Education – in the 21st Century
by Maj P. Tuhinikar Choudary (Retd) (Mob: +91 98480 47477)
Chairman – Institute for Democratic & Economic Affairz (IDEAz)
Proper Education is a must to prepare our children for the Future world they would be growing up to live in.
In the Agricultural era, education mainly meant the ability for counting, paying taxes and measuring of land. In the industrial age, education meant the ability to be timely in factories and work at simple repetitive jobs. Basic knowledge of ‘Reading, ‘Riting and ‘Rithmetic,’ was then enough.
In the digital and internet age of today, education is more the ability to grasp concepts, understand problems and be able to resolve them in the simplest, easiest and most efficient way possible. Education and skill development, are not a one time achievement, both need to be continually up-graded to keep pace with the continual disruptive changes in one’s work environment.
Rote learning is no longer necessary beyond the fundamentals. Better ability to use all resources available, including the internet, to solve any problem is what is essential. Understanding civil and social concerns and best addressing them to engage harmoniously with others to build a more equitable, prosperous and environmentally sustainable world is what is also essential today.
Understanding of how the child’s brain works at various ages and its circadian cycles and concepts such as that some exposure to teaching is a better way of learning etc. all need to be properly integrated into our New Education System for the 21st Century.
Aim of education – Encourage curiosity and learning – Practical orientation and experimentation – Aptitude and skill development – use of the Internet – Role of schools and vocational institutions – Quality of teachers – Incentives, awards and scholarships – Ideas for curriculum.
Quotations for consideration:
- “Children do not come with an operating manual of life. That is why they have parents who come into this earth before them to ready themselves to take on the responsibility to be a guide and an example to the children” – Maj P. T. Choudary
- “Don’t limit a child to your learning, for he was born in another time.”– Rabindranath Tagore.
- “Our youth does not form 100 percent of the population but they definitely form 100 percent of the future of our Society. We cannot prepare the future for our youth but we can certainly prepare our youth for the future”. – Shiv Khera.
- “What Society does to its children, so will its children do to Society.”– Cicero
- “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken adults.” – F.Douglas.
- “We want that education by which character is formed, strength of mind is increased, the intellect is expanded, by which one can stand on one’s own feet.” – Swami Vivekananda.
- “…Improving the quality of education is a cost free way to raise prosperity… the increase in economic benefits far outstrips the cost of investments.” – Paul J. Zak
- Education should be aimed at introducing life skills, (such as cleanliness, hygiene and being mindful of others, sharing and caring and including problem solving, critical thinking, decision making and creative thinking, through group discussions, role play, lab experiments, internships and field trips” – Sonam Wangchuk.
- “Good grades aren’t as good outside school as they are in it” – Nassim Nicholas Taleb
- “Knowledge is given to you not to dissect the past, but to construct your future” – T. T. Rangarajan.
- “All education is self education. A teacher is only a guide, to point out the way, and no school, no matter how excellent, can give you an education. What you receive is like the outlines in a child’s coloring book. You must fill in the colors yourself” – Louis L’Amour.
- “The best education does not happen at a desk, but rather (when) engaged in everyday living- hands-on , exploring, in active relationship with life.” – Vince Goevman
- “Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.”- Henry Ford.
- “The poorest of the poor do not need degrees or certificates, they just want work” – Sanjit “Bunker” Roy”, Founder of the Barefoot College.
- “How do you teach children the skills for the (future) since we don’t know which skills will be needed then” – Paul Doolan. You need to make them learn from how others had successfully learnt in the past. As the Arab proverb goes – “He who doesn’t have (knowledge of the) past, has no future”.
- Children are inherently curious and creative, characteristics that education must encourage. Teaching should be more through story telling as was in the past. This helps children better understand and retain the lessons.
- Education must teach how to do something or make something, instead of being all about memorizing facts and passing tests. This should begin right from Play School level with unstructured play emphasizing learning by doing and to develop the attitude and ability to persist with what one is doing till it is done.
- Children should also be encouraged to learn by observing and copying their parents in many traditional skills, such as handicraft, weaving, carpet making, farming etc. If they are prevented from doing so out of an erroneous understanding of what constitutes child learning special skills and what child labour is, the next generations will soon lose touch with their family skills and such skills will soon disappear with the older generations.
- Education psychology researchers at Purdue University have determined that good science education at the earliest is supremely important and have developed an approach to teaching science in Kindergarten integrating it with language. The combination delights the children and appeals to the teachers. (See www.purduescientificliteraryproject.org). Learning different languages by speaking during play is the best way to become multilingual, it also helps cognitive development.
- To ensure and encourage the implementation of the right to education, it is not only that more and quality schools need to be setup, but also that teachers be made accountable through a system of monitoring, recognition, awards and merit pay, and also that the students be incentivized by the mid day meals scheme and given a choice of schools vide a voucher system that forces schools especially Government schools, to compete to be better. In order to ensure rapid growth in the infrastructure for education, the Government should declare schools as a priority sector endeavour, and encourage private participation allowing for a reasonable profit thereon to be determined by the market based on competition. Government or ‘not for profit’ / Charity run schools can provide the competition.
Private schools, as recommended by the Economist – Aug. 2012, could also be modeled on Swedish / American / British “Free / Charter” schools or academies. These are called ‘Free’ schools because they are designed to be largely independent of the local educational bureaucracies and teachers unions. They receive the same level of public funding as the State schools but are independently managed. Such schools have been successful because they offer freedom to shape the school to the pupils, rather than the other way around. Teenagers could even be required to start school at a later hour to meet their biocycle conditions better. Schools can change the length of the school day, the length of the periods, the subjects taught at different times of the day, to best fit in with circadian cycles. They could fire bad teachers and spend the money as they wish. In some, the school year is continuous with short and relatively frequent bursts of holidays, because that keeps the learning on track and the kids out of trouble. The old holiday periods, tuned to Agricultural requirements, is no longer appropriate. It is quite evident now that giving schools independence – so long it is done in the right way, with the right monitoring, right regulations and right safe guards from the State – works.