of discourses between the ‘guru’ and ‘shishyas.’ Along the way, we might have fallen into the trap of a more industrial kind of education that imparts blind skills required in the modern world without developing curiosity or vision. With the rising presence of Ed-tech players in the academic sphere who are working towards an objective of overhauling the education system, we can, however, hope to overcome the hurdles and empower the next generation. Providing a true, socially useful and intellectually challenging education that thrives on the curiosity and the hard work of the students should be the goal of the all the stakeholders in the education system today, and new age Ed-tech players will be a significant cog in this process.