It was a get together of a few families in a restaurant for a dinner. The gathering included members of all age groups including children. After the orders were taken by the waiter, the starters were served on the table initially. More than the elders, the young kids showed a great interest in reaching out to the spicy starters. After a few minutes, the starters had to be served again, though most elders did not reach out to them but just watched the younger ones enjoying the staters. After a while when the main course was served, most children said “Oh, we are already full. We don’t need the main course.” A reference to this incident made me think whether a similar situation is true to our curricular design and its underlying inputs. Whether our children studying in schools are fed with starters missing the essence of the main coursed which is the basic input to all nutrient requirements.
Here are a few questions I had been contemplating in the past.
1. UNDERSTANDING THE OBJECTIVES OF EDUCATION
Though the Indian education system stood focused for centuries on nurturing the basic human values of unconditional love, service, collaboration, cooperation, righteousness, empathy, social consciousness and several other values, it helped in seeking a balance between the development of the inner self and serving the needs of existential requirements. Over the last few decades possibly the system has got redesigned to meet some consumerist and immediate needs rather than the long-term needs. Focus on standardizing people, judging people and validating the information has sought priority over the process of humanizing people to be active, positive, contributive and compassionate citizens of a civilized society. If the existing design has not served these ends, the question arises whether we need a course correction. And if yes, who will do it and how? Is it not a collective responsibility of a community? How long would we play ‘passing the ball’ game’ absolving the collective responsibility and blaming organizations one after the other? The current educational policy might provide a good platform for this course correction provided the curriculum designers bring a paradigm shift to their understanding and approach to the curriculum.
2. WHAT ARE THE GENERAL OBJECTIVES OF THE CURRICULUM?
The general objectives of any curriculum have only been the emancipation of the humankind through organized flow of knowledge and skills Through such organized knowledge flow, the general objectives of empowerment of the future citizens through patriotism, human values, equity, unity of purpose, coexistence with peace, scientific temper to life principles, aesthetic approach to life thereby seeking inner peace has to be achieved. Unfortunately, though curricula define the general objectives as a part of their preamble and as an exercise of their paper work, the general objectives are usually lost track of progressively, in seeking fulfil ent of the specific objectives which are detailed on disciplines of learning. Quite often, the general objectives and specific objectives stand far apart, structured to data and information. not contributing to wisdom, either personal or social.
3. ARE THE GENERAL OBJECTIVES IN HARMONY WITH CURRENT AND FUTURISTIC SOCIAL NEEDS?
The general objectives in most curricula appear to be replication of what has been understood and recorded in the past. They don’t seem to get a critical review in the current and futuristic knowledge dynamics. It is important to note that these general objectives need not be tested on factual information emanating from disciplines, but on their impact on the social and cultural psyche of the community. The general objectives of the curricula have a direct impact on the thought architecture of the people both of the present and the future. Hence a course correction by reviewing our definitions of the general objectives of the curriculam might be necessary. One can fervently hope that curriculum designers would apply their mind to examine this issue.
4. WHY THE MEANS DOMINATE OVER THE ENDS?
The fact that there is a visible mismatch between the specific objectives of learning encapsuled in the syllabi with the general objectives of the curriculum that needs to be put in place, it has shifted the paradigm in excessive favour of the specific objectives. No wonder, the teachers engage into formal delivery of information and facts for purposes of certification rather than spending their time and opportunities to nurture the nutrients enshrined in the general objectives of the curriculum. With inadequate opportunities for the engagement with hidden curricula or the informal curricula, due to consumerist attitudes in educational opportunities, the most critical aspects needed for a healthy growth of mind, balanced approach to right and left-brain faculties, opportunities for critical and creative thinking have all been marginalized. Course correction in curriculum should as a natural consequence lead to course correction in pedagogical deliveries.
5. THE MYTH OF SPECIFIC OBJECTIVES AS SUBSERVIENT TO GENERAL OBJECTIVES
With the paradigm of schooling and learning shifting to the ‘bread and butter’ goals of education and the stressful focus on judgment through examination, the focus is exclusive on the specific objectives as the end-all of an educational achievement. To add, these paradigms have found both a brand value and economic value in the business of education. The myth of the specific objectives as predominant to the learning objectives has delinked a number of values in the learning process. The myth of the importance of specific objectives as superior to general objectives has made its impact in the pattern of social consciousness, togetherness and cohabitation of the people in the community. A course correction might help in bringing about some remedial action.
6. WHY IS COURSE CURRECTION NECESSARY?
A course correction in the design and packaging of the curriculum to meet the larger ends and purposes of education might help in making the society more tolerant, more constructive, more positive, more productive and more cohesive. It might enhance deeper understanding on several issues which are leading to conflicts and thereby issues which are very trivial but which lead to stressful social experiences could be minimised. Course correction would also help in a better engagement with our own value systems, heritage, culture and in appreciation of a legacy inherited by the country in terms of architecture, music, literature and other forms of fine as well as performing arts. The course correction may not show visible immediate results but would certainly help in sustaining the richness of the heritage.
7. HOW DO WE HELP IN COURSE CORRECTION?
Course correction in educational endeavours is not a documentation process. It is a conscious engagement with all stakeholders by building their trust in the existing systems, by helping them to understand the purpose and direction of change, by bringing them to be partners in change management. The design of the curriculum with better focus on the general objective would mean revisiting our concepts relating to the content design through a blended approach enabling adequate opportunities for self-learning rather than the ivory tower approaches. Periodic questioning of the authenticity of knowledge would help in continuous re-engineering of our learning.
8. THE RESPONSIBILITY OF EDUCATORS TO THE FUTURE
Normally any discussions on course correction in systems is discredited at the inception itself, sheerly due to the inbuilt fear of change, fear of unknown, fear of additional work and a disruption to the routine. However, all these are inevitable to progress. The educators have a major responsibility in envisioning, positioning, articulating, packaging and administering the course correction. But this needs acceptance of the fact that course correction is necessary and is unavoidable. Instead of being passive observers of change ushered into the educational system through other vested interests, it would be wise if the educator community takes the initiative by choice.
We need to encourage our kids to have a balanced diet which is nutritious to the mind, rather than spicy starters which just temporarily thrill them for their spices!