The prolonged disruption to the education system – schools as well as higher educational institutions – caused by the COVID-19 pandemic is certainly cause for much-needed introspection and reflection. With most schools, colleges and universities adapting an online education system, it is time we reconsidered our teaching methodologies, and over and above that, the ways to evaluate education and growth of young minds.
India, as a country, has predominantly believed in the examination system to evaluate educational competency for many decades now. But does an exam really define the quality of education imparted among young minds? And with online education coming into play, one common issue many teaching faculty across the nation are facing is that of plagiarised or copied transcripts. It is not that these concerns were not relevant in the past, but academics is witnessing a growth in such issues. This has become the everyday discussion topic in many staff rooms. With technology at their fingertips, students have found new ways to beat this marks-based evaluation system. And with nobody to ‘monitor’ or ‘invigilate’ them, they all seem to be acquiring high scores in their assessments.
While this issue needs to be addressed, it is important to understand and question the larger system of examinations and evaluations we have been following for years now. The predominant primary and secondary education systems in India promotes rote learning and examination-based preparation of students. For instance, the real-life application of many things we learnt in school still remains a mystery. Many of us might still recall that “mitochondria is the power house of the cell”. But where have we had to apply that in our lives after school? And this has been the practice for years. We are taught in an exam-oriented manner and thus the we learn from an exam-centric point-of-view. Teaching and learning do not traverse beyond the year-end examination.
It is on these grounds that this article places its argument. In the current reality of the pandemic, where the education system has taken a paradigmatic shift, and is welcoming innovations and changes, let us all take a while to reflect on the pedagogy that has kept us in the blinds for years.
The need of the hour is a change in the very pedagogy of education in the nation. It is high time we consider treading towards a knowledge and skill-based pedagogy than an examination based. The very purpose of education is to impart knowledge and develop a sense of rationality and humanity in young minds. And this, in turn, will assist in the overall development of the society and the nation as a whole. We come across news articles everyday about violence against women. The fundamental reason for this lies not in an ‘inefficient’ judicial system or lack of security measures. The real reason behind this can be located in years of social conditioning that has found its way into every second household of patriarchy and prescribed gender roles.
Education would be meaningful if the minds are directed towards gender sensitivity and a teaching and learning process that involves the challenging of gender roles that prevail in the society. Though this would include rigorous work beginning from altering the existing curriculum and syllabi from school level onwards, it would definitely find its way into young minds and that in turn would bring about a change in one’s way of thinking and acting.
Another issue that can be highlighted to provide with an example to take this argument further is the lack of education and sensitisation in teaching and learning about caste and reservation. Many a times, when a debate is organised at college levels on reservation, it is noticed that students seem to be anti-reservation without understanding the concept of caste in India. And the most important reason for such a stance is probably because either them, or someone they know have not acquired admission to a particular institution because of the reservation policy. The very idea of reservation and caste shrinks to a very limited corner in the minds of such young minds. It is important students are educated about the reality of caste oppression that has been the reality of India for years, and still continues in multiple ways. As much as one has the freedom to oppose or support reservation, it is necessary that it must come out of rational thinking and discourse. That would result in a much healthier space for debate and the definition of dissent will therefore change.
The development of a rational and humane mind would take years to achieve. It would mean the breakdown of many existing and accepted norms. It requires the challenging of years of social conditioning that has crept into our minds without our knowing. But it is important to begin somewhere.
An ideal beginning would be with the transformation of our education system. This would take the efforts of all stakeholders, beginning with parents. With so much available in terms of technology, it is important to harness the available innovations and begin walking towards an education system that would produce human beings with a rational and sensitive mind. In brief, we could all work together in creating more meaning to social movements beyond hashtags.
A change in pedagogy would produce better minds which in turn would help us build a better tomorrow. Let education show itself in character and social behaviour rather than marks. Let us all think and work towards producing young minds that learn to understand, evaluate, think, reflect and act, rather than nervous minds that worry about exams. Let us teach our tomorrow to question more than answer.
Vaidyanath Nishant is a Researcher and Guest Faculty, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Sikkim Manipal University.