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Beyond the results…

By G. Balasubramanian

The show is over. A number of questions that have been haunting the minds of educators across the country have all been answered. Yes, with or without examinations, with the internal assessments as a supporting criterion, in spite of their questionable validity in some cases, the concerned agencies have handled an uphill task with the kind of sensitivity needed to address them. The Results largely please everybody to varying degrees. Both chaos management and crisis management are indeed challenging tasks for those in seats of power, because they become answerable to anything what they do. Let us put on record our appreciation to those who displayed calm even in the most stressful circumstances and delivered a solution largely acceptable to emotionally disturbed clientele. But, beyond results – is there something for all the stakeholders to think about, to talk about or to be concerned about?

In the entire game the loser has been ‘education.’ The focus on ‘certifying’ people was so unavoidable socially, politically and historically that the system had to make all possible compromises with the dynamics of real learning. The prime victims have been the students. Although they have been rewarded even for minimal efforts made, both the absence of transactional learning in the classroom, collaborative learning from the peers, constructivist learning through application of knowledge, experiential learning through articulated school efforts, the joy of learning that blossoms from within, have all found no place in the definition of their growth profile. There is no denial to the fact that we have faced an unforeseen crisis in human existence which warranted the safety of every individual as its priority setting aside all other considerations. There is no denial to the fact that the educators across the country did all the magic they could, to ensure that they delivered their best to the children. Yet, there is also no denial to the fact that none of these efforts could compensate and meet the actual needs of learning and the learners- cognitively, emotionally and experientially. There is no case for engaging with a ‘blame game’, as the entire exercise was like navigating a ship through the turmoil of the troubled waters in the sea during a storm. But the question still remains how the learners would gain what they have lost?

The happenings and its outcomes carry some important lessons to ‘the design thinkers’ of education for the future. If we fail to learn the right lessons, possibly we will let yet another generation of learners emerge as men and women with inadequate skills who would continuously seek psychological support for the systemic deficiencies and inadequacies in stead of going through a compelling need to fill in the gaps, where they exist. Fortunately, the vision and the architecture of the National Education Policy 2020 has inherent in it, certain elements which could support and fill the gaps that have come to light during the last show.

Some important things which we need to understand are:

1. The relevance of examinations is becoming increasingly questionable.

2. The certification strategies largely lack credibility and respectability.

3. The linear and straight-jacketed assessment tools and methods are becoming real roadblocks to meaningful and effective learning.

4. The design of assessments and their resultant outcomes are creating a compulsive competitive need not tuned to fundamentals of the quality of learning.

5. The design of the questions for the examinations and their objectives are forcing pedagogies and learning models which do not support the empowerment of the learner.

6. The focus on preparing the learners for the examinations discards a large universe of knowledge, skills, experience and freedom to learn.

6. self-learning helps choice of learning styles and learning paths.

7. The examinations and the results absolve themselves from any responsibility to lead the learners to effective learning.

8. The tools and appliances used for examination systems are exhausting and do not tune with the current understanding of neuro-cognitive competencies identified by the researchers nor with the benefits of ‘neuro-plasticity’ of the brain that facilitates continuous and life-long learning.

9. The blue-prints for testing and assessment do not cover the entire spectrum of formal learning or the learning from the zone of proximal development.

10. The learner is under compulsion to get tested only from what the dominant culture of the administrative systems which have no regard for any personal and auxiliary learnings which could be of great use to the individual and the society.

11. Schooling and institutionalization appears as a valid ticket for social recognition of one’s knowledge rather than the celebration of an individual’s pursuit for his or her curiosity to a discipline of learning.

12. The learning compass appears to indicate multi-directional pathways thus confusing the learner from focused and targeted navigation of learning for one’s life.

13. The system prepares the learner for success rather than excellence, with myopic views, definitions of success thus limiting the possible expansion of the universe of growth.

14. The psychological pressure on learning for the social proof puts the learner to adopt faulty and unethical methods of seeking success.

15. The competitive construct arising out of the examinations puts parents under social pressure which they transmit to their younger ones seeking from them performances neither realistic nor warranted, but as their engagement with an exercise to show that their wards are also on the running race.

The educators believe that they can change their pedagogical strategies once the pattern of examination changes. The administrators feel that the examination patterns can be changed once the schools and teachers bring a paradigm shift to their methods. Where is the meeting ground? All that is being done is to do a lot of patch work on the pathways for smooth runs, but what is required is a thought revolution to think meaningfully what education means.

The post-epidemic scenario has indeed brought to light the need for better inclusive models – where the foundations of a classroom pedagogy would be supported and scaffolded by a number of other opportunities for learning. Possibly, the day should come when the learner tells the agencies that I am ready to get tested by any model that you want to adopt, because during my schooling I was really “immersed in learning”. The question before most of us is: “Do we run and administer the schools for examination and certification, or do we have them for the larger purpose of education?”