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Why A Paradigm Shift Is Necessary In Parental Approach To School Education?

By G. Balasubramanian

The last couple of years has ushered in some unprecedented changes in the dynamics of school education both in terms of policy and its practices. The schools are not only under a severe competition for their survival but with an increasing demand to stay current and relevant. No wonder, the curricular architecture, pedagogical practices and assessment systems are slowly getting modified into newer capsules. With the impact of covid-19 over a year and with schools discharging their functions through multiple strategies of knowledge delivery systems, the relationship management between schools, teachers, students, parents and the communities seem to facing new styles and hence seeking new norms. With technology as the interface of most delivery processes of information and as gateways of relationships, there is indeed more evidences of informality and new blends in aspects of the school dynamics. However, while parents appear to be responding to these requirements in measured steps, there is no evidence of a paradigm shift in their depth of understanding about the emerging challenges and thought processes with regard to education. This mismatch between school dynamics and the parental expectations appears to be raising some conflicts in effective management of school systems.

What are the key issues parents need to understand?

1. The Future of the world of work

If one considers the role of schools as preparing competent and contributive citizens for the future, the kind of skills required to be employable workforce or for being entrepreneurial to meet the needs for the future, appears to be entirely different – critical thinking, creative thinking, change management, risk management, relationship management and the like. These skills can be developed through integrated thinking and inter-disciplinary thinking approaches only and not through straight-jacketed linear thinking approaches adopted for the last five decades. Therefore, the current curricular, pedagogical and assessment practices for the last few decades may not be very effective and are not in consistent with the requirements for the future. So, the schools are changing or would be compelled to change. This cannot happen without the cooperation of the parents who are vital stake holders in facilitating change management. Parents should understand that the school systems are changing because there are no other options to resolve the conflicts that are impending. Hence the paradigm shift in their approach to school practices.

2. The unprecedented expansion of the knowledge universe

There is evidence to the fact that the knowledge universe is fast expanding, day in and day out, thanks to the tools of technology and information processing systems. In terms of quality and quantity of the data, information, knowledge, skills and their application, there is an explosion happening and this would continue and magnify in the years to come. Hence, curriculum managers, school administrators, educators and all stake holders would find a big challenge in the balancing act of knowledge dynamics, with an incessant battle between the old and the new. The parental curiosity to see their children relevant to emerging technologies would indeed not match with the slow progression in established school knowledge systems. Learners would be compelled to learn beyond textual content and curricular design. There is likely to be a greater focus on peer-learning and social construction of knowledge. Consequently, parents are likely to find the schools continuously ineffective to meet their growing, yet conflicting, expectations. This could be met to a certain extent through the portals of technology – by increasing informalisation of learning, blended approaches to learning delivery models. With less time of direct engagement of the students in their schools, the parents might be under compulsion to make modifications with their personal life styles and other purposeful time engagements to facilitate their children. Hence the paradigm shift for the future in the interest of the students.

3. The impact of technology

Technology, I have always believed, is a culture catalyst. The intervention of technology is impacting curricular and pedagogical design models and assessment patterns. This would have impact on speed of learning, spectrum of learning, tools of learning and the learning time. The learning curve is likely to have newer designs and would become a personalized curve. Newer definitions in competitive learning are likely to emerge. Schools would be required to customize learning experiences through technology with focus on subjective and individual assessments independent of time and space. Such designs and interventions would appear novel to the parents who have a linear mindset to learning, beaten by conventions and traditions. Parents are likely to find it difficult to make compromises with such developments and might look with suspicion about the entire process of education systems and styles. A paradigm shift would be necessary to understand the changing learning-health styles.

4. The changing styles of competition

Over the years, the social construct had modelled competition patterns for entrance to higher learning systems. Market forces have taken diverse advantage to exploit and explore the opportunities in such engagements to set fire to the aspirations of the learners and the parents. Ivory tower approaches to institutional engagements got developed, creating a new kind of classism in learning, gravitating the learners and parents to move to the balconies of educational infrastructures. An unhealthy completion was ushered in from formative stages of learning at high costs. Modelling of such processes as the pedestals of excellence, while other forms of human achievements were categorically derecognized or underrated. The future might dislodge such models and provide diverse opportunities for growth, performance and achievements. However, parents would find it difficult to deport themselves from such established practices and this might create conflict between institutions willing and wanting to change, but helpless just to cater to the unchanging needs of the parents. Hence parents need to be willing to foresee impending changes and make a paradigm shift in their thoughts.

5. Changing social attitudes

With organized sectors of employment becoming increasingly demanding and evolving at short intervals, the work force of the future would be required to make quick adaptations to their skills. Oftentimes, opportunities for personalized engagements to deliver products and services on a contractual basis, on a time-bound basis would require the workforces to be more evolving and enterprising on a continuous basis. There is likely to be a greater involvement of informal sectors of work systems. Newer concepts or wealth acquisition and generation, wealth management, the idea of digital currencies, the man-machine intelligence interfaces, quantum computing strategies would articulate newer social attitudes. Hence the learners of the future would require a lot of emotional skills, life skills as well as self-help skills as detailed in the new education policy. The educational institutions of the future might become ‘knowledge cafes’ and ‘human resource development centres’ whether one likes or not, whether one is prepared or not. Parents need to be ready for such emerging visions of learning models and hence there is a need for a paradigm shift about their understanding of education.

Well, it is not a smooth pathway to tread. Yet, there appears no option. While certainly should not press the panic-button, our levels of preparedness have to increase. All this would also require a lot of conflict management challenges in parenting patterns and social psychologists have a great role to play in facilitating this dynamic.