Education Systems for the New Millennium

As we navigate from the 20th to the 21st Century, many things around us are changing. It is not a surprise to many people anymore that change is taking place. What is probably surprising is the “rate of change”. The rate of change is unfathomable and will remain so.

The question to ask therefore is – what should be schools and colleges doing to help students deal with the “rate of change”?

There are several things that educational institutions have to do. First and foremost of them is to change their thinking. Many institutions to my mind are stuck in the past. So are education boards and governments. They are all of the opinion that subjects and the content are important. They continue to measure success through marks and grades. Teachers too are comfortable in this environment. So are many parents. We should change that environment. Content, within a given subject is unimportant. We can always search content from the internet. It isn’t as simple as I say it. Changing thinking is one of the greatest challenges.

Schools in the past were purely focused on delivering content (lessons from a book). The assessment was also based on how much a student remembers what has been delivered as content. There was no internet back then. Our search engines were people (a.k.a teachers) who have presumably referred to several books and served as the “search engines” for students.

Fast forward to 2018 or the future, Google is our search Engine. Many more resources on the internet deliver content for a question – in text or in video / visual formats. Groups and chats solve problems. The local search Engines of the 1980s are not relevant anymore.

Our second problem is on the home front. As a community we have also moved from being joint families to nuclear families. This has bubbled up social behaviour problems for children. The opportunities to learn culture and behaviour from a larger family have now diminished, if it hasn’t vanished yet!

Our third problem is lack of space and facilities for overall (“(W)holistic”) growth. Research shows that purely developing cognitive skills does not help a society grow / prosper. Prosperity or happiness is a “(W)holistic” experience. As a matter of fact cities have grown into concrete jungles and several people live in apartments. Schools are also setup in apartment like buildings. How could we expect “(W)holistic” development in such scenarios?

Let us now try and explain how we could resolve these seeming societal issues.

Thinking change: Schools therefore have to move away from the traditional style of teaching. They have to find ways to teach “How to learn?” Schools still teach content and test the memory of a student. A majority of current teachers are ill-equipped to handle this change. Most teachers think they are “giving knowledge”. Children don’t seem to care as the same knowledge is now available on internet: YouTube, learning apps etc. Parents also seek marks and scores so they augment school learning with additional tools. Schools of the new millennium have to goad and train teachers to abandon the archaic methods.

Towards this managements of the 21st century schools will have

  1. To recruit teachers who are all-rounders and those who are flexible to learn.
  2. To arrange for their training and development.
  3. To incorporate methods from other industries – like setting goals and measuring success.
  4. To keep motivating teachers to participate, accept and adapt to the change.

Our second and third challenge is social behaviour and lack of facilities. Schools, Parents and teachers alike have to recognize this change. None of the three interested parties can stay out of this issue. Children have to be involved in and assessed for social skills. Considering that they get very little opportunity to develop their social skills at home, schools have to work in creating opportunities. The above would mean

  • Curriculum has to change from a cognitive focus to more of “Affective”, “Psychomotor” and “Cognitive”. Teachers have to work harder to implement this.
  • Clubs & Extra-curricular activities should take an equally important role in school education planning. Students do not succeed by only getting scores in their subjects.
  • Teachers need to be trained. Despite time constraints – training should be an important investment that school authorities should invest in. Teachers invest their time & energy. Managements invest their time and capital.
  • Schools should provide for several programs to develop children and therefore need to invest in infrastructure for the same.

Nation Building is a thankless and sleepless job. It does not mean we neglect our health, which we can do only at our peril. It requires a balanced approach and probably a little more time than was required earlier. I believe “Schools Build Nations”. It is a thankless job to run a school and even more thankless to be a teacher in modern times. It can cause sleepless nights. The soldier at the border has a sleepless job. The doctor loses sleep when they have difficult patients. A teacher loses sleep to build citizens, including the doctors and the soldiers.

So if you think you are in the education field – keep awake and work smart. Remember the freedom fight less than 80 years ago. Many of our forefathers lost their sleep and lives to give us freedom. A few hours of sacrifice by us is going to build the future. Let’s all take pride in building a bright one.

Usha Thanneru

Academic Director

TATVA Global School

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