Next Gen Education Policy

26 Feb

It is time for the next generation of education policies. What started as a low growl, a murmur of dissent in education space has now grown to a roar. Globally, education is in transition. Beyond the usual burble of -‘it’s time to outgrow industrial age education’, or, ‘you can’t teach a child to deal with the future with the tools of the past’. It’s gone past the debates of ‘is education a public good’, or even, “Is there room for the private sector in education’ etc. Sure, there will be enough people who will carry on with these grand questions.

But the real questions (and this is why I love India – it cuts to the chase) are about the individual. About the student. And the student is asking, very simply, “what’s in it for me?”

This is what grand policy making is all about. That’s all it is. This, and every other student. All of them. Each of them. (Oh Dear – did I complexify it again?)

The quest for a good education policy must begin and end with the student. Regardless of the formal structures it requires, it merely needs to answer three questions:

(i) What does a student need to know? (Are there institutions, mechanisms and people who can build and maintain this?
(ii) What does a student need to do? (Are there ways of demonstrating this for onward mobility?)
(iii) What does a student need to create access to their future potential? (Are there ladders, scaffolds, support systems that help a student move to the next level, continually)

To simplify it even more: Education (policy) is about Learning, Assessment and Realising Potential.

All the rest – the departments, the schemes, the institutions, the structures and so on are investments to these three simple goals. If I were to analyse national education policies (guidelines) or national education strategies, then I’d first ask if they meet all of these.

Traditionally, most countries are very good at setting up learning. I did not say ‘do’ learning or ‘facilitate’ learning. Simply, we are all quite good at setting up national curriculum frameworks, defining and codifying knowledge, setting it up in a hierarchy and calling it a level. Then we look around for a simple way to anchor these made-up levels to real life and hit on age. Bingo! Match! We set up learning levels by age. Drifting, we have moved away from ‘knowing’ to bureaucratising ‘knowing already’. Setting up boundary lines that may or may not work for the individual student. Setting up content that may not even be valid across contexts. So having started well in defining learning goals, we flounder somewhere in the middle as we try to create implementable units because we try to standardise and forget to create space for growth beyond standardisation. Our expectations of learning then remain trapped at the level of the ‘Common Minimum Program’ or the NCERT textbook.Every education strategy must build components that seek to enable it’s students to grow beyond the curriculum and frameworks. This means building in flexibility, better soft infrastructure (including teachers), inbuilt windows in the curriculum for ideas to fly, say, via project based learning etc. It is a tough thing to ask: policymakers, build freedom in learning frameworks!

Freedom and assessments rarely are seen together. But choice can. How? If students are to demonstrate what they do, and do well so that they can discover their talents and future mobility, then it would be a shame to put them all through the same testing system. There is a cartoon doing the rounds of the internet where an elephant, a fish, a monkey and a few other animals are standing in a line in front of an examining board, and the board seeks to test them by asking them to climb a tree. Obviously this is not a fair test and the monkey will be certified an A+ while the others will suffer. But why do they suffer? Because they do not have access to other tests that will credential their abilities in meaningful ways. Education policy must answer the second question by creating choice in assessments – both for range and depth. And must build institutions and structures to deliver such choice. Let the assessments compete with each other, rather than all the students compete on the same assessment. India’s much reviled CCE (Continuous and comprehensive evaluation) system has been one such great idea, killed at the root by poor implementation- it deserves to be better designed and part of a full assessment portfolio. CCE carries the merit of allowing learning and assessments to incorporate both freedom and choice. One needs to build a range and choice of meaningful assessments that enable student mobility – and this must be guided and governed via education policy.

The third question is one of realising potential, about honing abilities. It is about preparing for the future. Yes, the same that is unknown, unknowable. This is about enabling students to prepare to bring order and value in chaos. How does education policy, the agent of order and structures, enable experiences of chaos? The conversation in edu space is about skills that will enable students of the future that include Critical thinking, collaboration, creativity, communication, curiosity, citizenship and components of entrepreneurship. This is bigger than ‘Life Skills’ which used to be part of most curricula, this is about enablement of abilities. How does an education policy guide this very vital part of education? How does it devise means to take students through experiences while managing the costs of access, equity and quality? For a policy speaks in schemes, programs and institutions, while delivering on the parameter of preparedness. For this the policy will need to incorporate learnings from two strands: Apprenticeships and Lifelong learning. (While these become key schemes and programs in themselves). Through senior school and higher education, the policy must create spaces where students apprentice themselves to the skills of the future via projects, community engagement and entrepreneurship opportunities. Students must engage to be constructive components of society, building and shaping their own learning and future. The future has to be designed by those who will inhabit it, for those who will inherit it.

The role of policy makers then is to design, enable and govern the guidance they provide, so that students, teachers, entrepreneurs and organisations can come together to build on the same vision  led by the policy. This is a tough ask: To buildfreedom, choice and self determination into policy, while holding the participants accountable. To guide freedom and lead a nation into self determination is the role of elders. Are the elders up to the challenge?

http://blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/educable/next-gen-education-policy/ on Feb 26, 2015

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: