In this season of manifestos, I am sharing my own agenda, which is actually not my own in the true sense. It belongs to all those who wish to see a significant change in Indian polity that empowers unsung performers and those who wish to create entrepreneurial models of social change. I mentioned about agriculture and importance of mental work over menial in the last column.
c) Educational Reforms: there is a need to reinforce social, ecological, industrial and institutional connect of students in technological as well as other streams. The national service scheme [NSS] has outlived its utility. There is a need to replace it by National Inclusive Innovation Service [NIIS]. The precise parameters of performance would need to be developed, shared and tracked. Horizontal or peer monitoring would ensure that students of colleges and schools don’t lose track of their course. It must be obligatory for every technology student to share the final year project on web through portals like techpedia.in so that there is a premium on originality and forging these four connects. Industrial clusters must be mapped to the colleges so that these connections can be forged at domain and sub-domain level. Students in technology must be encouraged to take some courses in humanities and vice versa. The anonymous evaluation of faculty by students as practiced in a few institutions must be mandated everywhere. The feedback should be processed through online survey so that no tampering or modification can be done. The grade distribution in different courses should also be shared so that community can judge for itself whether some are too liberal or too harsh. Exceptions should be tolerated and encouraged.
Creation of open source multimedia, multi-language content for school children must become a national priority. The new government must try to accomplish this in the first 100 days through the voluntary support of bright students in elite institutions. Every single village should have access to this open source content in printed or digital format.
The federations of primary and secondary school teacher unions should be called for a national consultation chaired by the Prime Minister to resolve the serious chasm between the goals of education and its delivery in public schools. Unless teachers and other employees of education department feel proud in admitting their children to the school in which they teach or the ones they govern, the present dichotomy will not go away.
Mushrooming of low quality educational institutions managed particularly by politicians have done a great damage to the cause. AICTE has completely failed in its task of quality maintenance. It needs to be completely restructured. Similarly, UGC and other institutions need to be re-calibrated for the purpose. Involvement of teachers in political parties is difficult to avoid in a democratic system. However, their appointments and transfers on such basis are completely avoidable. The innovations by teachers pooled at platforms like teachers as transformers.org provide an outstanding example of how educational system can generate positive energy from within. However, the recalcitrance of Ministry of Human Resource Development to engage with and learn from such initiatives shows the myopia of the policy makers. A decisive leadership will have to overcome such inertia coming in the way of meaningful reforms.
Educational systems shape not only the mind but also the heart of younger generation. If school textbooks are practically devoid of content on local or indigenous innovations, initiatives for creation of public goods and respect for pluralistic culture, then expecting such values in society is meaningless. National ethos is crafted at the hands of a teacher. Inspired Teachers are the hub of a reinvented India.