Let us begin from the end. Schools are supposed to prepare children to be equipped for the future. Let us understand this in real-time calculation: we are trying to prepare a student entering Class I in 2019 for a world in 2031. It is almost impossible to predict the world he/she would live in. My school didn’t have the tools to prepare me for a world where I would almost stop writing and spend my days keying in my thoughts or relying on spellcheck.
I am aware that adults would have to rely on their present experiences and a foggy notion of what the future will be like to make these vital decisions. Let us start with what schools and school-education policy should stop doing if we don’t want to be judged and cursed by future generations.
Our school education relies heavily on training us in memory and recall. In earlier days, the value of retaining information was considered a skill worth possessing. But do we need to retain any information in this day and age? With approximately 2.7 zettabytes of information available, wouldn’t trying to store information be really foolish? What I am concerned about is that a sizable number of schools do not consider it necessary to prepare children for the present, forget about the future. Such practices as copying down answers from the board, memorizing them, spelling classes, tests based on memory and recall are quite rampant in schools. The problem lies in what it does to the brains of children trained in this fashion. If the brain is trained to memorize during these crucial years, how can we expect a different type of work from the same brain when the individual enters professional life? What can be safely predicted is that the value of an employee would primarily depend on his/her ability to process available data at the basic level. A good hand would be someone who is capable of applying the processed data in new areas. To my mind, training for understanding, processing and applying data should be central to academic training in any school.
The focus on employability is one, even though it is not the only, objective of education. This is also the main focus of parents. If one were to google ‘employability skills’, the search would cough up the following with variations: communication, teamwork, problem solving, initiative and enterprise, planning and organising, self-management, learning, technology. These skills appear to be desirable in most professions. Memorizing and recall do not feature in this list. Interestingly, the list does not specify high grades as a requisite for employment.
We need to include these skill sets in the school curriculum. Children need to get an opportunity to experience situations that would help them imbibe these skills in the course of their school life. It is futile for children to join the mad race of scoring marks if, at the end of the day, they lack the skills to be employed.
How can these skills be imparted in schools? Hearteningly, such practices are not uncommon today. A lot of professional help is also available from different sources. It all depends on the will of the people running schools. Parents ought to ask the right questions while choosing a school instead of going by hoardings boasting about exam rankings.
If we want to sincerely meet the challenge of becoming the world’s youngest country by 2020, school-education policymakers and parents need to act quickly. Parents should start demanding a much more sensible, all-encompassing education from schools, which will look for sparks in a child and nurture them instead of propagating a system of education that revolves around results.