Thursday, 4 April 2013

Education beyond Boundaries

The education system in India has always been a prime focus among the intelligentsia and educators. The role of the government in nurturing the system, the monopoly of private schools and the latest trend of luxury international schools are issues that keep coming back round the discussion table.
Addressing this, iDiscoveri’s Xseed organised the ‘School of Tomorrow’ conference inviting educators from across the state and innovators from the field of entrepreneurial education.
Happening simultaneously across four cities – Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Hyderabad – the conference addresses the hope that with a more efficient system in place, education across the country will get better and our society of children will make for a better and more responsible society.
XSEED, an academic plan that is devised to raise the level of class room expertise and efficiency, raises the very pertinent question that most seem to be asking – is improved resources or teaching methodology the more important key to a successful education system?
Speaking at the discussion were panelists Adilakshmi Chintalapati, principal of the Oakridge international school, Anoop Rao, chief operating officer of Naandi Foundation, Harimohan Paruvu, writer and cricketer and Vijay, joint secretary of the Sri Prakash educational society.
While it was agreed that resources and infrastructure do make a huge difference and play an important role in the overall holistic education of a child, it was pointed out that good education can still happen and good students can be coached and produced.
However in our quest for apparently improving, there’s been a discombobulation in the system.
Said Anoop Rao, “The focus on accountability has been lost. Irrespective of infrastructure, good students are there. But, teachers spend a lot of time doing administrative work. That is a problem. The environment has to be conducive for the facilitators to work in.”
Speaking on how schools rate themselves and what accounts for good education, Chintalapati said, “The measure should be action. How much of what is being done inside the class room is actually translated to action outside? A child’s development becomes the measure of that school.”
The audience which was an army of principals, educationists and consultants had a few interesting takes on the issue at hand.
Asked one principal, “Methods of training are abstract while infrastructure is concrete? In a school with average infrastructure but excellent teaching faculty, how do you get parents and students into the school?” Though the panelists skirted over, it was agreed that quality education is what really sustains a child in an organisation.
If a well-built school lacks quality, infrastructure isn’t necessarily going to keep them in. Anoop however had a story to share.
“We (the Naandi organisation) took over a government school in Mumbai with just seven students. By the end of the year, we had 500. The infrastructure was bare, yet children from private schools were coming back. It takes time; took us a few years. But quality any day is your answer.”
Another issue raised was the fact that despite our very idealistic theoretical conclusions that the system should be about creativity, what it finally boils down to is how many marks did a child score. That is the only tangible return. Parents also seem to have a problem as to trusting where to put their money. The common attitude among them is the willingness to spend extra on a private tuition but the unwillingness to pay that instead to the school in case of a hike in fees.
“There is a lack of purpose among teachers. When you look for the root cause as to why they’re even there, there is no answer. We need highly motivated facilitators. Also, understanding where a child comes from and what they want, giving them their space to learn is important,” added Harimohan.
A good entrepreneurial strategy, a fairly motivated facilitator and a creative space for a child to come to everyday is what our current education system requires.
As Anoop puts it, “Demographic puts 80 lakh students out of school. That is an enormous market potential for entrepreneurs to tap into. They have to get creative.”

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