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CBSE introduces course on Indian traditions

Curriculum Development, Higher Education

Abhishek Choudhari,

Times of India

May 17, 2013


NAGPUR: The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) has introduced a new course about Indian traditions and believes that it will build “immense pride and raise self-esteem” of students. The course called ‘Knowledge Traditions and Practices of India’ is an elective subject for class XI and XII students.

CBSE director Sadhana Parashar has written to affiliated schools saying “It is hoped that all heads of schools will adopt this new initiative of the Board and assist us in our endeavour to nurture our intellectual heritage”. The letter adds that “it has been the firm conviction of the CBSE, that the basis of all education which it seeks to impart, is the development of a strong value system and a deep pride for India’s knowledge traditions and practices. In the absence of an easily accessible source of information, the knowledge traditions and practices remain untapped leading to ignorance and misconceptions”.

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Lok Capital, Acumen to fund social education venture

Curriculum Development, Public Private Partnerships (PPPs)

New Delhi: Venture capital (VC) firms Lok Capital and Acumen Fund have invested about Rs. 8 crore in a Karnataka-based social education venture, Hippocampus Learning Centres, that takes kindergarten concepts to villages.

In two years, Lok Capital, which has mainly invested in microfinance firms, aims to add up to five education ventures to its investment portfolio. It will invest in for-profit education ventures with scalable business models, but which are also affordable and capable of bringing grassroots change, said Ganesh Rengaswamy, partner, Lok Capital.
“The investment in Hippocampus is small-ticket but it’s important as it is our first in the sector,” he said. “We are evaluating other ventures like in education, skill and employment…. In next two-three years, we look at investing in three-five ventures.”

Lok Fund-II has a corpus of around Rs. 450 crore with a focus on financial inclusion, education and allied fields, and healthcare.

Livemint, 14 May 2012


Indian parents protest ‘B is for Bomb’ books

Curriculum Development

LUCKNOW, India – Angry parents are demanding to know why their kids are being taught about bombs and knives at nursery schools in a northern Indian state.
They complain that a book on Hindi language alphabets for children aged 4 to 5 says that “B” stands for bomb and “Ch” for “Chaku,” or knife. Pictures accompany the words.
Ram Authar Dixit, president of the Parents-Student Welfare Association of Gurukul Academy in Uttar Pradesh state, said Sunday that the national education board was investigating how such a book was cleared for private nursery schools.
More than 100 schools in the state have been using the book.
Javed Alam, a board official, blamed the book publisher for the lapse.
The Federal Board of Secondary Education issues broad guidelines to state and private schools relating to books, but leaves the content to publishers. It steps in in case of complaints, Alam said.
“It is the responsibility of the education board to provide clean books to the students,” said Dixit, a parent.
The publisher could not be immediately reached for comment.
“Children have an impressionable mind. If students are taught about bombs and knives at this stage this would develop a negative mindset for them,’ Ananya Tiwari, a child psychologist, told The Associated Press in Lucknow, the state capital.

Fox News, 29 April 2012


What’s taught in school vs what industry needs

Curriculum Development, Quality

SINGAPORE – They may hire the cream of the crop of graduates in India, but during his visits to some globally competitive companies in India, Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam found that these companies still took pains to set up in-house colleges to retrain these “exceptionally-capable minds”.

Mr Tharman said that the chief executives told him they hire people based on entry tests but the graduates do not come with the skills required to “operate in the real world”. These companies, therefore, have “put in an intensive structured training programmes to help them adapt”, he said.

Mr Tharman was responding to a question on how to tackle the gap between what is taught in schools and industry needs at the inaugural Asia Pacific Pan Indian Institute of Technology dialogue yesterday,

Identifying this lack of “practice orientation” as a gap in the Asian education system in general, Mr Tharman, who is Minister of Finance and Manpower, said: “This is true both for institutions at the pinnacle, like the IITs (Indian Institutes of Technology), as well as for institutions that should be providing high quality technical education for the needs of industrialising economies as well as the needs of the modern economy.”

The IITs are a group of elite technology and engineering-oriented institutes of higher learning in India. They are represented by more than 200,000 alumni globally under the umbrella Pan IIT organisation, with about 1,000 of them in Singapore alone.

In Singapore, Mr Tharman noted that the education system’s “technical orientation” started in the 1970s. About 65 per cent of each school-leaving cohort now progress through the technical route either via the Institutes of Technical Education or the polytechnics, he said.

“It doesn’t matter what they do later in life, but starting off with the applied orientation allows them to maximise the talent and skills they have because most people in any population, their minds work very well when they are working on something practical.”

Mr Tharman also touched on the need for greater intellectual and cultural linkages between Singapore and India, noting that the connection – while understandably weaker compared with the relationship between Singapore and China – presents great opportunities for development.

Singapore could help India with urban solutions, like clean water and the environment, he said.

“The challenge in India, in this regard, is to develop urban solutions that provide a standard of living that is acceptable to a broad mass of people and can spur economic growth both in manufacturing and services,” he said.

When asked how Singapore IIT Alumni association can contribute, Mr Tharman called on the grouping to create networks between India and East Asia “with Singapore being a gateway of sorts”.

This could mean allowing IIT students to visit Singapore universities through deeper collaborations than what is currently available, while providing opportunities for Singapore students to go to India, he said.

Today, 08 April 2012


Education events to look decade ahead

Curriculum Development, Global news, Vocational Training

You’re going to be tempted to say, “Back in my day …” but you must resist.

If you attend one of the three Education Summits hosted in the next eight days by the Wichita Falls Independent School District, you will come face to face with a paradigm shift in education that is so vast, it’s affecting not only classrooms but also the buildings that house them.

It’s also creating an educational environment completely different from the one you remember.

The summits — the first begins today at 6 p.m. at Scotland Park Elementary School — will be the school district’s opportunity to introduce you to the challenges facing them and then ask you to join them in a brainstorming session.

Instead of looking back, you will be asked to look ahead and help craft an instructional vision for WFISD’s future.

“We need our participants to look 10 years ahead and think about what our learning environment will look like,” said Tim Powers, WFISD assistant superintendent.

On its website, WFISD pictures the classroom you remember, with a June-Cleaver-looking teacher instructing students who sit in rows. That contrasts sharply with the photo of today’s classroom: Students equipped with iPads conferring with one another in small groups.

The website also includes statistics like these: The U.S. Department of Labor estimates today’s learners will work at 10 to 14 jobs by the time they’re 38 years old. According to the U.S. Department of Education, the top 10 in-demand jobs in 2010 didn’t even exist in 2004.

Schools must prepare students for jobs that don’t exist yet, with technology that hasn’t been invented yet, said WFISD Public Information Officer Renae Murphy.

“We have to make sure our kids are flexible,” Murphy said, “and have skills that can transfer over to different types of professions.”

All are welcome to join the discussion. The city’s leaders — county commissioners, judges, city council members, and chamber leaders — were specifically invited to attend the Tuesday noon brown-bag meeting.

“We’re trying to incorporate other entities in this plan,” Murphy said. “(Superintendent) Dr. (George) Kazanas sees it as an opportunity for Wichita Falls as a whole. There may be partnerships that can be developed. We want to encourage that thinking also.”

Ultimately, discussion about how schools must change to adapt to technology advances will lead to decisions about how classrooms must be equipped to support today’s teacher and students, then what the buildings must be like.

“Eventually, it will become a tangible facility plan,” Murphy said.

The district leaders anticipate revamping the district’s secondary facilities and raising money for the project through a bond issue.

In the not-so-distant past, the district planned new buildings by hiring a facility study and focusing on brick-and-mortar buildings and school locations.

But not this time.

“This is a different approach,” Murphy said. “Dr. Kazanas is wanting the community to think of the end product (the student we want to create) first, then ask how to support the teacher to get the kids to that level. It’s a big paradigm shift to challenge our community to think in those terms first.”

Community members must begin by trying to comprehend the evolution of technology, its influence on education, and the reality that students no longer compete with students in neighboring counties.

They race against students in China, India, and all over the world, Powers said.

“We must wrap our heads around the fact that our students are entering a global economy and will change jobs at a much higher rate than we did. Students graduating will be more fluid, flexible and versatile when they enter the job market. We must be prepared to provide them with the skills and tools they will need to be successful,” Powers said.

The focus now is creating students who will be lifelong learners, who are equipped to find information and use it to problem-solve.

The second summit convenes Tuesday at noon at the Education Center, 1104 Broad Street in Room 302. The third summit meets April 10, at 6 p.m. at Barwise Junior High School.

Prior to attending the summit, participants are urged to preview an introductory video about today’s students that’s posted on the district’s website

Times Record News, 02 April 2012


Early Childhood Care and Education Policy proposed

Curriculum Development, Pre-primary Education

With the aim of providing integrated services for the holistic development of all children from the prenatal period to six years, the government has proposed a National Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) Policy that lays down the way forward for a comprehensive approach towards ensuring a sound foundation for every child. India has 158.7 million children in the 0-6 age group as per the 2011 Census.

Broadly, the policy focuses on re-structuring the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) scheme and integrating early childhood education with the Right to Education Act to ensure a smooth transition into formal schooling. All service providers will have to be registered with the State governments to ensure quality of services provided.

Early childhood is acknowledged as the most crucial period in a person’s life, when the rate of development is very high and foundations are laid for cumulative lifelong learning and human development. There is growing scientific evidence that the development of the brain in the early years is a pathway that affects physical and mental health, learning and behaviour throughout the life cycle.

Despite the existence of multiple service provisions, there is no reliable data available about the actual number of children attending the existing ECCE provisions and their break-up as per the delivery of services. Of the 158.7 million children in the below-six-years category, about 75.7 million children — 48 per cent — are reported to be covered under the ICDS scheme. Broad estimations indicate that a significant number is also covered by the private sector, besides some limited coverage by the NGO sector, for which there is no data available.

The quality of non-formal preschool or early childhood care and education imparted through these multiple channels is uneven, and varies from a minimalist approach to a mushrooming of accelerated academic programmes. This is largely an outcome of an inadequate understanding of the concept of ECCE, its philosophy and its importance among all stakeholders. This — coupled with inadequate institutional capacity in the system and an absence of standards, regulatory norms and mechanisms as well as a lack of understanding of the basic premise of ECCE — has aggravated the problem, observes the draft policy put out by the Ministry of Women and Child Development Ministry.

This ECCE policy will cover all early childhood care and education programmes and related services in public, private and voluntary sectors in all settings across regions. These services include anganwadis (AWC), crèches, play schools, preschools, nursery schools, kindergartens, preparatory schools, balwadis, and home-based care.

The policy seeks to universalise the provision of ECCE for all children, mainly through the ICDS scheme in the public sector and other service provisions across systems. The Anganwadi Centre would be repositioned as a “vibrant child-friendly Early Childhood Development Centre” with adequate infrastructure and resources for ensuring a continuum of the ECCE in a life-cycle approach and child-related outcomes. Conversion of AWCs into AWCs-cum-crèches with a planned early stimulation component and interactive environment for children below 3 years will be piloted. Young children with different abilities would be reached out to. Service-delivery models will be experimented for family, community, and NGOs.

To standardise the quality of ECCE available to children, basic quality standards and specifications will be laid down valid across public, private and voluntary sectors. A Regulatory Framework for the ECCE to ensure basic quality inputs and outcomes, across all service providers undertaking such services, will be progressively evolved at the national level and implemented by States in the next five years.

A developmentally appropriate National Curriculum Framework for the ECCE will be developed. It will promote play-based, experiential and child-friendly provision for early education and all-round development.


To sustain the multi-sectoral and inter-agency collaboration, a thematic ECCE Committee with experts will be formed under the ICDS Mission Steering Group initially and later formed as a National ECCE Council, with corresponding councils at the State level, and later at the district level. The council will be the apex body to guide and oversee the implementation of the policy as well as keep ECCE programmes consistent with the National ECCE Policy.

The Hindu, 26 March 2012


Kids benefit from partnership

Curriculum Development, Quality, Vocational Training

In 1990, President Steven D. Lavine of the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia established a program to give underserved youth ages 8 to 18 in Los Angeles County a chance to experience the arts in a college setting.

The goal was to take the innovative teaching style created by Walt Disney at CalArts and share it with children who otherwise may not get that opportunity.

The program — the
CalArts Community Arts Partnership, or CAP — provides 7,500 underserved, low-income students with arts education opportunities each year.

Under the leadership of director Glenna Avila, who has a passion for art, youth and community, the program is designed to cross socio-economic boundaries.

Avila also has an extensive background working with the city of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs.

“With the current budget cuts public schools are facing, after-school arts programs are being cut back or eliminated altogether,” Avila said. “CalArts CAP fills in the gap, taking arts education to kids living below the poverty line, who otherwise may never get that college opportunity.”

The CalArts CAP Program partners with more than 60 neighborhoods and 40 public schools, community centers and social service agencies throughout Los Angeles County, providing free arts education to underserved areas.

Sixty artist-educators from the CalArts faculty and 300 CalArts student instructors and alumni are the teaching force behind the CAP program, all with an emphasis on individualized attention to the student.

“It is all about giving the student exposure to the arts with as much individualized attention as possible,” Avila said. “The arts impact community development.”

The faculty consists of professional artists, with at least three years of teaching experience at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. The CAP program also operates 52 free in-school, after school and summer arts education programs each year.

The program features a variety of art experiences including fine art, photography, printmaking, graphic design, digital media, animation, video, jazz, world music, play writing, chamber music, theater, puppetry, dance and creative writing.

CAP has received national honors including the President’s Committee on Arts and Humanities Coming Up Taller Award.

The award was presented by then-first lady Laura Bush for the CAP effort to foster creative and intellectual development in children.

In the Santa Clarita Valley, the CalArts CAP program partners with the Boys & Girls Club in Newhall, Arroyo Seco Junior High School in Canyon County and Newhall Elementary School.

West Creek Academy in Valencia also partners with the CalArts CAP Program and hosts a music-infused curriculum for grades one through four, and a theater program for grades five and six.

The art forms included in the curriculum are dance/drum, piano, violin and vocal performance from cultures around the world.

“The idea — in addition to exposing the kids to the arts — is to teach vital skills such as listening,” Avila said. “The arts are simply a tool to teaching life.”

Avila said the West Creek curriculum gained some inspiration from Gustavo Dudamel, a native of Venezuela and the conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, who also conducts youth orchestras using a music philosophy known as “El Sistema.”

The El Sistema program has used music ensembles to transform the lives of 300,000 kids from the poorest parts of Venezuela.

CalArts CAP has several venues throughout the Southland for youth to be involved, such as the public/private partnership with the city of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs and Sony Pictures Entertainment. The CAP/Sony Pictures Media Arts Program for children ages 10 to 14 will be a celebration of animation.

The program is free and will teach students how to write, animate, direct and edit their own animated short films using the latest technologies from Sony Pictures Entertainment and artists from CalArts.

The grand finale will include a screening on the big screen of all the films created. The host site closest to the SCV is the San Fernando Gardens Community Service Center at 10896 Lehigh Ave. in Pacoima and runs 4 to 7 p.m. Mondays and Tuesday now through June 13.

CalArts CAP will also host a CAP Summer Arts Program 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays July 9-26.

Featured will be animation, creative writing, dance, digital filmmaking, music, photography, theater and visual arts.

Also on the CalArts campus in Valencia is a photography program 4 to 7 p.m. on Mondays and a digital-media program, which explores the worlds of video as well as T-shirt design, book creation and poster design, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesdays.

The Signal, 09 March 2012


Education in India is at Crossroads

Access to education, Curriculum Development, Finances & Budgets, Learning Achievements, Literacy

Indian culture is a rare manifestation of intense pride in knowledge. India’s historical fabric flaunts great works of knowledge that are not only an important part of India’s heritage, but the world’s heritage. Education has been the greatest leveler for the Indian society rife with divides between caste, regions and religions.

It not only enables social mobility but is also a crucial factor for financial success and status in India.

A report by Ernst & Young says that in a typical Indian household, families spend a high amount of money on education. Only food and transportation account for a higher amount of spending.

The National Sample Survey Organization shows average household expenditure on education in India has risen from 2.55% in 2008 to 7.5% in 201 0. Between 1999 and 2009, Indian household spending on education jumped up by as much as 378% in rural areas and 345% in urban areas.

Additionally, the Central government has announced 24% hike in the budget allocation for education in 2012.

As household and government expenditure on educations zooms, it is interesting that the overall quality of basic education remains poor. This is the result of the flawed attitudes towards education. On one hand, the government thinks that allocating more money to its education budget would reform the poor public education system. On the other hand, the people consider education a means of employment. The parents and kids alike are happy as long as they are able to bag a job with fat package and perks as soon as they graduate. However, this is an alarming trend for a country whose growth prospects largely depend on how it tackles its demographic dividend today.

There appear to be serious fault lines in India’s current education system, which focuses on rote rather than experiential learning. Exams and marks rather than creativity and critical inquiry are the important parts of India’s education. In most schools, memorization is mistaken for learning. Most of what is remembered is quickly forgotten. (How many remember how to take a square root or the formula for sodium nitrate?)

In a society richly steeped in culture, traditions, heritage and multilingualism widespread over the ages, where every major world religion co-exists, we need to reflect on transforming the attitude towards education. Looking at the current state of education in the country, one could not agree more with William J Crocket who asks “ if school is not ‘a people place’, where tears are understood, spirits can take wing, feelings can be heard, where one is accepted as one is, then where else can one be, just oneself?” Our educational system misplaces its focus on ‘knowing’ rather than the ‘different ways of knowing and learning styles’.

A major problem is that our approach to education is wrong, our focus is to get the children “employed” not “educated” – in a curious historical inversion, our educational history interestingly has followed an inverted pyramid from being a nation that was home to the world’s oldest and finest universities in recorded history (Nalanda and Takshila), we have now an education system that cannot even boast of one institute of higher learning amongst the top 100 in the world. The nation at large is complacent, with some isolated islands of excellence like the IIT’s and IIM’s (Indian Institutes of Technology and Management). While the majority of institutions of learning, whether schools or universities, have failed to transform their outlook towards education.

The existing models of learning are reasonably good for developing a disciplined mind, crammed with information. Howard Gardner, one of the world’s most influential thinkers and author of the theory of Multiple Intelligences(MI) recently was asked if there were too many engineers in India, Gardner said: “I’m skeptical about any profession being valorized over others. Who knows what is going to be needed in the next 25 years? In the U.S. and in India, schools should not be preparing people for professions; professions should do that themselves. Instead, schools should prepare them to understand arts and science better. The point of developing intelligence is to become a competent human being.”

While the country’s economy is growing at the rate of 7%, we are not sure at what rate our children’s minds and intellect are expanding.

There is an urgent need to understand education in its deepest and widest sense. In Sri Aurobindo’s words, amongst one of India’s greatest philosopher and thinkers:

“That alone will be a true and living education which helps to bring out to full advantage, makes ready for the full purpose and scope of human life all that is in the individual man, and which at the same time helps him to enter into his right relation with the life, mind and soul of the people to which he belongs and with that great total life, mind and soul of humanity of which he himself is a unit and his people or nation a living, a separate yet inseparable member.”

If this is the true meaning of education, then what passes in its name today in our educational institutions is obviously very far from the mark. The purpose of education cannot be, even at its best, to merely create a literate individual, a skilled technician or a law abiding citizen, these are only the byproducts of a truly great education system. These are essential however they are not adequate in themselves. Nor do they create a well rounded individual or a great nation.

There are change makers working round the clock to make a difference in the educational landscape of the country. If India succeeds in changing its approach towards education, we have the opportunity of transforming the minds of one sixth of humanity!

Koraputonline.org, 01 March 2012


Students can kill, but our jackpot system is killing education itself

Curriculum Development, Higher Education, Learning Achievements

The murder of a Chennai teacher by her student in full view of her horrified class has raised all kinds of concerns. We ask: are our children becoming too violent; are parents or schools abdicating their responsibilities; is too much violent TV at fault; do our movies promote wrong values?

More pertinent are the questions about our education system: are class sizes too big; are teachers equipped to deal with so many children; are double-income households leaving it all to schools and doing very little parenting themselves; do schools have inadequate counselling facilities; is our rote system and exam pressure to blame when children completely lose it, as the Chennai boy did?

As always, the answer is a yes to all these questions. The moot point is, no one can really know what factor really pushes a child over the edge, and which burden is simply too much to load – onto children, parents and schools.

Taking a helicopter view of the issue, I would say the whole system is driven by twin scarcities: a lack of really good educational institutions compared to demand, and a lack of understanding of the emerging job market.

What this results in is the jackpot mentality among parents. They know that the route to good jobs is only through, first, a good school upto Std X, and, next, through a singular focus on an IIT/IIM education after that. (By IIT/IIM we are only talking of institutions in that quality category, and not specifically the IITs and IIMs. The category could include other private and public educational institutions of equal standing, like the NITs, IIITs, BITS, ISB, etc).

Since the number of seats in IIT and IIM-type institutions is very limited – there are just a few thousand seats against a potential demand from several million candidates – every parent aims for the jackpot. The thought process: ‘To earn big, my child has to compete against the very best, and for this I will put him (and now her) through every kind of coaching class, spend a bomb on education outside school, make her attend all kinds of courses (personality development, how to face an interview, et al).’ Little wonder, both children and parents are driving themselves nuts.

Unfortunately, what makes sense at the individual parent level does not make sense systemically. If every parent pushed her child to jump through hoops all the way from kindergarten to IIT/IIM, 99 percent cannot make it anyway. They don’t get even crumbs. Put another way, we make life hell for 100 percent of our children in the hope that 1 percent will make it.

This is the stupidity of the jackpot system of education. The all-or-nothing system is okay for a lottery, not an education system.

As any lottery ticket vendor will tell you, you buy a ticket just to see if you hit the jackpot. You don’t invest your entire fortune buying up all the tickets so that you are sure you hit the jackpot. If you do, the lottery issuer will always win: there are always more tickets than winnings.

For a saner education system, we need to move away from the jackpot system to one where 99 percent can win something, even if only 1 percent can win big time.

The truth is job realities have already moved in that direction. Today, it is not just doctors, or engineers or bankers who are in demand, but also everyone from gym trainers to tour guides to part-time teachers to actuaries to wedding planners to multi-media journalists to actors, cricket players and what-have-you. Categories of jobs that never existed before are now growing the fastest.

The problem is this: parents don’t know this. Even those who do are unwilling to take chances. The information market still caters to only engineers and doctors and CAs, or else we wouldn’t have parents agonising over IIT-JEEs, AIEEEs, and CETs, not to speak of SATs, CATs, and GMATs.

Thanks to the lottery system, the rich now send their children abroad to avoid it, and the not-so-rich upper and middle classes force their children to learn by rote and somehow crack their entrance exams.

The problem is, even the 1 percent who make it don’t deliver much to the country that invested in them. When you hit the jackpot after working very hard, you go for the big bucks. Our IIT engineers go abroad, our doctors don’t want to go to where they are needed – rural areas and slums. Most engineers who stay back end up being software coders, and doctors end up going for super-specialisations like plastic surgery – where the rich can give them more money. Instead, of doctors, they end up being cosmetic artists.

As I noted some time ago:

India is thus headed for disaster since everyone, from the rich to the poor, is now chasing the same IIT-IIM-engineering-medical jackpot instead of getting a worthwhile education that works in our job market.

The world we are entering – have already entered, in fact – needs people with multiple skills and quick learning and re-learning abilities, but the education system and wrong aspirational culture we have built around the IITs and IIMs are out of sync with reality.

While one answer is to create more IITs and IIMs to cater to demand (it is no one’s case that they are not needed), the real answer – the 1 percent versus 99 percent issue – is to create many, many more quality institutions that train for different kinds of job options, and disseminate information on the same.

Four broad trends will dictate the kind of education system we need:

One, jobs are not for keeps anymore as companies have to constantly adjust for market changes. This means employees have to be more opportunistic than before. They have to be more flexible and adapt to new jobs faster. Parents need to know this as much as children and educators.

Two, new job categories emerge and disappear quicker now as technology changes businesses. This means employees have to be periodically re-skilling themselves. Education has to focus not only on students about to enter the job market, but also on people with jobs today who may not have one tomorrow. We, thus, need an education system that can offer courses off-the-shelf to anyone, anytime.

Three, knowledge is growing obsolete more quickly than before. This means learning and work cannot fall into a neat linear timeline where one learns for the first 20-and-odd years of one’s life and then works till the age of 60 or more. Learning and working have to continue life-long. Both have to be interspersed after school. All employers need to factor learning time into every employee’s job profile.

Four, income and wealth are ephemeral in a world of volatile market movements (Read Alvin Toffler on Revolutionary Wealth). Even fixed income avenues are not safe any more – they can crash or soar in value (example: Greek bonds). Even if you save a lot, its value may shrink or soar with market moods. Thus, your ability to learn and earn is what matters at any age – whatever be your bank or demat account balance may be at any point of time. It can disappear overnight – as many Americans found after the Lehman crisis.

A jackpot education system will produce a society of crackpots and nervous wrecks in this changing world. Look how we waste our education years.

We enter kindergarten around four years of age, and finish 10th standard around age 16. If one excludes a few worthwhile professional courses, the next five years are practically a waste for college-goers – as nothing we learn prepare us for the new world out there.

Among the things we need to rethink are the following issues:

One, should the five years after 10th standard be used both for doing a job, and reskilling, or do we continue with our existing system of going nowhere? A two-year job stint, followed by a course for learning specific skills for the jobs that exist or are growing, would make better sense. The government can help if it encourages companies to hire after Std 10 or 12 – by either incentivising the hiring of apprentices or by mending labour laws to ensure flexible hiring.

Two, college and university education has to move away from sterile degrees and become more flexible to the job market’s needs. This means curricula should be constantly under review and corporations and non-governmental organisations should play a part in their creation. If a new job description is emerging today, a course should be immediately offered by colleges and universities. When some job categories disappear, courses relating to them should be put out to grass.

Three, this degree of flexibility means not only curricula, but even faculty and teachers, need constant reskilling. Or, alternatively, there should be more short-term induction of college professors from the corporate world or relevant work areas.

Four, since career options can open up or reach a dead end any time during one’s lifespan, colleges and universities cannot thus be only tailored to the young. They have to be created for everybody – even 55-year-old grandmoms who need to earn a living or 40-year-old bank cashiers who find that no one comes to the counter anymore.

Five, even professional courses like those for doctors and lawyers need to have short-term and long-term elements built into them. Do we need a five-year MBBS to create high-cost doctors who don’t want to work in rural health centres or shorter-term courses for those willing to work there? The current high-cost MBBS (high capitation fees, and long stretch of study time) is simply not viable for the rural areas. Maybe, Munnabhai MBBS courses are the answer.

Six, we clearly need a very solid information system on jobs and skills from a robust, live, national database where information flows from all potential employers constantly.

If the only options available for a good job are IIT, IIM, medicine, engineering, or law degrees, everyone will head there. This is why Narayana Murthy finds the skills of IITians poor. They are just trying to crack the system.

But the real system is already cracked and broken. But we don’t seem to know it.

Steve Jobs, Dhirubhai Ambani and Bill Gates were either dropouts or not formally educated like your average IIT/IIM alumnus. This clearly proves that success does not necessarily come only from formal education. It comes from within – all we need is to pick up the skills that can enhance our inborn talent.

We need to build an education system that would allow an Ambani or a Gates to take a refresher even after they have earned their millions. Or after they have failed in businesses or careers.

Firstpost.India, 10 February 2012

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It will take 100 years to revamp education!

Curriculum Development, Learning Achievements, Literacy

HYDERABAD: Revamping education system in a country like India will take 50 to 100 years of hard work, believes Professor Howard Gardner of the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Best known for his theory of multiple intelligences, he was in the city as part of his six-city tour in the country.
The professor of cognitive psychology emphasized that for India, “there are no quick-fix solutions for changing the education system.” Speaking to the media at the Indian School of Business, the educationist spoke of the narrow framework in which educational institutions and learning are judged.
“The observation that if it is not quantified, it is not useful is a fall out of neoliberalist policies of the US and India. Quantifying intelligence does not take into account only school tests. If a child is doing well in school, do not spare a milli-second trying to quantify his abilities. Quantifying the various forms of intelligence helps when a child suffers from learning disabilities,” said the professor whose hypothesis of various forms of intelligences has been adapted across schools in the US to mentor students in a specific skill from a young age.
The professor pointed out that in India, where education is more about competition and less about understanding, the evaluation criteria has its drawbacks.
“There is a funnel problem in India where a large number of students are competing to get into a few elite schools such as the IITs. The admission process in universities in the US is much better as intake is not based on a single test score. It takes into account the candidate’s hobbies, interests and other aspects,” explained Gardner who visited IIT Chennai before his stop in the city.
He also underlined the importance of social capital a child brings to the school.
“Schools cannot foster creativity if they believe in error-free learning,” opined Gardner introducing his hypothesis which talks about five different minds and seven types of intelligences.
Among the five different minds which cover the psychology of an individual, the ‘synthesizing mind’ will be respected in the coming years, observed the cognitive psychologist.
“The ability to correlate information and connect relevant information is the function of a synthesizing mind. But there is also the need to develop an ethical mind,” he said. Sharing an anecdote, he said if students at Harvard were asked to read only one book in their life, he would recommend to them Mahatma Gandhi’s autobiography, My Experiments With Truth. “It is not the most elegantly written book but captures best the ethical dilemmas an individual faces,” he said.

Ibnlive, 05 February 2012

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