Monday, September 13, 2010

Preparing Students for New Knowledge Age : What Schools Need to Know !

Kudos to Mr. Kapil Sibal for scrapping Board Examination at the level of 10th Standard! It is a historic decision. But this will be akin to attacking just the tip of the iceberg; School education system in India needs a complete metamorphosis. It has failed to integrate itself with the changes in the environment; the linkages with the higher education are weak and it has not been able to keep a track of the career opportunities arising out of the changing higher education system. It is devoid of any mechanism to ensure accountability and transparency. Government schools are unable to fulfill their mandate on account of lack of resources and absence of reward system for teachers and academic administrators. Rather than becoming a harbinger of positive changes in the system of education, private sector is guided by profit motive.
For instance, as per the Knowledge Commission Report, pure sciences are essential to transform India into a knowledge superpower. UNESCO has also mooted the goal of Scientific and Technological Literacy (STL) for all. Every citizen needs to be aware of trends in science, cope with technology in everyday life, and be able to take considered positions on science-related issues of social importance. The science curriculum of CBSE at the level of 10th standard is still fact oriented and falls short of the aim of STL. If we look at numbers, we are not producing young scientists of good quality in sufficient numbers. Yet, school administration tries to restrict the enrolment in science stream at the level of 11th by fixing cut-offs in arbitrary manner. It seems state governments do not take any steps to supervise the allotment of subject stream in private institutions. Just as Ganguly Committee was set up to regulate nursery admissions in Delhi Schools, a committee should be set up to oversee the process of allotment of stream at the level of 11th Standard.
After all it is the question of life and career of the child, the future of this country. A teacher is suppose to nurture and mentor students, to help them realize their potential but the reality is they just want to bask in the glory of the toppers and disown others. Interest of the child has no significance for them. They play with emotions of these vulnerable children. Media and government also pay attention momentarily when a distressed child commits suicide.
This requires urgent attention, as denying admission in science stream means denying the wider career choice to the children. For example, after studying science at the higher secondary level, one can pursue higher studies in science, engineering as well as commerce or humanities. If a student is forced to study commerce/ humanities on the basis of cut-offs, for which there is no scientific basis, they cannot claim admission in engineering/ computer science/ natural science at the graduate level. Ironically cut-off varies from school to school, often as per the whims and convenience of the school administration. What is equally important to note is the way number of seats in B.Tech/B.E. has increased. Currently there are more than Six Lacs seats in engineering alone. Same is not true in the case of B.Com (Hons.)/ BBA. It means a child scoring around 75 percent marks in 10th class in Delhi is usually asked to study commerce and even if he manages to repeat the same level of performance i.e. around 75-80 percent of marks in 12th Board Examination, he will not get admission in B.Com (Hons.) in any good college in India. There are hardly any options available to him/her except to shell out high fees to the tune of Lacs of rupees and take admission in Private universities that have mushroomed on account of these lopsided policies and practices. Government unfortunately is a silent spectator to this whole tamasha. In the name of privatization and Public-Private Partnership rampant commercialization of higher education is being allowed at the cost of parents’ hard earned money.
There is a need to counsel the academic administrators. Unfortunately quality of teachers and academic administrators in this country is far from satisfactory. Most of them are into this profession out of compulsion and connections. Therefore they are not able to comprehend the ever-changing requirement of the education system. Is it not ironical that students who are in top 10 to 15% ( as per CBSE grading in class X) in science and mathematics are denied admission in Science Stream at class XI in their own school from where they passed class X ?
As it is there is a gradual decline in the numbers of young people pursuing science studies and careers. Government of India has launched several innovative schemes to attract young talent into the field of science. A nation’s prosperity and well-being is based on scientific and technological progress. As we embark on the journey to be world’s most competitive knowledge-based economy, the demand for more young people to join the scientific community will become even greater. Therefore all stakeholders need to recognize their role and initiate steps to help us realize the status of a knowledge superpower and align school education system to this goal.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Global Competitiveness Ranking

India has slipped in from rank 49 to 51in the Global Competitiveness Report  whereas China has moved up by two position to Rank 27....It ranks 71 in diversion of public funds, 83 in irregular payments and bribes, 72 in favoritism in decisions of government officials, 57 in wastefulness of government spending ...and we would all pinpoint our fingers at the politicians for all these evils of bribery, wasteful expenses, favoritism and nepotism , but the fact is we are all to be blamed. As citizens how are we contributing to progress of this country ?To safeguard the values of truth, honesty, morality, ethics, principles and goodness? 

There is anarchy, indiscipline, unrest everywhere, crime and criminals are thriving, humanity seems to be a forgotten virtue....Honest,  truthful, upright citizen of this country is subjected to all kinds of humiliation. My grandmother who is 94 years old and participated in freedom struggle wonders if we would have been better off if Britishers continued to rule us! Talking of Britishers, how can we forget CWG Delhi another reminder of British Raj ! A reminder of the fact that there is no premium on pride and prestige of the country.