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Since independence, education has played a key role in the development of the Indian economy. The emphasis has always been on boosting the literacy rate and producing capable and competent workers. The government has taken multiple initiatives to fulfill its objective.
Though, India has a glorious history for its education system since ancient times. It has changed over the years, but the infrastructure and implementation are both quite old, and just not sufficient for fulfilling present-day requirements. The country has produced some of the smartest, most innovative, and capable individuals in the history of mankind, though the number is less considering the vast population. The age-old education system and its policies are partly to blame for that. The government acknowledges the fact and is working on its development, and allowing the students and learners to reach their full potential.
History of the Indian Education System
The Indian education system has existed for centuries and is one of the oldest in recorded history. Takshasila from the 8th century BCE was the earliest higher education centre in India. Apart from that, the oldest university-system of education in the world, the Nalanda University was also established in eastern India. Foreign students were offered higher education by these institutions as well. The curriculum covered topics such as Buddhist Páli literature, logic, páli grammar, etc.
Besides these, Brahmin gurus used to offer education in various subjects by means of donations. Later stupas and temples became the centres of learning, where religious education was taught along with the secular culture. The knowledge in these orders was often related to the skills required in society at the time. The education system was divided into four sections –
- The priest class, the Sammanas were given knowledge of religion, philosophy, and other ancillary branches.
- The warrior class, the Kshatriya were trained to be excellent warriors and imparted knowledge of various aspects of warfare.
- The business class, Vaishya, were taught various aspects of the trade.
- In the working class, the Shudras were deprived of educational advantages and were considered lower cast.
Issues of the modern Indian education system
Despite having a robust structure, the foundation of the present-day Indian education appears to be shaky. It lacks both good, practical knowledge-based content, as well as sufficient outreach. Despite providing free education to children under the 14 years age group, many children in remote and rural areas do not have access to schools. Most of the schools are lacking appropriate infrastructure. Though the government came up with the Mid-Day meal Scheme to lure the children of rural areas to school, the food that was provided was found to be of sub-standard quality, in some cases non-edible.
Another major reason for concern has been the lower literacy rates of women in India. A far lesser number of girls are enrolled in schools, a significant number of them drop out due to various traditional, cultural, and religious reasons. Another reason can be the lack of basic facilities such as clean drinking water and hygienic toilets. About 3.5% of schools in India had no toilet facility while only 68.7% of schools had available toilet facilities, according to the 2016 Annual Survey of Education Report (ASER). Through various campaigns and programmes related to women’s education in India, there have been noticeable improvements over the years – from 15.3% in 1961, 28.5% in 1981 to more than 50% of the overall women population as per 2001 reports.
Moreover, the Modern Indian education system is criticized for being focused on memorization skills rather than the development of problems solving skills. The content, curriculum structure, evaluation processes are more theory-based than being practical knowledge-based. It does not teach or, encourage the pupils to ask questions or, be innovative; instead, it trains them to be blind followers.
Moreover, creativity and extracurricular activities for skill development, soft skills training are neither taught nor encouraged. The New Indian Express addressed the issue stating, “Most of the school students seemed to be spending the majority of their time in preparing for competitive exams rather than learning or playing”. As a result, even after completing formal education, many individuals suffer from unemployment due to a lack of practical skills.
Though Indian students and professionals are considered to be extremely hardworking individuals, all these grey areas affect their career, livelihood and fail to help them reach their full potential. The cause of most of these issues has got to do with the obsession with marks rather than gaining knowledge which often leads to rote learning, failing to teach children to ask “why?” etc. Rote learning must not be encouraged. Students must be trained to be ‘all-rounders’, and there should be equal emphasis given to skill soft-skills and personality development apart from academics.
Indian Education System – Current reformations 2020
Over decades of criticism and pleas, in 2020, the government of India finally announced a significant reformation of the existing education system in India. The intention is to integrate the education system with global patterns, put an end to ‘rote-learning’ and instil confidence, and produce overall more skilled, well-informed students with well-rounded personalities.
Perhaps the most significant among many changes in the structural reform in the school system, from the existing 10+2 model. The curricular and pedagogical structure for school education will now be guided by a 5 + 3 + 3 + 4 model.
- The Foundational Stage: Students of 3-8 years of age group will fall under the foundational stage. This stage will be split into two parts: 3 years of preschool learning and two years in Grades 1-2. The stage will be focused on developing good behaviour, personal and public hygiene, teamwork, and cooperation skills through activity-based learning.
- The Preparatory Stage: The preparatory group will be formed by students aged between 8-11 years studying in 3rd to 5th standards. This stage will transition gradually from play-based learning to interactive formal classroom training, with the introduction of some new subjects. Emphasis will be on reading, writing, speaking, physical education, art, languages, science, and mathematics.
- The Middle Stage: Students of grades 6 to 8 and aged between 11-14 years will be introduced to more abstract concepts in science, mathematics, arts, social sciences, and humanities
- The Secondary Stage: This is the final stage which will consist of students between the ages of 14 to 18 years. This stage is divided into two sub-stages: for grades from 9 and 10 in the first phase and classes 11 and 12 in second. This stage will comprise four years of multidisciplinary study, with a focus on the development of greater in-depth knowledge, critical thinking, attention to life aspirations, and greater flexibility according to student choice.
With these improvements, the students will have more flexibility and choice of subjects to study, including subjects in arts and crafts, physical education, and vocational skills. The barriers between the ‘core-streams’ will not be practised anymore, moreover, subjects such as arts and crafts, and vocational skills will be incorporated throughout the school curriculum.
The mandated content will focus on key concepts such as problem-solving, innovation, and application of acquired knowledge. The methods of both teaching and learning will be more interactive. Moreover, the obsession for the 10th and 12th board exam is aimed to be reduced. The conduction of the board exam will be broke down into two parts – objective and descriptive, intended to promote the application of knowledge rather than memorizing.
The Indian education system has played a significant role in the Indian economy since ancient times. The system has had a glorious history and has produced some of the brightest minds in the world. Though due to lack of awareness, proper infrastructure, focus on student’s individual development, the system has been mass-producing rather mediocre workers even after possessing great potential.
The recent changes in the education system certainly seem to be promising, provide ample flexibility to the students, and focus on overall skills development rather than just marks. If implemented, these will enable the students of India to learn as per their interests and establish themselves as competent, capable workers. It will not only also influence the economy of India in a positive motion but also boost the quality of mass workers produced by India to the global market.
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