What Do We Need For Better Education In India? 5 Educators Give Us Their Wishlist

Posted: January 24, 2019

Education in India is nowhere near global levels, and certainly not the crucial primary education. On the International Day of Education today, 24th January, we look at what needs to be done.

The United Nations has declared today, 24th January 2019, as it’s first International Day of Education, with the vision of committing to an “unwavering political will to support transformative actions for inclusive, equitable and quality education for all.”

The Indian education system is still very far from this vision, and our primary education, which is what is crucial to bring up our next generations and give them tools to craft a better life for themselves, is not quite where it should be. What do our educators have to say about this? What would they wish for us to do to make education closer to the ideal of “inclusive, equitable and quality education for all”?

We all have a favourite teacher, one that we think of fondly when we reminisce about our school days. A teacher who went beyond the textbook and taught so much just through his/her behaviour and interaction with the students.

Being a teacher is challenging no doubt. It provides one the space to have a role in shaping a child’s beliefs, values and personality. Five women talk about their journey as educators and what they see as the future of education in light of 24th January 2019 being decided upon by the UN as the first International Day of Education.

Sanchita S

Special needs educator – Nursery to Year 11, International School, Delhi NCR (8 years work experience)

“You can be a rocket scientist if you want to”.

I believe that if you teach the child in a way he or she learns the best, instead of fitting the child in a curriculum, you have achieved a step towards positive growth. As a special educator and a teacher in the mainstream classroom, if one designs the lessons keeping the most vulnerable students in mind, you are designing for all your students.

With the advent of technology schools have more and more access to resources from across the world, but in a country like India where the basics are not being met, especially in the rural sector where the struggle sometimes can be reaching the school safely, technology, innovation, and resources take a back seat. Teacher training is an important aspect when it comes to improving delivery. Training teachers on the latest curriculum development is an important step towards the path of positive growth and development of children.

Prioritizing where the funds are allocated, setting up committees to challenge corruption and ensuring effective implementation of the schemes through regular feedbacks and surprise checks will a long way towards achieving this goal. We have many battles to fight before we can call ourselves as global leaders.

In the rural set up we hear all too many stories regarding the safety of the girls and girls not going to school on reaching puberty. It has to be the very mind-set that has to change, but that is a war that we will fight for a very long time. In many societies, a girl is still viewed as someone who will get married and go away and not bring in monetary value to the family. Hence, spending money on her education is still considered not important. I feel the present scenario will only change if there are more incentives towards sending the girl child to school. Taking another stance, culturally, the responsibility of the household is gender defined and the woman is expected to leave her further studies or put a pause on her education in case she gets married or has children. There are so many women who either by choice or by circumstances have had to leave their careers despite being educationally qualified as the household responsibilities increased. Getting back to studies or jobs after a break is no easy feat and most women simply give up. The point that I want to bring across is that educating a girl child will bear fruit only if there is support at every level, i.e. from school to her job.

An experience that I would like to share is when I travelled to Chirag Foundation near Mukteshwar to train the Anganwadi workers on how to identify children with special needs and some other topics. The keen enthusiasm shown by them in learning and soaking up the training was a delight and an eye opener that there is so much scope in the area of education and there is so much keenness to learn. The policymakers in the education department need to pay heed to this and actively design and implement programs which will cater to the needs and requirements of the local population. This experience had a huge impact on me as a teacher and this will be the third year that I travel in the summer break to share my knowledge and resources as a teacher in the metro city with my counterparts in the rural setup.

Khushali Gandhi

Behavioural Skills Faculty – Psychology and Behavioural Sciences (Undergraduate and Post graduate Level), Amity University, Noida (10 years work experience)

Enable them to get where they want to get and support them to fail and try again. Let’s not focus on just winning.”

Education really needs to get out of books and move towards people. Working with people truly inculcates attributes such as tolerance, adapting, diversity, multiple possibilities of achieving something sharing responsibility and blame and so much more. Our current systems are deep rooted in individual achievements and scores, and smaller families add to the concept individualism. Using the power of working in a community helps children learn to use each other’s strengths, stand for each other and build support and build success together.

The world is increasingly focusing on the skills than degrees. After a certain level of education, people are no more being offered jobs just because they have a certain degree. They are asked to prove it over and over again. To add to it they are expected to take on multiple roles. You may have a management degree but if you don’t know how to contribute to the bottom line, you are easily replaceable. With the education world feeling its presence in the online space the skill learning courses are gaining momentum and large organizations are beginning to welcome this change. Skill-learning is the key in attaining global standards.

For me real education for the girl child is when she no more thinks that attaining a specific degree will get her a good husband or family. When a girl is equally involved in a financial discussion as a male in domestic discussion. Current scenario is far from how I see the future girls and women but I would truly like to believe that we are on the way. Ideally moving away from gender roles and moving towards equality in real sense.

A lot of my classes/ sessions focus on eliciting ideas and reasons from children; decisions that they have to take at their respective age. When given a completely non-judgmental space, most young students show immense intelligence with respect to their choices and reasons for it. Students show high awareness about how they feel, how ready are they to face consequences of their choices and how aspirational they are.

Reeta Sharma

English Teacher – Grade 6, 7, 8 & 9, Manav Rachna International School, Gurgaon (38 years in teaching)

Enjoy your work and reach out to the learners passionately. They reciprocate!”

Since the 21stcentury the learner has less patience with classroom teaching so the introduction of projects, collaborative learning and a free hand to choose their stream is the need of the hour. The teachers who play a major role in making all that they teach, interesting, encourage children to dream big, need to be selected with great care. Time to time workshops for teachers to apprise them with the latest developments and requisites in schooling will further bring a fresh change in the system.

India can definitely attain global standards in education by introducing a curriculum which is globally acceptable i.e. the pedagogy, methodology and so on. Teachers and students exchange programmes will further help to accomplish international standards.

The empowerment of women has made every Indian realise the importance of educating the girl child. It’s heartening to see the underprivileged class working hard to educate their daughters to give them a better life.

As a teacher,whenever one hears a student that one has taught, excelling in public speaking, writing, receiving accolades, one is rewarded. Having been approachable and friendly all through my career helped students never hesitate to share their academic as well as personal problems with me. Connect with my students beyondthe classroom – that’s what I consider the key to true teaching.

Aditi Vikas

Economics Teacher – Senior Level, Somerville School, Noida (21 years in teaching)

Help children find their strengths and work upon them and plan their future and career on this. These young minds (15-18 years) are sharp and smart. They need guidance and motivation to identify what they can achieve.”

I have been working in the education industry for a little more than two decades. The changes in the syllabus by including the changes taking place in the environment, society, laws, economy etc. are included to make children understand the changing scenario in the world. The project work introduced has helped lead them into research and to know how the concepts they have learnt are a part of their everyday life.

To improve the standard of education more freedom should be given to children to explore the subject as per their interest and ability. The curriculum should be designed in such a way that it should help the children to learn ‘how to learn’.

To reach the global standards of education, India should be focused on teaching children how to learn and try to do away with the rote learning technique which is practiced often times.

If teaching techniques are improved to ‘ learn by doing’ in every subject it will not only help the child to learn the concepts but it will also help the children to understand their strengths and interest in various subjects and fields. Children should get the opportunity to discover themselves and to know and explore their interests.

Education of the girl child is very important. In fact education is most important for every child, be it a girl or a boy. Mahatma Gandhi has also said that when you educate a man, you educate a person but when you educate a woman, you educate a family.

When a girl is educated she becomes a responsible and educated citizen. Education helps her to go beyond the household work and build a career and be financially independent and contribute to the society. Even if an educated girl decides to be a homemaker after her marriage, she will be able to take very good care of the health, hygiene and education of her children and all her family members.

The current scenario for girl child education at a macro level is not good in India. The female literacy rate is still low. Girl child in urban area belonging to good economic strata are getting education that too till higher level, but the girl child from low economic strata or in rural areas are not getting a chance to even have primary education. There is a high rate of drop outs of girls from school.

During these many years as an educator each year for me is a learning experience. I always feel young and energetic working with adolescents. Many incidents take place in the classroom and every time these incidents add value.

The most common I come across is the fear of failure among children. They are not confident if they are going to perform well. I realized that this feeling was not letting them perform up to their potential. I help them identify themselves with their strengths to build confidence in them. Then the next step is help them work first on their strengths and then the areas they find difficult. This way I aim to help my students feel less stressed and more confident and perform beyond barriers of fear.

Manvi Bakshi Jaggi

Counselor and Life Skills Teacher – Grades 6, 7 & 8, Private School, Delhi NCR (8 years work experience)

“Full disclosure. Tell them what they want to know and they will never go wrong. Discuss critical issues with openness and honesty, free of judgement.”

I feel that it is essential for every person, regardless of gender, to get at least a basic education as it is essential for survival. Whether in cities or in villages, it is imperative for girls to get educated. They are not just the pioneers of change, but also the ambassadors for growth and development of a society. Educating the girl child is necessary for economic development and prosperity for the country. With education, more and more girls attain economic empowerment/ financial freedom to live their own lives and take their own decisions as they’re not dependent on others for their existence or survival. Girls are aware of their rights and liberties which helps them make more informed choices/decisions.With education, girls are in a position of power and live their life with dignity and honour. They can choose to do whatever they wish to do in terms of choosing their careers and life partners.

However, in the current scenario, girls are still facing hardships in even reaching schools as some schools are in remote villages and there are safety concerns so parents do not send their girls to school. Also, the idea that it is pointless to spend money on a girl’s education is still rampant in several parts of India (because she has to get married and go away to another house). Women are still looked upon as homemakers and do not enjoy positions of power in organizations, despite being more or equally qualified as men. The Glass ceiling is a common hindrance for women to reach positions of power within organizations – the invisible barriers that stop women from reaching higher posts such as that of CEO etc. in an organization.

Women are not traditionally taught to be ambitious and do not grow up with too many role models within their own gender.

The standard of education can be improved by providing a team of well trained teachers and educators who can develop the necessary skill sets among the students. They must be equipped to deal with the changing demands of the system of education and help the children in developing key skills that will assist them in getting jobs in the future. With the changing needs/demands of the environment, it is necessary to have a curriculum that emphasizes Practical Skills and gives students the opportunity for application based learning. These help children in building their self-confidence and raising their self-esteem and enable them to handle difficult situations in life.

The goal of our education system should be to create Entrepreneurs, Innovators, Artists, Researchers, Thinkers and Writers who can establish the foundation of a knowledge based economy in order to attain global standards of education.

We must reward creativity of expression, originality of ideas, research and innovation among students – as opposed to rewarding only those students with the highest grades.Each child is unique and has a specific set of needs. Our system of education must cater to each of these needs. There cannot be a “One size fits all” policy in education. Schools/Colleges/Classrooms/Communities must practice Inclusion and create systems within themselves to facilitate learning among all children.

As educators the small steps we take on a daily basis play a huge role in shaping the child’s future. I had a child, autistic, age 3 who required an intervention plan and a learning process specific to her needs. As I went through the daily course of planning her curriculum and teaching her, I realized just how important each day and each practice is for us as educators – as the impact it has on a child is lifelong. Today I see the child developing skills of a higher level and reflect on how these tiny steps don’t seem to us as creating change in that very moment, but they surely do!

In the words of the Former First Lady of the United States, “The one thing people can’t take away from you is your education. And it is worth the investment.” (Michelle Obama)

Image source: pixabay

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