With nearly a quarter of India’s population being in the age of attending school and college, whether our demographic situation is an asset for our country or not depends on the quality of their learning.
Knowledge, skills and expertise are the key enablers for maintaining our economic growth momentum, especially in a scenario of technology-led disruptions like Industry 4.0, where skills and expertise requirements are ever-changing.
Why is the right ecosystem essential for imparting quality education?
- Today, it is very difficult to predict over half the expertise and skill sets which will be required in the next 5 years
- The concept of lifelong learning will have to be embedded in the way we teach our youth
- Over the years, through various initiatives, educational institutions have been made accessible to all across the country
Now, the next stage would be to ensure that students remain enrolled, and learn — so that they become empowered and productive citizens, who can be the key participants in nation-building and growth-linked economic development.
To achieve this, an enabling ecosystem will have to be developed which comprises school premises along with facilities that are inviting for students, teachers who have a passion for their chosen vocation, pedagogy that transitions from rote learning to conceptual methods that can keep both teachers and students engaged and engrossed — among others.
3 measures that can enable the right ecosystem needed for imparting quality education
1. Maintained infrastructure
A clean, spacious school building having basic facilities including:
- Spacious classrooms with requisite furniture, boards, electrical fittings like lights and fans
- Clean and hygienic toilets
- Accessible drinking water
- Activity and play areas
- Laboratories with requisite instruments and equipment
- Computers for students to learn and experiment with
Having a good school building with spacious classrooms is not enough; it needs to be maintained so that students find it to be an inviting environment to which they look forward to coming every day to learn.
2. Quality of teaching and teachers
- Teachers are key in ensuring that students get the requisite lessons that keep their minds ignited for seeking knowledge
Students’ likes and dislikes for attending classes, or interests in a particular subject, can be linked to their teacher and his/her quality of teaching.
The challenge of improving quality of teaching by training teachers and supporting them with modern teaching aids, tools and methodologies — like smart classrooms and digital course content — needs to be taken up, so that teachers take pride in their jobs.
- This will also encourage more people to take up teaching as a vocation, thus assisting in solving the vacancy of seats issue
3. Extra-curricular activities
- Extra-curricular activities are also a key component in sustaining a youngster’s interest at school
Schools should have requisite sporting facilities and avenues for cultural events, which together contribute to building a student’s life skills and personality.
Do we have the aforementioned ecosystem in our schools?
- The above eco-system is currently available only in a few schools
These include some of the private schools largely located in major cities and a few residential schools, which are able to charge fees that covers costs of operations including teacher salaries and facility maintenance.
However, vast majority of the youth does not have access to such facilities and quality teachers due to issues like affordability and their location — especially those residing in semi-urban and rural areas.
Annual Status of Education Report 2017
All is not well with our education system as per the Annual Status of Education Report of 2017, which shows the state of affairs of our education system.
While the findings show that the number of students completing elementary school has increased over the years, they, however, lack foundational skills.
It was assessed that about 25 per cent students in the age group of 14-18 years could not read basic text fluently in their own language, and more than half faced challenges in performing basic arithmetic.
Need of the hour: Addressing gaps in Indian education
1. Initiatives like Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, launched in 2001, do seek to address the issue of school infrastructure, teacher quality and training, filling vacancies, but even today, there is a long way to go.
2. As economic conditions improve, aspirations for a better future increase, families who have affordability power prefer to enroll their children in private schools — in hope for a better learning outcome.
3. We will need to urgently transform our education system to meet the aspirational needs of the new generation, which will ensure that India’s demographic dividend continues to remain its asset.
4. We will also need to ensure that a proper learning ecosystem is available across the length and breadth of the country for desired learning outcomes to be achieved.
5. Only investing in education institutional premises is not enough, these will become centres of learning only if the students and teachers connect, and interest in teaching and learning is enhanced using appropriate pedagogy.
6. There is a an additional need to have monitoring procedures and processes in our schools so that learning outcomes are regularly assessed and remedial measures can be taken in a timely manner to address shortcomings.
7. The recent initiatives of having smart classrooms in public schools could go a long way in addressing this need of an enabling ecosystem with features and facilities like digital content, broadcasting classes conducted by experienced teachers, interactive classes through video conferencing, etc.