‘The con­cept of a lib­eral ed­u­ca­tion is critical to In­dia at this junc­ture’

India Today - - COVER STORY -

Dr K. Kas­turi­ran­gan, chair­man of the panel that drafted the New Ed­u­ca­tion Pol­icy (NEP), an­swers in­dia to­day’s ques­tions on its key rec­om­men­da­tions:

Q. What were the ma­jor flaws your com­mit­tee iden­ti­fied while for­mu­lat­ing the draft NEP?

Many of these are not newly iden­ti­fied chal­lenges, but some new is­sues have been flagged thanks to ad­vances in our un­der­stand­ing of ed­u­ca­tion since 1986/ 1992. For example, neu­ro­science now tells us that 85 per cent of a child’s brain de­vel­op­ment oc­curs be­fore age six. An ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem that fails to ad­dress the re­sult­ing needs of chil­dren is flawed, a con­sid­er­a­tion to ex­tend the RTE Act to in­clude 3-6 year-olds. The ed­u­ca­tion we of­fer must be based on our present un­der­stand­ing of the cog­ni­tive and so­cio-emo­tional de­vel­op­men­tal stages of chil­dren. It is largely ab­sent in the present pre-school sys­tem (of­ten a down­ward ex­ten­sion of pri­mary school) and the ‘10+2’ struc­ture. In the past, we put em­pha­sis on in­puts (rather than out­comes), and al­though these led to dra­matic im­prove­ments in ac­cess to ed­u­ca­tion, an un­ac­cept­ably high num­ber fail to at­tain ba­sic ed­u­ca­tional out­comes— foun­da­tional lit­er­acy and nu­mer­acy. It has se­vere con­se­quences, in­clud­ing high dropout rates. The as­sess­ment sys­tem in schools and higher ed­u­ca­tion promotes shal­low learn­ing and high-stakes ex­ams, and misses the mer­its of low-stakes as­sess­ment to fa­cil­i­tate deeper learn­ing.

Q. What about the chal­lenges in higher ed­u­ca­tion?

The tran­si­tion to higher ed­u­ca­tion via en­trance ex­ams has led to an en­tire par­al­lel sys­tem of coach­ing classes that sig­nif­i­cantly per­turbs the school sys­tem itself. Un­der­grad­u­ate ed­u­ca­tion in In­dia, ex­cept through some premier en­gi­neer­ing and med­i­cal in­sti­tu­tions, largely fails to achieve even the nar­row goal of pre­par­ing stu­dents to en­ter the work­force. A frag­mented sys­tem un­able to pro­vide in­fra­struc­ture and quality fac­ulty, and the lack of a holis­tic knowl­edge sys­tem in the 21st cen­tury are to blame for this. Sub-stan­dard re­search is a ma­jor is­sue at the post­grad­u­ate level, which re­flects in the poor quality and quan­tity of PhDs, papers and patents—three good in­dices of a well­func­tion­ing ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem. Flaws in the reg­u­la­tion/ gov­er­nance sys­tems too must be ad­dressed to en­sure a vi­brant higher ed­u­ca­tion ecosys­tem.

PALLAVA BAGLA/ GETTY IMAGES

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