Crisis in school education system

The crisis in school education has reached the point of inflection

The invention of schools as the social institution entrusted with mass education of children most amazingly supported the industrial revolution despite several inherent structural deficiencies. The five of the more troublesome structural deficiencies are:

  1. Schools could not skill students as self-learners.
  2. Schools could not adequately educate even the majority of enrolled students – schools could not effectively address mixed ability classrooms – and schools could not even nurture talented students.
  3. Schools could not create capacity for career counselling and exam preparations.
  4. Schools could not work on overall development.
  5. Schools could not work on academic as well as overall development – schools could only achieve one at the cost of the other.

Ironically, we have lived with the aforementioned issues for nearly 200 years. For several reasons, these faults hit at the very base of the demands of the next-generation knowledge society schools; we have reached a point of inflection in the struggle to overcome the aforementioned faults.
We cannot hold the current system of school education any longer because:

  1. In the fast-emerging knowledge society, the minimum qualification to be a knowledge worker is ‘good graduation’ unlike the industrial society where a ‘VIII fail’ could also become an industrial worker; every child has to do well in school to earn a graduation! No child can fail a K-12 school (incidentally, ‘fail’ by today’s standards means getting less than 80 % in the Class XII public exam.)
  2. Non-knowledge-intensive jobs and careers in all the sectors of the economy are rapidly shrinking and it is predicted that by 2050 there may be a near total obsolescence of ‘non-knowledge-intensive jobs’. K-12 education must ensure sharp analytical skills among all students.
  3. Valuable new knowledge creation is increasingly about a truly multi-disciplinary approach and this requires concept-level clarity across a few subjects (not just one)! We need a qualitative leap of faith in teaching various disciplines to ensure the right environment for knowledge creation through multi-disciplinary synthesis rather than ‘digging deeper’ in a domain.
  4. The rapid churn of inventions and the critical state of research at the leading edge of thought in various disciplines necessitate every professional to be a self-learner to keep pace with the times – a skill and attitude not taught in schools!
  5. Incidentally, this is about back to the basics – numeracy & literacy skills achievement as the measure of quality of education. There is just a small fine print to it – the numeracy and literacy skills levels are several notches up compared to the levels required just a decade ago.
  6. (Additionally, for India) the demographic dividend is critically dependent on well-educated youth and a great K-12 education is the first of the stepping stones towards encashing this dividend.
  7. Overall development of children in the 21st century imperative for successful career and living.
  8. Nurturance of talented and gifted students was never more critical – continuous and disruptive innovations are the key to personal and national growth. To quote a report in Hindustan Times, dated 14th November 2014, children as young as 13 years old are becoming CEOs! The world’s youngest animator is a 3 years old child! But the moot question is, are schools helping children become CEOs of their businesses while in school or are children achieving these heights despite schools?
  9. The student population in every classroom is getting heterogeneous by the day. A typical class can have students from different geographical locations, disparate socio-cultural and economic backgrounds, and multiple generations of learners unlike the times when schools had students only from the homogeneous local community. We need to devise new pedagogical methods to become effective in mixed-ability classrooms.
  10. Career preparation in school is a crying need because school leaving certificate is no good for seeking a chosen career. Schools need to develop comprehensively new capabilities to nurture informed and realistic career choices.
  11. New-age careers pose yet another challenge to schools – aptitude tests for new generation career are very different from the aptitude tests for the currently popular career choices such as engineering and medical. We need to develop new support resources for negotiating issues related to aptitude of children. Evidently, there is too much to change in the current school system and it is weighing too heavily around its neck to be lived with.

Evidently, there is too much to change in the current school system and it is weighing too heavily around its neck to be lived with.

The unjust and unfruitful (for most) current school system is unsustainable in the knowledge society!

‘In our secular society, school has become the replacement for church, and like church it requires that its teachings must be taken on faith.’

— John Taylor Gatto

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