School Education Transformation Paving Way for Better Higher Education

Education is an important part of everyone’s life. School and higher education are correlated in a way that the better school education paves way for better higher education and later a better career. It is important to focus on various factors for good school education writes Prof Y V Satya Kumar, former Dean-Academic Planning & Quality Assurance, Rayat Bahra University, for Elets News Network (ENN).

Prof Y V Satya Kumar, former Dean-Academic Planning & Quality Assurance, Rayat Bahra University
Prof Y V Satya Kumar, former Dean-Academic Planning & Quality Assurance, Rayat Bahra University

School Education is a mandatory preparatory stage in the life’s progression. It is also an essential channel to a meaningful alignment of one’s effort and engagement of mind later in higher education leading to a career that is personally satisfying, financially stable and socially appreciable while also meeting the needs of the family. As a part of this process there are many and differing expectations thrust upon the young Student from the Parents, Siblings, Teachers, Peers at School, Extended Family, Neighbours and Job Trends. In this melange of overlapping and competing expectations from different quarters oftentimes the own interests, inclinations and natural potential of the Child is sometimes, if not often, gets overlooked or ignored. As a result the level of performance in the stream or discipline chosen in College or Higher Education after completing the School, the full blossoming of the Graduate in a consequent Career later on based on that Stream and most importantly the happiness to the inner person at the centre of this attention may not be to the extent that would have been possible had there been full or more weight given to the preferences and natural leanings of the adolescent Child while choosing a particular preparatory stream for the Student in High School after Middle School.

A consequence of limited number of Government Engineering Colleges and National Institutions up to 1990’s across India and incumbent serious competition and craving for an Engineering or a Management Degree was a proliferation of Private Engineering and Management Colleges either as Affiliated Colleges of State Universities or as Constituent Colleges of Private Universities. Another factor that resulted in this trend was a policy emphasis and societal need for increasing GER levels in Higher Education segment and a lack of public resources for expansion. However such overemphasis and rapid demand for these Professional Degrees resulted in setting up of Private Colleges far in excess of actual demand or need.

For over a decade now it has become an annual feature for AICTE to evaluate the levels of admissions in these Professional Colleges or particular Streams offered per Intake allowed and close down hundreds of Colleges each year or even limit or prohibit opening of new Colleges or particular Streams of Study or Specializations due to a higher numbers of Graduates in those Streams than there are jobs available in the market. This mismatch between Demand and Supply often resulted in dilution of the rigour or perceived or actual value of these professional degrees, which only a couple of decades ago were very sought after due to the quality of Graduates. Some, if not many, of Private Entrepreneurs that had come into Higher Education Segment had the patience, capital or will required to ensure high quality required in preparing their Graduates to the professional levels expected.

Naturally compromises by Managements, Administrations, Faculty and Students became inevitable to ensure a steady stream of Graduates and push for an ever increasing intake without requisite and mandatory emphasis on the transformational and Teaching-Learning processes between the intake and graduation. Consequently there is a drop in Employability and Desirability for these half-ready Graduates from these professional streams in reputed Firms and Employers. It was also not easy for them to successfully compete for PSU Jobs that had nation-wide Entrance Exams (or as have recently shifted to using GATE Exam for such assessment) for paring down their prospective employees entry as Management Trainee. Slowly many of these professional Graduates deemed not be Job-ready nor employable in professions that they are supposed to have trained for are made to appear for BPO Jobs, Bank Clerical Jobs and even as unpaid or nominally paid Interns. All of this investment made by Parents with expectation of well-paying Jobs for their Children soured instead seeing them enter support jobs normal jobs that they could have anyway managed with a regular degree of a B.Com., B.A. or a B.Sc. and with much lesser investments and studying closer to home.

From the above chronicle of linked developments in education it is evident that it is crucial for the Parents of the Child in the Middle School or Junior (5th to 8th) to start thinking about the best options and streams for their Child by observing their natural inclinations in different subjects, noting their performance levels in different subjects and also by talking to the Child about their own interests, aptitudes and aspirations for life.

The Parents and Teachers also should to talk to these young Students by or before Class 8 enumerating brief profiles (including compensation bands) of what a career looks like for Engineers, Scientists, Doctors, Managers, Accountants, Teachers, Bankers, Writers, Journalists, Technicians, Clerks, Support Staff, Entrepreneurs in Micro, Small and Medium Scale Industries, Civil Services, Sportsmen and so on so that they can also participate in charting and following their path to careers. It would be best to avoid the factor of prestige for Parents and Family in making these decisions, which if erroneous could cause a lifelong mismatch and the migration from opted stream to another stream in relatively highly regulated systems of education is not that easy although not impossible. In this process, Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligence serves as a guide and gives excellent pathways to learning besides understanding, evolution and preference of different skill sets in a given Child to learning and naturally mastering the content.

Once the Child is in the preparatory stream chosen for the High School or Secondary and Senior Secondary (9th to 12th) the current trend of rote learning at School, at Home and at Tuition is only adding to the decline in the creative levels and also suppression of curiosity levels in the Child. The Bloom’s Taxonomy provides importance and progressive hierarchy levels of attainment in different approaches to Learning. More and increasing emphasis should be given to activities that allow the Student to explore the Subject using activities with higher levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy. While storing, comprehension and retention of knowledge at School plays an important role, channeling into activities that emphasize application, critical analysis, synthesis, evaluation would lead to a creative being that is much more valued later in life and career.

Further a child growing up in a home environment during, secondary and senior secondary school period would have the balance of priorities with right levels of connections and meaningful relations with Parents, Siblings, own Family and Colleagues later in life. Forcing the Child into some residential Foundation School from 6th Standard onwards in the hope of successfully competing with tens of lakhs of students for a few thousand or tens of thousands of seats in National Institutions several years later at the conclusion of 12th is not rooted in wisdom nor desirable. Neither would the apparently preferred mode of cramming question banks of 10,000 to 50,000 Questions in each subject in these Residential Schools as a sure path to entry into National Institutions open up a spark of creativity and originality in the Child.

It is much more important for the Teachers and Parents to ensure the Child has conceptual understanding of the subjects, sees demonstrations of these concepts in actual and practical applications and exhibits further explorative interest in application of these concepts to new ideas. It is important that the Child should be treated as integrated whole and not be superimposed with unrealistic and unjustifiable external expectations that distract from realizing full potential of the individual within each Child. (views expressed above are author’s personal)

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