Aug 5, 2020
'Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world' - Nelson Mandela
It is about seven decades ago that India became as a free nation. Higher education system was built on the premise of building a vibrant India, where our bright young people, the cream of our society would create a scientific temperament, and build a nation with dedication, consistent hard work and inclusion without discrimination. The ideal learning outcomes of higher education was to provide - Knowledge in the core discipline, Develop skills necessary for being gainfully employed and inculcate in the student values and ideals in building a just and equitable society.
The Education system was built in such a way as to test the students’ knowledge, skill and aptitude. The end result was the examination system that ensured testing knowledge though rote memory and in most cases nothing more than that. The examination was designed in such a way that it become impersonalised. The student transformed into “a candidate” having a register number instead of his or her name, The College/Department became examination centre, and the teacher became the invigilator while the principal became the chief superintendent. The examination apparatus successfully delinked itself from the learning-teaching system. The end result is the system of education became opaque and depersonalised with the sole objective of through the examination system dividing students into categories of “pass” or “fail”. The pass category was further subdivided into distinction, first class, second class or just pass. It is needless to say that it encourages students to imbibe the negative values of selfishness, fear of failing, and exclusion in competitiveness. The result is that the education system built a small number of self-motivated students but the vast majority just went to institutions of higher learning to merely acquire a degree with a fond hope that it would be a passport for getting a plumb job.
What should then be the outcome of our education system?
The ideal outcome of our education system ought to be that our students, the future citizens of this great country must be expected to play a constructive role in shaping the future of the country and build values and ideals that are progressive. There is no better time than now for Universities and Institutes of Higher Education to move away from the present examination oriented system and move towards models that ensure that holistic development of students who have values and ideals that is expected to mould their character, intellectual calibre, and skills. In ordinary times, maintaining status quo is the norm and what could be achieve is only incremental changes. The COVID crisis has certainly taught us a lesson by putting the examination system into disarray. The system of examination is so well established that it has successfully resisted criticisms. If this crisis even makes a minor improvement in the examination system it would be a welcome change. The pandemic has punctured out education system, showed kinks in our capabilities and has made alternative modes of educational delivery the need of the hour.
Time for Change?
The pandemic has presented an opportunity to reflect on our educational system. There is no better time than now to experiment and build in new modes of learning that could act as a supplement to the regular teaching learning process in the future through the remote learning mode. Even before the pandemic set in, efforts were made to use MOOCs like Swayam, courser and Edex. There were assessment tools like online quiz etc. The UGC has made available resources to the academic community for online learning and self-paced learning which was given a lacklustre response from the academic community. The pandemic has brought digital learning to the forefront. The digital learning is currently used as a substitute to the regular learning method which many have raised concerns about its effectiveness. But there is no issues regarding using it as a supplement. If used judicially, it can be an excellent complement to regular teaching-learning. Experts from various Institutions and senior professionals could be roped through the online mode to reach the nook and corner of the country. The transition has become inevitable in the future. There is a hope of building synergy into the future of our educational system. Academicians as well as professionals can upload videos of lectures into a repository of the UGC (instead of U-tube) after content validation and grading the content. Courses with inbuilt evaluation system can be uploaded with a face-to-face live lectures/ demonstrations through webinars that would help the entire education system to network for the benefit of the whole student community irrespective of their institutional affiliation.
When we come to the evaluation system several innovative technologies could be used to assess the learning outcomes. At the bottom of all assessments should be to improve knowledge and skills required by the society along with transparency. The education process will then truly be to understand, analyse, apply and evaluate the learning outcome. It is therefore the right time now to move from the massive effort to evaluate students and make substantive effort to develop skills, help students to lead an enriched life, build a pro-social attitude and values that will help students lead an enriched life through collaborated efforts of their peers rather than a competitive effort of the existing system.
There is no better time than now for Indian Universities and Institute of Higher Learning to experiment and innovate in the teaching-learning and evaluative process. In the words of John Lewis who remarked “It’s not now, then when?” It is time to build a collective education future for the next generation with the basic object and with the willingness to transform our educational system where we do bold to drop the obsolete and start to nurture the system that can educate rather than evaluate.