Changing Times Changing Education Needs

Image courtesy of jscreationzs at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of jscreationzs at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

“I like less the story that a Frog, if put in cold water will not bestir itself if that water is heated up slowly and gradually and in the end let itself be boiled alive, too comfortable with continuity to realize that continuous change at some point becomes discontinuous and demands a change in behavior. If we want to avoid the fate of the boiled Frog, we must learn to look for and embrace discontinuous change.”

– Charles Handy, The Age of Unreason

I am a Kendriya Vidyalaya alumnus and had recently visited my alma mater. I feel very proud of my school where I gained my initial knowledge, skills and attitude. Then it was such a fine institution, which was widely known for its long-standing tradition for grooming excellence. We used to have good performances in academics as well as sports. And further we imbibed a sense of character, confidence in self and a code of ethics.

But that was some time ago and in the meantime the world has changed. Post-liberalization the competition has become fiercer. We need to prepare young minds for an uncertain world with lots of opportunities, but only for  the ones who have it in them to cope with its demands. I was pained to see that my school had not kept pace with changing times and continued to bask in its past glory.

A snapshot view indeed says it all :

  • In recent times we have had poor performances in the Xth and XIIth standard examinations
  • There was a sad showing in competitive entrance exams like NDA, IIT entrance etc
  • The teachers complained about rampant indiscipline and palpable indifference among students towards studies

As a result all the stakeholders viz. students, teachers, and parents were disillusioned with the System.

All this couldn’t happen at a worse time. It is openly acknowledged that the new millennium will be the one of knowledge. This inevitably means that people as carriers of knowledge, will be  any organization’s most valuable asset. In fact physical assets will lose much of their importance as is seen by the fabulous performance of ‘people-based’ software companies vis-à-vis the old ‘brick-and-mortar’ companies. We need to exploit the need for well-educated and highly skilled people.

No one denies that we have a problem on our hands. But our response to the situation is inadequate. For instance if the Board Exam class performs poorly in any subject then the concerned teacher is issued a memo and / or is replaced by someone else. Quite often the same story repeats itself the next year as well. Finding scapegoats simply is a way of brushing the problem under the carpet.

We are also aware of the resource constraints under which the ‘State’ funded institutions operate. Ideally we need to ensure that teachers are provided a better compensation package, are given quicker growth opportunities and are allowed sabbatical to upgrade themselves. But then the money for all this is simply not available. And even if the funds are made available to promote school education, the money will go towards setting up more schools in backward areas and to schools which lack the basic infrastructure such as classrooms, blackboards, libraries etc.

Given the state of education we should be happy enough to have schools like KVs being available to students. Quite right in the bigger scheme of things of course. But what I intend to propose here are certain tactical initiatives. These are within the circle of influence of the school’s management team and  can be implemented immediately. Further they do not require any massive funding as well. All that is required is a change in ones mindset and we can fix the common problems.

1. Current Situation: Xth and XIIth standard students are clueless of what fields they should pursue in future. Most of them ‘parrot’ the choices made for them by their parents.

Remedial Action: Conduct an aptitude test. Not everyone can become an Engineer or a Doctor. And thankfully in the brave new world there are bright career opportunities available in various fields provided you excel in whatever you do. Also people who enjoy their work are more likely to do it better. So again you need to help students to identify their competencies. Make them aware about the various options available and help them to make an informed choice. Try to go beyond the conventional options of Engg. / Medicine/ B Sc. / B Com. etc. Talk to them in terms of a larger perspective, which usually includes a post graduation option as well.

2. Current Situation: Our school does not make a proper use of the educational aids available. So we have tape recorders, Overhead Projectors available that are not used as the classrooms are not equipped with electrical points. Similarly the photocopying machine too is frequently under repairs.

Remedial Action: There is no possible excuse for what are essentially administrative lapses. These can be set right immediately.

3. Current Situation: We have about 4-5 computers available but they are not accessible to the students.

Remedial Action: Obviously the resource base is far too inadequate for the entire school. But one can instruct at least the XIth and XIIth students and familiarize them with basic packages such as MS Word, Excel and PowerPoint. Additionally we can introduce them to the world of internet and e-mail. Further many schools have solicited the aid of Corporates who are happy enough to give their old PCs (whenever they upgrade) to them. We should also make some efforts for the same.

4. Current Situation: PTA meetings are held for standard Xth and XIIth but often draw a poor response from the parents. This is because the students often do not inform their parents and they get away with it. Also the average parent feels that the PTA is only meant for counseling parents whose child has failed in the exams. 

Remedial Action: Hold the first PTA meeting as soon as the school re-opens. Even students would not resist it, as this is the first meeting and is not meant to discuss any results. At this meeting clarify the issue by stating that the Board Exam being a crucial year, PTA provides an important mode of communication with the parents. It is meant for all students and not just for those who have failed in some exams. The PTA aims at creating a morale support system, which helps each and every child to perform to his potential. If possible , announce the indicative schedule of PTAs in this meeting itself. Once parents realize that it is a constructive process, they are more likely to emotionally buy-in to the concept and the attendance of the meeting is bound to improve.

I have just illustrated the few glaring problems which I observed. But these initiatives along with others that are required will lead to a congruence of the interests of the child, his parents and the school authorities. Students will learn to be responsible for themselves and their future. They will understand the importance of having a goal in their life and then work towards making it happen. And they will have to have faith in themselves to  avoid being mere ‘flotsam-jetsam’ in the waves of life.

Going into the new millennium, it is far better to embrace the change at a time of our choosing than have the change thrust upon us later. As Mahatma Gandhi said, “You must be the change you wish to see around you.” Indeed that should be our intention as well.

My final article from my college days, this appeared  on the ‘Features’ page of ‘Maharashtra Herald’ on March 24,2000 in Pune, India. I was preparing to appear for my final exams of my post-graduate management degree specializing in Marketing from NMIMS in Mumbai.

Am sure much has changed over the years now and none of the ideas sound novel or revolutionary now in the digital age. Possibly some of this even seems tacky – it was a reality in our times for sure.

At times I do wonder how do the KVs look now, am sure the change has come for the youth are far more aware and connected in the digital world. And their dreams soar high to meet their aspirations and those of their parents as well.

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