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The Paradigm Shifts that will Re-engineer K-12 Education Ladder

By G. Balasubramanian

There is no second opinion or a debate on the paradigm shifts in the field of education. Possibly, there are no options to such shifts. These are not necessarily an outcome of the pandemic or the ushering in of a New Policy of Education. But it is an outcome of a latent necessity of the thrust on education 2.0 to cope with industry 4.0. The large gap between the two, needed some bridging and re-engineering so that both can handhold each other and complement each other.

The foundational shifts that the K-12 sector needs to address are far from few. They can be listed to a large number. But it would be good to articulate them in a list of ten priorities.

1. The concept of schools will change - For too long a time, we had featured schools as infrastructures to house the children of differing age groups to follow a routine of a defined, structured, anticipated and submissive process, and to suggest, monitor, mentor and control them to follow a process of injected concepts of disciplinary learning.

Thus, the focus was on ‘conditioning’ the mind with the nucleus of action being a structured classroom controlled by too many external sources (not resources). The paradigm will now shift to focus on extended and experiential learning stimulated, designed, defined and accepted by the learnability of the learner, well scaffolded to their attitude and aptitude. This will further be triggered by the shift from individual construction of knowledge portfolios to their social constructs. Thus ‘schools will become a concept than an infrastructure. The focus will shift to ‘learning’ with the support of the defined school infrastructure or without them.

2. The second major paradigm shift will be in our understanding of the idea of ‘learning’ by the learners. Over the last few decades, we restrained the domains of learning to ‘what is being taught by the schools’ either for their fancy or for the compulsions driven by a curriculum articulated by the iconic edifices representing learning. In the entire process, the ‘learnability’ of the learner was neither a matter of concern or discussion. The ‘learnability’ of the learner could be on either side of the graphical representation – positive or otherwise, depending on several tangible and intangible factors. The current shift will be – the learner, by his own choice or due to the community compulsions will define his learning on his learnability, to meet his academic, professional, emotional, skill requirements- thus converting all his learning into a progressive, rewarding, futuristic purpose. The learners will shun any inputs, systems and methods which would challenge their ‘learnability’ just to come to terms with the authoritative models of learning delivery systems and accept the term and belief of a ‘failure.’

3. Learning will increasingly become ‘inter-disciplinary’ and ‘multi-disciplinary’ as they provide profitable scope for enterprise, creativity, innovation and opportunities for futuristic consumption of knowledge, skills, materials and resources. Questions relating to relevance of ‘knowledge’ that just can just be staked, housed or celebrated for the joy of it, will raise challenging questions or such inputs would require repositioning to be more relevant, purposeful, real-time relevant. Convergence and divergence of knowledge disciplines will help in new explorations, experimentations and to enhance the “AHA” experiences in learning.

4. The schools and education systems will be put under stress and pressure to define the ‘why’ of learning. They would be required to provide knowledge structures that move away from the ‘inertia’ of their existence to a more dynamic, purposeful, productive cause and hence to reorganize its parameters. Knowledge creation through learning would be focus of schools which look forward to provide thought leadership through education rather than those who celebrate their achievements through results of examinations.

5. Social construction of knowledge might be the way forward for schools to scaffold learning. Such co-construction processes may be minuscular, modular or extended processes involving a diverse group of participants including non-learning stakeholders. The objective of such exercises would be to celebrate differing perceptions, diverse approaches and to see invisible opportunities of knowledge construction. Further, such attempts will also be taken as brand building exercises by institutions to reach out for better cohesion in their learning communities.

6. The pedagogical processes and their support systems would seek to reinvent themselves to contextualize their existence to emerging interventions in knowledge delivery systems. With technology offering a solid base for providing quality, quantity and sophisticated systems for understanding and application of knowledge, the taxonomies would seek review. Modular pedagogy, miniature delivery models, designer-made knowledge content that gravitate curiosity and interest, will redefine acquisition, retrieval, storage, processing and productivity of knowledge, which will challenge pedagogical leaders to continuously recharge and relocate themselves in knowledge domains. Customized pedagogy to suit the needs of self-learners, to suit the needs of learning styles and pedagogy for personal mentoring would attract the eyes new business entrepreneurs to invest and explore heavily in ed-tech industries.

7. With formal systems significantly becoming irrelevant and manifesting to affiliates of personalized learning structures, the schools will become ‘knowledge-cafes’ for informal chats, peer discussions, collaborative learning platforms and their learning management systems would be more on informal availability, thus the formal student management structures of schools taking subsidiary issues to manage their revenue, costs and maintenance. School libraries will manifest to e-platforms for learning resource management and the competency levels of the librarians, knowledge mentors and learning guides will gain importance in preference to formal teachers as knowledge delivery managers.

8. Teacher competency will be more on test both periodically and systemically. Such tests will become more broad-based with an inclusive approach of all stakeholders to ensure quality, accountability and transparency in terms of their competence. Though not very much desirable, such options cannot be ruled out in a more integrated models of learning structures, wherein periodic and regular updating of competencies would be necessitated.

9. Technology will act as a powerful culture catalyst in learning systems, redefining the modes of learning profiles and methodologies. With Blended learning as the core delivery model of the future, the resources and methods of blending the knowledge inputs and resources will get continuously updated. Technology competency will be required than technology literacy both for the teachers and the learners. The urban-rural divides, the technology-generation divides and lack of support systems for relevant technologies will vanish sooner than later. With parallel processing of knowledge, such competencies will be gained almost simultaneously by the teacher and the learner, thus enhancing the power of learning communities redefining who is an empowered learner.

10. While the Government and its agencies would strive their best to infuse quality into their extended arms of learning models and institutes, the tsunami of global knowledge flow, the skill evolution triggered by new generations of automated knowledge, digital integration with brain processing, artificial intelligence, virtual realities, augmented intelligence, robotics and others would push learning beyond the domains of structured learning curricula and infrastructure; thus private initiatives leading the torch for those who choose to follow, willingly or otherwise. Quantum considerations of knowledge knocking at the doors of human innovations, the future of exploring, managing, processing and delivering information to the young Gen-Z learners is both an opportunity and a challenge.

The paradigm shifts are evolutionary in nature and they do not wait for green signal from any ombudsman. Whether we like it or not, they will find their way and we will participate in them either making noise or in a mute mode. The proof of the pudding is eating it!