Home > Current issues in Education > Challenges in implementing the freedom of choice in learning: Draft education has a lot to explain


By G. Balasubramanian

Freedom is one of the most celebrated words in human thought dynamics. The very sound causes a spell over the human mind releasing it from the shackles of some virtual slavery, to which it is bound due to its own misdemeanour While, both at the cohort level and at personal level, the word drives the hormones that release bouts of joy sometimes, and oftentimes for a few Nano-seconds, it is indeed considered as something which everyone should look forward to and achieve in life. However, most people forget that Freedom is not arbitrariness or that which leads to a random and chaotic behaviour, but one that goes with some definable parameters of conduct, behaviour, sensitivity, sensibility, responsibility and accountability.

Exercising freedom calls for understanding of the past, present and the future; it needs to be articulated in a progressive, linear, logical and rational manner so that its exercise is not an impediment to the freedom, both personal and otherwise, of the other members. It could be driven by a passion, but not by an impulsive or compulsive instinct. In the educational parlance, freedom of learning has always been the most preferred topic of discussion by the educational psychologists, as an indicator of a best practice in a well-organized and healthy society. As such, many countries have incorporated the freedom of choice for learning in their curricular architecture – either traditionally or as their learning from their peers – with positive and negative results.

Learning, has always been a purposeful outcome of human curiosity and has shaped the way people live either as an individual or as a community. But when it comes to freedom of learning, history is evidence to the fact that the socio-political influences, economic and geographical environments, cultural and religious practices have caused their impact either directly or indirectly on the content and process of education, leave alone on its vision and mission. While there have been less barriers to the canvas and universe of learning, the choice of learning disciplines, learning methods and practices that enable learning have limited the opportunities and dynamics of learning of the learners in a society. One of the reasons for such compulsive and restrictive behaviours of a society that endorsed mostly a top-down approach to learning, was to exercise adequate control and authority over the future. With the advent of technology, the disciplines of learning opened up giving a wide choice of the content and the methods of learning, but the focus of learning did shift – from a broad-based objective of human development in its entirety to a bread-winning and wealth building exercise. Competitions leading to one-upmanship to show one’s superiority or authority, restricted the learning domains to a limited few with others being marginalized, because they offered mostly a personal joy and fulfilment and were not utilitarian and didn’t have materialistic value.

The last few decades have witnessed a high degree of polarisation in learning from time to time, with exclusive focus on the benefits the learning would bring, rather than skills or knowledge that would accrue, out of such learning exercises. Several corridors of disciplines of learning which were considered as superior for centuries have been shut down or closed as irrelevant. The freedom of choice existed as a provision, but they were not exercised due to selective personal and social behaviour of the consumerist society.

No wonder, all modern educational edifices, their physical, conceptual and organizational infrastructures have been constructed to meet, to promote, to facilitate such competitive environments and fulfil the needs of a consumerist society. The foundations of such constructs have impacted the social mind so heavily that in the present educational universe, the choice of such freedom of learning is exercised not by the learners, but by the parents and elders, who want to decide the ultimate fate of their wards- on how they should learn, how they should live and what they should achieve. As such, such decisions are presently made at the entry level into a schooling system.

The draft policy of Education has after careful consideration recommended the freedom of choice in learning in its sincere attempt to ‘liberalise’ education and restore the learners their democratic right to the choice of learning – the content, the pedagogy and the assessment. This recommendation brings about a paradigm shift from the existing operational strategies in the institutions of learning.

The challenges in implementing this would be:

1. Is it possible to provide such exhaustive choices in disciplines of learning without creating adequate infrastructure and resources in schools?

2. How can the thought patterns of a society and the community of parents with straight-jacketed linear thinking be re-oriented to the new paradigm and the time required to bring this paradigm shift?

3. With inadequate conceptual continuum between the school system and the higher education, how would school system prepare the foundations for a more liberal higher education pattern?

4. In a country haunted by the play of numbers, would the Boards of assessment and the schools have the expertise and resources to make this system operational and how long would it take?

5. Would this lead to liquidation of the expertise developed in this country in certain specific disciplines which have a global Indian impact?

6. While the policy really promotes a holistic learning, are we consciously marginalizing science and technology and would such an initiative be retrograde?

7. Though regular adaptive assessment to empower the learning curve is indeed a right step in the direction, what are the challenges in institutionalizing this, to the scale that is required in the Indian subcontinent?

8. As freedom of choice would go with logical thinking, responsibility and accountability, do the learners have such competence? Or, whether this would continue to be exercised by the parents either directly or indirectly?

9. What would be the scaffolding exercises to bring about a change in the mindset of educators and educational administrators?

10. Whether the GNP allocation for education would be sufficient enough to created the required architecture for such an adventure and when will it be ready?

A number of questions galore with the idea of freedom of choice in learning, though it is a most desirable thing any sensible policy can have.

I am not a pessimist. But I do foresee the challenges and hence these questions and a few more unasked.

*This article was originally written on LinkedIn.https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/challenges-implementing-freedom-choice-learning-draft-g/

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