Does the recent move of halving the syllabus for schools provides for a comprehensive reform in education sector?
Various attempts have been initiated to reduce the burden of school going children. Union HRD minister has announced the plans to reduce the syllabus to half. Delhi had announced similar plans to reduce the syllabus by quarter. The Bombay High Court had suggested that mathematics be made an optional for 10th standard students as lots of students were failing them and those in arts programmes didn’t need maths in their programmes.
A common narrative in all these instances is that an enormous work load is the cause of stress among schoolchildren and halving the syllabus would translate into fewer hours of course work. But the policy makers have failed to acknowledge that the issue is system encourages cramming as the dominant indicator of ‘learning’. There has been no emphasis on revamping our examination system which has become a sole tool to determine the abilities of the student.
The report of ‘School Stress in India: Effects on time and daily emotions’ of International Journal of Behavioral Development shows that academic anxiety, the attendant stress and the volume of course load are disconnected. Hundred students of class 8 were asked to report their states of mind when studying, playing, watching television, etc for a week. The researchers reported that schoolwork induced negative subjective states. Those who spent more time in leisure activities noted feeling happier but also registered higher academic anxiety and lower scholastic achievement. Thus Worries about performance were never far from the students’ minds.
The present global economy is geared by Knowledge economy. The new discoveries and happenings around the world need to be reflected in the curriculum of the school and colleges.
Therefore there is a need to reform the entire ecosystem of exam-oriented guide books and coaching classes that require entrance examinations just to get into them.
In the age of the Web the ability to memorise facts is a vestigial skill. But the knowledge is much more contested and multi-faceted. The need is to train school students to apply facts to real-world problems and evaluate their abilities to critique, seek out information and produce knowledge of their own. This must be the agenda of the education reforms.
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