Saturday, December 25, 2010

Dinosaurs in textbooks

In the last one month I attended a conference on ‘Schools of Tomorrow’ and a panel discussion on ‘IT access to education’. The first hosted by an educational entrepreneur and the second by a social wing of CII.

I appreciate the zeal of this educational entrepreneur who has evolved from organizing adventure tours for schools to providing pedagogical solutions to schools.

I have been following his growth not intentionally but accidentally. In spite of the fact that he is not from a teaching background- he found a way to give curricular solutions to schools that do not have instructional leadership or strong academic fabric.

While appreciating this entrepreneurship in education, it also makes me ponder as to why no trained experienced teachers have come out with such solutions.
Lack of zeal and innovation or abilities??

In the virtual conference that he organized, I enjoyed the talk by Peter Senge Dean of Sloan School of Education MIT and Professor David Perkins Head of Project Zero in Harvard University. Gurcharan Das gave his own delightful insights.
Peter Senge is known for his observations on schools that run like industrial age models which churn out assembly line products (eg., our corporate schools and colleges) and

David Perkins for his wise and pertinent research on how schools miss out on what is essential to learn !

Except for these wise men spelling out the essentials of futuristic education, the conference was mundane with panelists talking about ‘hopefuls’ and ‘desirables’ in schools and teachers.

What worried me is that a congregation of schools heads and teachers did not talk about the redundancy of our Indian school syllabus !
No one thought of questioning the authenticity of it or contemporary value of it-all of them expressed concern over how to deal with it !

Even the interactive discussion hosted by Yi of CII talked about how much more technology can penetrate into teaching learning!

To see all those techno wizards sitting and discussing how to use the 21st century technology to teach a 19th century syllabus – was indeed painful.

However it is not the first time that I experienced a concern like this. In all meetings of principals or teachers I hope to hear someone talk about the outdated curriculum that we teach the 21st century students.

I awakened to this bitter reality long back –that our syllabus is largely obsolete. The textbooks are actually dinosaurs that belong to a different age !

It pains me to see students and teachers swirl in a whirlpool of syllabus which only ends as testing experience and not in the least an enlightening feeling !

When I asked this question to Director School Education AP, in that same conference he replied that till Grade 5 syllabus up gradation has been done and in the next 5 years they intend to revise the senior classes also.

To all my readers- SSC text books were first printed in 1968. For the last 5 generations of learners-same topics and concepts are being taught.

And to my utter dismay- people in AP fully believe that SSC syllabus is superior to CBSE or ICSE.

Whether to pity their ignorance or react over their cock eyed views…!!!

Last 15 years corporate schools and colleges have directly indoctrinated into the minds of people that AP is producing engineers for the world ! Ofcourse their counterparts in Rajasthan and Delhi are no less ! together they created a myth that the entire pool of engineers come from India.

Their publicity, gullible parents, migrant students and middle level IT jobs in US have created such a furore that even Obama began to fear Indians. He gave statements like take on Bangalore…!

I have some statements and news items from different parts of the world that might surprise us !

India is educating its young to become the call centre for the world !

Indian education system makes people who can repeat - not create !

When I read Professor Micheal Apple’s observation that policy makers or politicians do not really want to create an education system that grooms intelligent and thinking people, that’s why they do not make a progressive education policy- I began to ponder.

In western world this may be true to some extent but in our country I don’t think our politicians have any clue about content and context of education. So I cant blame our policy makers with such an intellectual charge- but I can say that education in terms of content and context is the last thing on our policy makers’ minds.
For them education is all about –number of schools, numbers going to those schools, number of teachers-(irrespective of their ability), free lunch and books-all those frills and laces for a frock that is not there !
They try to stitch and hem the educational fabric without a needle, thread and of course –no cloth !

I have a feeling that education gets that much attention as it gets now-
all children going to school and passing out with maximum marks.
All young people going to colleges and staying there - out of the adults’ way.
All grownups going to universities and do something with themselves and whenever required assist the political parties in slogan raising and bandhs.
Well-with all this the upcoming demographic advantage of India could be another campaign like –India shining!
Well whether India shines or India whines – it depends on the people who make this country called India !
Let us educate its people in the right direction in the right context with the right content, because the destiny of a country begins in its classrooms.

Tailspin: Since I believe in the maxim that ‘you be the change you wish to see in the world’ - I am doing beyond my best to make
education contemporary and contextual .

an article I found in an International magazine ...

Asian education must change to promote innovative thinking
As Asian economies ramp up R&D, and high-tech companies
relocate to China and India, Asian science looks unstoppable— apart from one last hurdle: a shortage of local talent. A radical change in Asia’s education culture is needed to foster the human capital necessary for innovation led
The exam-centric Asian education system has created a workforce more adept at imitation
than innovation (W. Lim Science 327, 1576–1577; 2010). Asia based scientists without Western collaborators therefore seldom publish in highly cited, indexed journals. No Asian nation is represented among the top 20,
ranked by the average number of citations per published paper.

A critical mass of creative researchers is required to sustain research and attract talent. For decades, Asian countries have sent their best to the West for training in science and technology. Those who return are valued for their initiative and creativity, and currently form the bulk of research leaders and productive scientists.
But many émigrés opt to remain overseas, where creative potential is higher.
Except for most Japanese laureates, virtually all science Nobel Prizewinners of Asian descent did their groundbreaking work in the West, and remained there. Countries that lure prominent foreign scientists find their impact on local researchers as unpredictable as the length of time they are willing to stay.

Asian governments recognize that the solution is to develop homegrown scientific talent. They have been adapting their national school curricula to fit new global realities. China and Japan, for example, have been moving away from a centralized curriculum.

Suitable science students should join a stream that feeds into the best universities. They should mainly be taught using problem-based and enquiry based learning, which will develop their powers of investigation and critical thinking. Grades should depend on active contribution during group-based learning sessions, to change the focus from competitive examination to collaborative learning. Only when these reforms are in place will Asian schools be able to progress beyond content knowledge to nurture the innovative thinking necessary to sustain the rise of Asian science.

William K. Lim Faculty of Medicine and
Health Sciences, Universiti Malaysia
Sarawak, 93150 Kuching, Sarawak,


Chaiti Aniruddha said...

Agree with your opinion that the ‘dinosaurs’ in the education system and the text-books of 21st century, need to be made extinct and more evolved subjects like ‘management’ and ‘entrepreneurship’ are to be included.
Today’s schools are not teaching the basics of personnel excellence or the science of success.
Edward de Bono: Almost all of what a child learns at school after the age of ten is totally irrelevant to his needs in later life... most schools do not teach thinking at all.
Og Mandino in University of Success: “ Not Once – neither in primary nor high school, not even in the most hallowed halls of higher learning – were you ever instructed on the simple techniques of setting goals, of motivating yourself and others, of dealing with adversity, of eliminating self-defeating habits, of using time profitably, of practising the power of choice, of developing self confidence, of doing the things that you are afraid to do, or generating enthusiasm at will, of organising your life, of getting people to give what you want, of looking like a winner, of handling stress, of counting your blessings.... and so much more.
The management must be taught as a school subject instead of the subjects which have become dinosaurs.
Many children are called upon to play directly the three interpersonal roles : “figurehead” , “Leader” and “Liasion Officer”. They do this while assisting the teachers as monitors of class, or group leaders or while captaining teams at playground.
As you truly said, the decision roles of “Entrepreneur” and “resource allocation” may only be occasionally assigned to them.
Many students in India receive a good pocket money of more than Rs. 1000 from parents. All are not the William Kane from Kane and Abel that they can manage their funds. They need a training in how to have a control on money, how to budget it and how to earn it and how to help society, how to mange the resources of time, information and intellect available to them.
You have started a very important new topic which has roots deep down in Toffler, Peter Drucker and De Bono.
Looking forward for more on this topic.

Chaiti Aniruddha

Anonymous said...

Mmmmmm What A punch...

I completely agree with you Mam.

Since my schooling days, teachers use to talk about change and upgradation of Syllabus will give Advantage for the upcomming generation.

Hope Govt should think now atleast, Ofcourse they dont have time for all these things infact.

It is such an awakening post for the present education system, I wish I could publish this post in all the news papers and magazines...

Its already a high time for the people who are running this system.., This message should reach to maximum number of teachers and student communities.

The all WEEDING can be done only through Education.

Anonymous said...

Its been so long since I've visited your site. But I have to say everytime I leave here I leave with food for thought.

Its interesting, my husbandf and i were discussing this topic just about a month ago.

This article also had a very similar kind of view.

"My research team at Duke looked in depth at the engineering education of China and India. We documented that these countries now graduate four to seven times as many engineers as does the U.S.The quality of these engineers, however, is so poor that most are not fit to work as engineers; their system of rote learning handicaps those who do get jobs, so it takes two to three years for them to achieve the same productivity as fresh American graduates.As a result, significant proportions of China's engineering graduates end up working on factory floors and Indian industry has to spend large sums of money retraining its employees. After four or five years in the workforce, Indians do become innovative and produce, overall, at the same quality as Americans, but they lose a valuable two to three years in their retraining."

This paragraph has the crux of it. and the sad part is that he is true. As part of my work, when i talk to customers one of their chief complaint is "Why does your team there directly agree to whatever is said." Why do we not question to see whether we think what is being said is actually what should be done.

This is not taught or rather i should say that this is really not allowed. In our busy lives we just tell our children to do as they are told in school, at home eberywhere. So they grow up just doing that. It takes atleast a year of working with our new employees to get them out of that mentality and start questioning and try out new things.

This should be done from school. I stayed with my cousin for some time in US and their young son in school used to come up with poems on a topic. He used to write random stuff but it had him and his thoughts be it star trek or something else stamped all over it.

But i also wonder if parents are ready for a change. I hope they are and i hope a change does come in soon. Otherwise its a costly business for corporate India also to have to re-train folks that have passed out of our Grad colleges.

Thanks for this amazing topic