Appraisal of the current school system

Current goals of the school education system

Institutional goals have the single-most important impact on institutional outcomes. The importance of goals becomes all the more critical for institutional efficiency and effectiveness when an institution is under stress, much the way school education system finds itself stuck in. Goals get knotty for schools because the implicit goals override the explicit ones.

Here is a critical appraisal of the implicit goals pushing the schools:

  1. Dr. Rajaram Sharma is only half-joking in saying that ‘schools at best pretend to educate our children!’ Indeed, our rule is: school and education are just not synonymous, perhaps they never were; exceptions notwithstanding. Education is not really available to an overwhelming majority of our children because school + tuition + counsellor + coaching + hobby-classes do not add up to be education and we are clearly ‘witnessing the lack of education’ in our children.Education should have only two participants – school and home – and focus on harnessing the scholastic and co-scholastic curricular transactions to nurture all the intelligences towards becoming a multi-intelligent, self-learner.
  2. The current school system is a club and it has taken upon itself the perpetuation of the interests of the incumbent intellectual, political and economic classes. The identical board examination papers for the rural schools in Bihar and Nagaland and the elite schools in Delhi are one testimony of the same – it is a hopelessly lost game for the underprivileged. We may clarify that the situation also perpetuates because many ‘purists’ amongst us want equity in outcome measurement (the ideal condition), even while the input is disgustingly mismatched! The current school system is to reproduce the class system!‘Grabbing what you can get isn’t any less wicked when you grab it with the power of your brains than with the power of your fists’ – John Ruskin.
  3. Treating academics as curricular and everything else as ‘extra-curricular’ or at best ‘co-curricular’ is a legacy of another era, mid-nineteenth century, when we were transiting from the agricultural society to industrial society in the (current) developed world and schools were invented to produce the then industrialising western world’s ‘machine-friendly’ literate and numerate manpower out of 1st generation learners (children whose parents were not educated).However, in a knowledge society, knowledge has no ‘premium’ at all! Academics at school should, ideally, be all about supporting self-learning and backing up those falling behind. More than 50% of schools’ time and attention should be spent on the so-called ‘co-curricular’ and value education to mainstream the two and complement the weakening role of home (and community) in the education of children.
  4. It may sound heart-breaking for many of you but the ‘best’ in schools are the brightest in one narrow sense – memorisation and recall of prescribed content of the class (and analytical skills in flashes) – and they possess one form of intelligence to such a high degree that they are sure to ignore the value of others e.g. social intelligence, emotional quotient and creative ability. It’s a case of institutionalising pounding of a square peg into a round hole.
  5. Ironically, by design, schools are not delivering for academically gifted and talented children! We are not referring to the gifted children in co-curricular domains such as music, sports, art, theatre, creative writing, but ‘hardcore academically gifted children’. Schools have no way to nurture their gift using specialist interventions such as differentiated lessons and assignments, graded assessments, multi-grade curriculum, mentoring, ‘open school within formal school’, etc. Of course, managing such an academic environment will mean schools will have to work harder and they better do! Too much is at stake for the nation!
  6. ‘School’ fails to invoke sincere respect and importance in children across the world! In fact, higher the class, the greater the ‘disillusionment’ with school among children.The 2009 OECD’s PISA* study bears it out – 48 per cent of 15-year-olds are enrolled in schools where the principals report that students’ learning is hindered to some or a great extent by student absenteeism and 40 per cent of the student are in schools where learning is hindered by disruption of classes by students. *PISA study is the most prestigious periodic comparative evaluation of quality of learning in the OECD countries and some more.
  7. There are few areas of unanimity among school administrators and teachers on the issues facing the school education system and one such rarity is the subject of parent education. All agree that it is the bigger and more important of the challenges before schools. We also agree. Parents have developed a disturbing ‘cannot afford to care’ attitude towards the compromised, stressful (for the children at least) state of schools and do not want to upset the apple-cart of their ‘life in totality’. We seem to be stuck in inaction and our children are paying the price!
  8. School education has turned to be all about the 14th year of school – the board examinations in Class XII – and there is little of the 14 years! Thus goes the logic – they must not use computers for writing in Class V, for instance, because they will lose touch with writing for the board examinations in Class XII. Schools are in complete denial of the emerging realities and abdicating their moral responsibility of ‘fighting it out with authorities’ for the rights of their students. We are just mute spectators, hardly a good omen for building leaders of tomorrow.
  9. Career choice is a misnomer for students in schools. What choices do our children really have beyond engineering and medicine? Schools cannot even motivate children to take up a career in Defence (e.g. NDA) where the country needs good men in large numbers and it is an attractive career too; shameful as it is, in our country of 1200 million people, Army has to really struggle for 1200 gentleman officer cadets. In our research we discovered that during 2009 – 2014, no more than 8% of schools in our sample managed to motivate students to join the NDA.

Schools may be doing well for the goals they are designed for, but the goals are totally out of line with the times.

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