A National Agenda for Education - A National Agenda for Education

A National Agenda for Education


A National Agenda for Education


All eyes seem to be set on education.

The contemporary scene of India compels everyone to turn to education as the central key to the road to regeneration. Unfortunately, our educational system is suffering from long-standing negligence and maladies and unless drastic steps are taken to bring about radical and revolutionary changes, it would be futile to expect education to perform any miracle.

The national agenda for education must be conceived and implemented with full realisation that the nation derives its raison d'etre from the protective wings that it can spread over the children and the youth so that they can grow freely and boldly, imbibing in themselves the rich heritage of the past and cultivating the unfailing power of character and vision to build a greater future.

The values which have been enshrined in the Constitution provide a framework which must inform and illuminate all levels and forms of education. They ensure unity of people of India and promise a great future for all. They provide great inspiration for cultivating work-culture which is currently so sadly lacking and which is indispensable for sustaining the process of growth of the country and for the promotion of excellence in all human endeavours.

We may recall that the great struggle for freedom had in its early moments of resurgence placed national education as an essential aspect of its core programme for achieving India's independence. Now after nearly one century, we feel compelled to go back to the call of national education, since we have failed greatly

A National Agenda for Education

A National Agenda for Education

during the last fifty years of the attainment of independence in giving shape to that call.

Let us rise once again and make a pledge that we shall do our best and create for the children and youth the necessary conditions and resources. Let us resolve not to fail again.

I. Basic Foundations of the Agenda

1. Character Development

The crisis through which our country is passing today is a crisis of character, and it cannot be met without a radical change in the objectives, contents and methods of education so as to place character development at the centre of our educational endeavour.

There should be a holistic approach to character development. All aspects of personality, — physical, vital, intellectual, aesthetic, ethical and spiritual — should be emphasised. Special emphasis should be laid on moral and spiritual development.

2. Total Literacy; Universalisation of Elementary Education

The promises made in the Constitution in regard to total literacy and Universalisation of elementary education must be redeemed without any further delay. All effective methods must be employed and all the necessary resources made available to ensure that we enter the XXIst century with an honourable record of achievement in respect of these first two priorities.

As immediate Agenda for the next five year, all-out efforts should be made to provide access to all children for primary schooling and to ensure that they not only not drop out of the school, but also achieve minimum levels of learning and receive appropriate quality of education. To monitor progress towards this goal at block, district, State and national levels, a set of indicators should be developed by interrelating various qualitative and quantitative data, — such as level of spending on primary education, disparities in access, gender-wise enrolment, attendance rates, drop-out rates, student-teacher ratio, proportion of

A National Agenda for Education

A National Agenda for Education

expenditure on teaching aids and equipment, assessment of students' achievement, teachers' status, etc.

3. National System of Education

National education must not be conceived as State education. The State must allow the nation to develop its own objectives and contents of education. Teachers, parents, and students must have their legitimate opportunity to shape the educational policy with the help of dedicated educationists. It will, however, be the duty of the State to give highest priority to education and allocate resources to it appropriate to this priority. The State must withdraw its own pervasive control and overwhelming role of the educational administrator.

4. Reforms of Curricula and Examination System

Great reforms of curricula and examination system must be instituted in the light of the innovative experiments that were ini- tiated by the great nationalist leaders. We should also be guided by the progressive ideas which are being experimented upon in the different parts of the world under the inspiration of the goals to establish learning society, life-long education, learning to learn, learning to do, learning to practise, learning to care, learning to be and learning to become.

5. Sovereignty of the Child and the Youth

Sovereignty of the child and the youth is central to a learning society and people should resist vigorously and persistently all the public display and activities which are likely to adversely affect the harmonious and integral value-oriented development of children and youths.

II. Three Immediate Reforms

1. Pre-School Education

During the last fifty years, importance of pre-school education has come to be underlined. The significance of early childhood in the later development of aptitudes and personality has come to be

A National Agenda for Education

A National Agenda for Education

testified by modern psycho-physiology and close observations. Therefore, education of pre-school age children is an essential pre-condition to any educational and cultural policy.

Pre-schools should not be allowed to degenerate into formal schools, and the character of pre-school must be so fostered that the children are not burdened with any formal learning but are encouraged on lines of creative joy and healthy psychological development.

The State must provide the requisite funds to develop kinder gartens, balwadis, anganbadis on a large scale so that all the children of the country receive help and care, all joy of childhood and of the growth through play and happy exercise.

It has to be realised that universal elementary education will be impossible without universal pre-school education.

2. Reduction of Load of Books

The load of curriculum and books on the tender minds of children has become unbearable. Immediate steps have to be taken to implement the latest proposals that have been made to remedy this situation.

3. Care and Education of the Girl-Child

The needs of the girl-child in the process of fostering education at all levels must be given pre-eminent importance so -chat every girl and eventually every woman in our country finds her- self well equipped to make her best contributions in the integral development of the nation.

It should be the duty of the State to provide adequate incentives for the education of the girl-child, — including provision for free uniforms, toilet facilities, mid-day meals, sibling care and hostel facilities, in harmony with the local requirements and culture. The Government should ensure that all the girls from pre- school age up to fourteen years are sent to the balwadis and schools and are not allowed to drop out. They should further be encouraged to pursue higher levels of schooling and collegiate education.

It should be the responsibility of the State to remove all obstacles

A National Agenda for Education

A National Agenda for Education

to the advancement of girls' education. Awareness and social pressure must be applied to persuade parents to send their girl children to school.

Resources of the society should be harnessed to promote education of the girl-child through adoption or sponsorship.

III. Basic Thrust of the Agenda

— Character Development: Overarching Principle

The basic thrust of the Agenda will be to underline character development as the overarching principle at all levels and in all forms of education.

All programmes of education should vibrate with an inspiring force to provide value-orientation to skills, temperament and personality so as to strengthen courage and wisdom, harmony and unity, honesty and sincerity, perseverance and efficiency. High level of work ethos should be fostered and the values of responsibility and accountability should be emphasised.

Great values which have been emphasised in the Constitution of India, in the Preamble, as also in its statements of Rights and Duties, should form the basic ground, and the curriculum should be so designed that these values can be concretely related to the pursuit of humanistic studies, science, technology, art and craft.

The argument that education for character development has relevance only to school education and not to higher studies misses the point that it is only at the higher levels of reflection that rational and higher foundations of character are fortified. It is at the higher levels of education that a comparative study of religions and disciplines of spirituality as also standards of con- duct and aesthetic pursuit can be emphasised.

Value education is the very definition of education, since the ultimate justification of education lies in transmuting impulses, emotions and thoughts into higher modes of culture. Both in theory and practice, education must bear this fundamental imprint.

A National Agenda for Education

A National Agenda for Education

IV. Reiteration of objectives Of Education

— Three Perennial Objectives.

It has been pertinently asked as to what exactly is the meaning and nature of education. There are several answers to this question, but these answers can be stated in a synthetic form by reiterating certain objectives of education.

It seems that there are at least three perennial objectives of education: (i) education should aim at encouraging every individual to know oneself and to relate oneself with the world as effectively and as harmoniously as possible; (ii) education should transmit the cumulative results of the valuable cultural heritage to the growing generations so as to enable them to carry it forward and to build the paths of the greater future; and (iii) education should encourage a judicious acceleration of human progress.

— Other objectives relevant to our times

There are certain other objectives which arise from the immediate needs of the country and of the world.

— Integral Development of Personality

At no time in history was the concept of the integral development of personality as imperative as it is today. Total education for the total human personality is imposed not only by the latest trends of holistic thought but also because of the increasing pressure to unite science with humanism and because at the frontiers of highest research, the knowledge of matter and the knowledge of spirit have come to demand mutual understanding and even a synthesis. One-track specialisation is becoming more and more unsustainable, and there is a need to develop integrated educational objective which can be implemented at different levels of education in different forms of education by adopting appropriate strategy.

— Environmental Care

As one of the important elements of the contemporary crisis is connected with environment, studies in respect of the themes

A National Agenda for Education

A National Agenda for Education

related to pollution control, plantation of trees and increasing awareness in respect of the need to protect environment should be promoted.

The objective of improvement in the quality of life by emphasising harmony between human beings and Nature should be underlined. Ecological study should be promoted so as to foster balance between the preservation of ecology and needs of modernisation.

— Science and Technology

Since the present civilisation is science-based, it is imperative to promote the importance of scientific, critical and original thinking as also increasing acquaintance, expertise and mastery in respect of the advancing domains of scientific knowledge and technology.

— Science and Values

Considering that there is today a growing realisation of the importance of relating science and values, education should provide a special emphasis on this important theme.

— International Understanding and Peace

Education for international understanding and peace has, during the last several decades, come to be acknowledged as a very important aim of UNESCO, and not only as a Member-State, but also as a country devoted to these ideals as part of its perennial cultural ethos, we must accept it as an overriding objective of our programmes of education at all levels and in all its forms. We must underline that peace is indivisible and that it is a positive striving that implies rigorous pursuit of cooperation, mutuality and harmony. In concrete terms, education should provide for understanding and respect for all peoples, their cultures, civilisations, values and ways of life. At a deeper level, this education implies commitment to the idea and practice of the One Human Family.

A National Agenda for Education

A National Agenda for Education

V. Role of the Teacher

The emphasis on education for character development imposes on the teacher a very special responsibility. As character can best be imparted by the living example of the teacher, a high standard of ethos must become an indispensable part of the teaching profession. The country should demand that teachers themselves evolve high standards of self-discipline and ensure their implementation in their daily life, in their relationships with students, colleagues, and people in general, and in their professional performance.

Respect for teachers which had been emphasised in Indian culture, but which has been greatly eroded because of various factors, needs to be resurrected by various means including those which will provide high status and facilities to teachers.

A new programme of training will have to be formulated and implemented. Pre-service training of teachers will require a thorough revision. If teachers are to ensure integral development of their students, they themselves have to be trained to attain higher and higher degrees of integration of their own personalities. Again, since there is explosion of knowledge, teachers have to be trained in the art and science of life-long education, in the art of learning to learn, and in the skills by which the advancing frontiers of knowledge can be brought nearer to their students.

Special programmes for training teachers' educators should be formulated which will provide greater awareness of responsibilities in regard to character development of students and wider visions of the future, up-to-date technologies of education and inspiration for idealism so that they may be able to impart high level of guidance and leadership to the teachers under training.

Corresponding to the higher demands of training, the career graphs of teachers have to be greatly revised, and both the government and the society have to bear the responsibility to provide to their teachers standards that are equivalent to a high quality of life.

Considering that the teacher is the real bridge between the past and the future and carrier of cultural heritage from generation

A National Agenda for Education

A National Agenda for Education

to generation, it must be expected from every teacher to become a perpetual student of the lessons of history and of the quest of the knowledge by the aid of which greater future can be built.

We speak today of the child-centred education, but only the teacher can really give concrete shape to this concept. For it is only the teacher who can introduce dynamic methods which would place the child in the centre of the learning process.

The role of the teacher will, in this context, be: (a) to observe his/her students, their inclinations and capacities, so as to be able to help them with deep sympathy and understanding; (b) to become an animator rather than a mere lecturer, and to inspire much more than to instruct; (c) to aid students by processes of consultation and suggestion and develop in them inner will to grow and progress.

It is the responsibility of the Government and of the people to provide to the teachers all the material and infrastructural facilities so that they can devote all their time and energy to the progress and development of their students.

VI. Role of Students

While the educational system must provide all the necessary facilities, support and required atmosphere, it would be for the students themselves to make the right use of the aids provided to them. It is by their free will that they have to grow up into self determining individuals striving constantly towards excellence, not only in respect of studies, but also in respect of integral development of personality, — physical, emotional, dynamic, intellectual, ethical, aesthetic and spiritual.

Students should gradually come to realise that self-knowledge, self-reliance and self-control constitute the most effective means of true self-fulfilment.

Teachers, parents and people in general would expect from the students that they will: (a) learn the secret of self-education, of learning to learn; (b) study and work widely and intensely, study and work with joy and application, progress constantly and thus

A National Agenda for Education

A National Agenda for Education

learn how to remain perpetually youthful; and (c) become fearless and heroic in the quest of Truth, Harmony and Liberty, and work always at the boundaries of their limitations so as to surpass them by the constant aspiration to rise higher and higher.

VII. Role of Parents

Parents are the first teachers of the children, and the pressure of our times imposes upon every parent to develop all that is expected of a good student and a good teacher.

Parents have to realise that the world is changing rapidly, that the horizons of knowledge are expanding constantly, and that children are growing up in a new atmosphere of currents of culture in which the values of the East and the West are getting blended with a great deal of uncertainty and consequent disequilibrium. It is in these difficult times that parents have to build and maintain bonds of trust with children and guide them with love and understanding, with practical dexterity, and with largeness of mind and heart. They have to harmonise the demands of freedom and the demands of self-discipline.

Among all sections of the society, it is the parents who have perhaps the most difficult role. And it can be fulfilled by means of: (a) continuous programme of training; (b) participation in teachers-parents associations; (c) participation in their children's development processes; (d) deeper understanding of values of Indian culture and how they can be made active under the present difficult conditions where all that is good in the West is to be assimilated, and all that is injurious to our culture and its future has to be rejected; and (e) ensuring that children are protected from exposure to influences that are injurious to their value oriented development.

Parents should set healthy example of harmony in the family relationships and should take care to avoid gender bias while treating children in the family.

A powerful parents' movement requires to be initiated in our country to undertake, encourage and support programmes that will enable them to discharge their difficult role.

A National Agenda for Education

A National Agenda for Education

Education for population control needs to be emphasised in the training programmes of all concerned.

Every parent whose child is enrolled in a school should be required to undergo an immediate programme of training, and as their children move forward, they should be required to undergo higher levels of training. Appropriate courses of training need to be devised and implemented.

VIII. Role of the Educational Administrator

The role of the educational administrator is bound to be even higher than that of anyone in this vital field of education. As captains of the educational domain, educational administrators have to be at once leaders, participants and servants. They have to endeavour to guide parents, inspire teachers and serve the highest interests of the children. They have also to raise resources and employ them wisely and with utmost economy. They have to plan the future with boldness of an adventurer and meticulous skill of a goldsmith. They have to keep abreast of the educational developments nationally and globally, and they have to devise and employ various innovations by which the educational system remains vibrant with enthusiasm. Conferences, seminars, exhibitions, displays and cultural activities and various events have to be so organised that they would fill the atmosphere with vision and guidance, with joy, mirth and happiness. They have also to deal with mass media, and by means of various initiatives and programmes of action they have to ensure that these media subserve highest interests of education.

The role of the educational administrator as a principal should be distinguished from that of a manager. Managers should be educationists, and they should undergo training in education so as to give appropriate guidance and responses to the needs of schools, colleges and universities which come under their management. Even educational administrators in the Government should have proper training so that they have the right aptitude to deal with educational demands that come from various educational institutions. Indian Educational Service, which existed at one time, should be revived.

A National Agenda for Education

A National Agenda for Education

IX. Roll of Art in Education

A depressing aspect of our present system of education is that artistic abilities of our children are totally neglected or only marginally encouraged. The first aim of art education is purely aesthetic, the second is intellectual, and the third and the highest is spiritual. Music, art, and poetry may be viewed as a perfect education for the soul. They are, when properly used, great educating, edifying and civilising forces.

Young children with artistic talents should never experience lack of encouragement, facilities and opportunities to develop their talents and to express them; on the other hand, every child should be helped to enter into the domains of art and gain the capacity to understand and appreciate the uplifting role of art.

What is true of art is also true of craft and the educational sys- tem should cater to the children's potentialities to develop skills in respect of different crafts.

X. Role of Physical Education

Ancient Sanskrit adage declares: shariram adyam khalu dharmasadhanam — body is the means of fulfilment of dharma, i.e. every ideal which we can propose to ourselves and the law of its working out and its action.

Three important aspects of physical education must be emphasised in the educational system: control and discipline of functions of the body; total methodical and harmonious development of all the parts and movements of the body; and rectification of deformities, if there are any.

Mystery and excellence of the human body should be under- lined in the scheme of education so that students feel inspired to marvel at the wonder of body's complexities and remarkable machinery that has a natural impulse towards health and healing.

The neglect of physical education that has ruined our country's vigour and sense of discipline requires to be remedied with massive programmes of development of gymnasia, playgrounds, facilities for sports, combatives and aquatics. Physical education

A National Agenda for Education

A National Agenda for Education

should not be looked upon as a pastime. It should be related to the ideal of healthy mind in a healthy body. Indispensable knowledge regarding physiology and hygiene, nutrition and proper dieting and useful skills related to first aid and helping op- and others in situations of physical danger should be a physical education. Spirit of adventure should also be emphasised as a necessary part. Great qualities like those of sportsmanship team spirit, practice of fair play, obedience to the decision of the referee or the umpire, acceptance of success and failure with the grace and equanimity, and virtues of hardihood, endurance and, perseverance can best be developed through well-planned programmes of physical culture. A nation where young men and women possess robust capacities of the physique, coupled with mental ethical and aesthetic values can and will assuredly rise higher and higher in providing leadership in all fields of life.

XI. Role of National Spirit of Discipline

The country has regrettably paid minor attention to attention to the creation of national spirit of discipline. Apart from rigorous education, there are various means by which this spirit generated and nourished. The role that scouts and guide movements can provide needs to be emphasised. N.C.C. and N.S.S. for which some facilities are provided at higher levels of school education and collegiate education, have remained in the periphery and large majorities of our students remain indifferent to the requirements of national defence and the qualities of discipline heroism and courage remain depressed.

In several systems of education which are current in parts of the world, students are obliged to have a con period of training in the defence service of the country, often suggested that every student in our country before certification for graduation must be required to undergo similar training in our country.

In the past, when such a proposal had come to be considered seriously at the governmental level, it was argued that the cost involved are extremely heavy and unbearable.

A National Agenda for Education

A National Agenda for Education

Today, when we see the curse of indiscipline spreading in all sections of society, it seems rather imperative that our country should not only encourage scoutsand guide movements but should also oblige our students to participate in training for a minimum period of one year where national spirit of discipline can be instilled. N.C.C., N.S.S. and some other equivalent programmes of sports or adventure or community which will bring students closer to the life of the community should be offered, and participation in one of them should be essential for entrance to the graduation level.

XII. Contents of Education

A question is often asked as to what are the immediate yard- sticks for determining what has come to be called "quality education", It may be answered that it is only when contents and methods of education inspire every child to surpass his or her limitations, that the quality of education attains its distinctiveness. Quality education promotes excellence amongst students, both individually and collectively.

The following aspects of contents of education will contribute to enhancing "quality education."

— What everyone needs to learn

If Macaulayan aim of education to produce clerks is to be effectively replaced by what Swami Vivekananda called "man- making education", we have to conceive a new scheme of contents of learning. We have to provide for the essential knowledge that every individual needs to cultivate in order to become truly human and humane, irrespective of and in addition to one's own specialisation. Since everyone possesses a physical body and a psychological complex of emotions, dynamism, thought and will, everyone needs to know the mystery and excellence of the human body, and how to harmonise demands of rationality, morality and aesthetic refinement. One also needs to learn how to practise power of concentration and a noble science and art of living. Everyone needs to be a good pupil and a good teacher, and every-

A National Agenda for Education

A National Agenda for Education

one needs to learn how to grow into higher and deeper reaches of psychic and spiritual being. These and allied subjects need to be woven together in a graded manner so that they are brought to students effectively but in a very flexible manner throughout the living process of the growth of character and personality.

— Vocational Education

Vocational education should be looked upon as an essential part of character development. The secret of vocation or profession lies in personality, and no personality is complete without the development of skills. In fact, vocational education needs to be so redesigned that every student should have the possibility of at least two years' training in the skills suitable to a chosen vocaion prior to any terminal point in the system of education, — particularly prior to the end of elementary education.

Unfortunately, vocational education has still not become socially acceptable. This is because the so-called academic courses of education have tended to neglect practical aspects, and vocational courses have been so designed that they are perceived as courses meant for less bright students. It would be advisable to devise certain such vocational courses which would demand a very high degree of brightness from students and teachers, and some vocational courses should be developed right up to the levels of post-graduation and research. Such vocational training should not be reduced to blackboard exercises but must be based on hands-on work. This will call for investment of substantial resources at the outset and the State must come forward to provide for it.

Students undertaking vocational courses should have free and ample opportunities to revert to academic courses, if they so desire.

Higher education programme should be so devised that vocational courses are available to students, and graduate and postgraduate degrees should be awarded to those who specialise in vocational courses. B.A., B.Sc., and B. Com. Courses should be so redesigned that students are able to get their relevant vocational and professional skills developed and chiselled, and thus they

A National Agenda for Education

A National Agenda for Education

become usefully employable.

— Holistic Vision

At present, syllabus for each subject is drawn up almost in isolation from other subjects. This encourages learning by snippets. Hence, a holistic view of knowledge has to be kept in view in formulating curricula and syllabi.

— Need to update and prune curricula

On account of explosion of information, there is continuous pressure to update the contents of various subjects of study. Every new concern like environmental care or population control imposes the demand for a new area to be added to the curriculum. However, very little thought is being given to prune those con- tents which have become outdated or receded into the background. The load on children is being increased year after year because no effort has been initiated to revise and prune the curricula, and there is no agency in the country which is solely devoted to the task of formulating appropriate curricula keeping in view the advancement of knowledge, obsolescence of discarded theories and data, as also the holistic standpoint. There is a need to create a national body of the most eminent experts who could be given this task as a continuing and permanent occupation. This body could be subdivided into groups and sub-groups, but it should be able to provide a wide vision that can guide appropriate connections and inter-relationships between subjects and level of studies.

— Value Education

Special care has to be taken, while framing the curriculum, to ensure that the theme or value education receives utmost importance. There is a great need to develop new teaching and learning material in relation to value education. There is a need to set up a National Academy for Value Education which should concentrate on research, training, and publication of teaching-learning materials on subjects related to value education.

Special programmes on TV should be telecast which will bring

A National Agenda for Education

A National Agenda for Education

to the children and youth the inspiring messages on value education.

— Indian Culture

National education should be able to project a true and inspiring account and message of Indian culture. This is an extremely difficult task, and it is yet an extremely important task. Without this, we shall not be able to deal rightly with the powerful external influences which are rushing into our country and creating too much of a mechanical imitation and too much of a sense of subordination and even servitude. To reject unintelligently anything because it is alien is both irrational and injurious. Besides, it is impossible. We have to assimilate with right discrimination all that is good and beneficial for ourselves and for the world. But this means that India has to recover its own centre and find its own base, and do whatever it has to in its own strength and genius. This will involve a great and devoted labour, and ultimately the fruits of this labour have to be translated into concrete terms of the contents of curricula and into corresponding teaching - learning materials.

The national agenda for education must place this task on the top of its priorities.

— Need to make Studies interesting and understandable

There is a legitimate complaint that the books and learning materials which are prescribed for studies have been written in such an uninteresting manner that they rarely evoke enthusiastic response from the students. Again, students in our country belong to different backgrounds, and a large number of them belong to a group of first generation learners. A large number of teachers do not themselves adequately understand the books that they are supposed to teach. A serious inquiry into this problem will suggest a radical recommendation which will have far- reaching repercussions on the entire system of textbook production. All those who are capable of thinking and acting in this important area will have to be engaged in meeting this problem.

A scheme of mobile schools with appropriate teaching-learning

A National Agenda for Education

A National Agenda for Education

materials should be formulated and implemented in order to serve the educational needs of migrating tribes and other groups who are required to migrate from one part of the country to another, from time to time.

— Linguistic Competence

One of the basic problems in our country is related to linguistic competence that we should prescribe at various levels of education. The present language policy has been injurious to the study of classical languages, and it is becoming clearer that our cultural identity cannot be retained if we continue to neglect these languages. Our culture ethos is deeply rooted in the ancient languages like Sanskrit and Tamil and in medieval classical languages like Persian and Arabic. Our curricula have to be so designed that our students are at least able to appreciate the original resources of our culture.

While it is true that the mother tongue should be the natural medium of instruction, the importance of international languages like English and French have to be recognised, — particularly when forces of globalisation are mounting day by day. In order to eliminate the current barrier to national integration by the insistence on study of the local language, every inter-linguistic migrating child should have the option to take any available Indian/classical foreign language, and failing these, a vocational course.

A fresh study of the various problems relating to the linguistic competence in the entire educational system needs to be under- taken. Once again, this study will suggest radical recommendations, the implementation of which must occupy a high place among the priorities of the national agenda.

XIII. Methods of Education

— Need for Innovative Methods

At the first sight, it might seem that in a situation where even the primary articles of equipment like blackboards are not adequately provided in our primary schools, any discussion or recommendation in respect of methods of education and innovations

A National Agenda for Education

A National Agenda for Education

in this area should be regarded as irrelevant or too premature. And yet, this subject is of great importance, and it must be taken in hand in right earnest.

As a matter of fact, the methodology of education has not received much attention since the time when the British system of education was introduced in our country except during the movement for national education and in the context of the great experiments which came to be initiated and developed under the inspiration of leaders like Maharshi Dayananda Saraswati, Swami Vivekananda, Gurudev Rabindra Nath Tagore, Mahatma Gandhi and Sri Aurobindo. As a result, methods of lecturing and the use of blackboard have remained the only methods of education in our country. If the same old system and old methodologies are allowed to be continued, we shall be running the risk of keeping our children at a great disadvantage, which is bound to result in keeping our country perpetually poor economically, educationally and culturally.

New methodologies of education will require the teacher to become students' guide, friend and philosopher instead of a taskmaster. They will require the child to be consulted in its growth, and encourage concrete experience, experimentation, participative dialogues between teachers and students, project work and library-oriented education. These methodologies will aim at integral development of student's personality and will transform the present schools into nurseries of living souls. Even in respect of the programmes of universalisation of elementary education, new methods will have to be explored. Utilisation of TV, audio-visual education and emerging multimedia systems which are expanding at an explosive rate should be fully availed. The problem in doing this should not be underestimated, since the potential is enormous, particularly so in respect of saving costs;

— Child-centred Education

The national agenda for education must, therefore, advocate at least the following elements of what may be called innovative and dynamic methods of education.

A National Agenda for Education

A National Agenda for Education

a) The teaching-learning methods must look upon the child not as an inert material to be shaped by external pressing machines but as a living entity that is capable of creative participation through questioning, inquiring and through total involvement in the learning process.

b) The child should be treated with great sympathy and understanding, and methods of coercion have to be totally replaced by methods that give room to suggesting but not imposing, to freedom that does not amount to licence, and to discipline that is not external but which grows into self-discipline.

c) A great emphasis should be laid on learning to learn, learning by doing and learning by practising which would require different methods that are appropriate to cognition, affection and conation; and

d) A great emphasis should be laid on self-study, project work, group discussions, community work, library-oriented education, and on activities of adventure and works of manual labour.

— Need for New Learning Materials

New learning materials will also have to be prepared which would be appropriate to these dynamic methods of education.

XIV. Counselling Services

The world in which we are living today is getting increasingly impersonalised, mechanised, and those who are in need of guidance find blank and impersonal walls around them creating greater and greater disappointment and even cynicism. There is, therefore, a great need to create agencies in educational institutions and also elsewhere which can provide mature and wise counsel to all those who are in need of it.

Students, in particular, need to have wide ranging advice in respect of their studies, personal problems of friendships and relationships, development of their faculties, availability of opportunities, and various choices open to them for suitable vocations, professions and careers.

There should be an agency to diffuse research results in regard

A National Agenda for Education

A National Agenda for Education

to the opportunities for jobs and self-employment available in various walks of life. This will also help in counselling students and educational institutions to adjust the intake of students in the corresponding disciplines so as to avoid, as far as possible, unnecessary turnout of successful but unemployable students.

Information should also be made available concerning temporary placement service so that students studying in educational institutions can be helped to find suitable openings for temporary placement and which can be adjusted with the timings of schools and colleges where they are studying.

Environmental care and population control are major needs, and appropriate counselling in regard to them need to be under- taken.

Parents also are in need of guidance, since they confront various problems as to how to deal with their children, their courses of studies, their problems connected with freedom, discipline, adolescence and growing youthfulness. They also need to help their children in respect of their homework and extra-curricular activities. Every parent today is required to become a teacher and has to learn, if not formal methods of teaching, at least those informal methods which are directly relevant to home situations and to character development.

These problems need to be highlighted prominently in our society so that counselling services are made available to students and parents.

Schools may be encouraged to invite experts in various fields to address and interact with students about their expertise and the lessons learnt by them in regard to success or failure, which could provide guidance for the students in finding right lines of their own development.

XV Problems of Drug Addiction and Aids

A most disconcerting phenomenon which is vastly spreading in our country is that of use of drugs among teenagers and youths. Even the scourge of Aids is spreading in our country.

These problems are extremely difficult, and it is unfortunate

A National Agenda for Education

A National Agenda for Education

that they receive very little attention. It is, therefore, necessary to study this problem in depth and propose and implement right measures to meet these problems.

A great deal of research needs to be conducted to find out the factors that lead to drug addiction and Aids. Relevant literature on population control and family-life education should be developed, and through wide diffusion of this literature, parents, children and people in general can be provided with the required information and useful messages that will give everyone concerned the necessary guidance regarding the right attitudes and right practice of values, family relationships and general science and art of living.

XVI. Examination System

— What Needs to be changed

The present system of examination, as operating in India, has come under severe criticism. And yet, nothing significant has been done to change this system. Unless the present system of examination is abolished, the system of education will continue to be dysfunctional and will promote those attitudes which are opposed to character development. The present examination is mindless test of mindless memorisation. It has sometimes been suggested that not only the present system of examination but examination as such should be altogether abolished. This suggestion has been implemented in some parts of the country as far as the primary education is concerned. But experience has shown that examinations or tests are in themselves necessary, but what is required is a change in the nature of the tests, frequency of the tests, situations of the tests, purposes of the tests and the attitudes which have to be developed among students and teachers in regard to tests.

— Right Use of Tests

Tests can be used mainly for: (a) stimulation; (b) providing opportunities to the students to think clearly and to formulate ideas adequately; (c) achieving precision, exactness and mastery

A National Agenda for Education

A National Agenda for Education

of details; (d) arriving at a global view of the subjects or works in question; (e) self-evaluation; and (f) gaining self-confidence.

If tests are woven into the learning process, the nature and frequency of the tests will depend upon the above-mentioned purposes which are to be fulfilled through the learning process.

Continuous evaluation, if it is wisely conducted so as to prevent constant burden of examination on students' minds, will prove helpful in promoting healthy educational processes. Transparency in examination system is not only desirable but even indispensable for inspiring confidence in everyone, — including teachers, students and parents. When answer books are returned to students after evaluation, they will stimulate students to correct their mistakes and thus they will provide the needed opportunity to make further progress.

— Tests for Character Development

It has often been argued that no system of tests can be devised to evaluate students in respect of essential qualities which education for character development aims at, such as those of truthful- ness, sincerity, cheerfulness, benevolence, right judgment, courage, self-sacrifice, cooperation and harmony. This argument assumes that the system of tests that is prevalent today cannot be changed or only marginally changed. But, if students are required to maintain their progress reports on those activities, compositions, essays, artistic creation which they have participated in or produced and which in their own judgment are of a high quality, and if these progress reports of the minimum duration of three years, are subjected to scrutiny by a board of examination and further tested through an oral test, it would not be impossible to assess students' performance in respect of character development. Similarly, if every student is required to pass a national physical test, a further avenue of assessment will be available.. For maintenance of physical fitness will require regularity and punctuality in respect of participation in activities of physical education. Besides, a process of physical education will very largely contribute to the development of some of the valuable qualities of team spirit, obedience to umpire and sportsmanship.

A National Agenda for Education

A National Agenda for Education

— Tests and Teachers

Teachers will have to play a major role, if new systems of testing are to succeed. Teachers have to accept that testing is a necessary part of their duties, and they have to develop the requisite qualities which are required not only for the examination of writ- ten papers but also those qualities which are to be promoted through various oral and practical tests.

— Entrance Tests

One of the evils in our country that has recently become very prevalent is that of entrance tests which are being conducted by a number of institutions where students are required to appear, — sometimes in a rapid succession within a short time or even on the same day. This is because major examinations of the country have come into disrepute and it has been widely recognised that they do not really examine the students properly. Employers, too, complain in the same way. Recommendation that has been made since many years that jobs should be delinked from degrees should also be implemented even though there are various difficulties.

— National Testing Service

In order to create a new situation so as to meet these difficulties, it may be suggested that tests for admission and for placement in the employment market should be conducted by a "National Testing Service", and they should be open to any one who wants to take them, irrespective of whether they hold any degree or certificate or not. These tests should be related to specific jobs for employment opportunities or certain specific pursuits of studies and disciplines of knowledge and skills. These tests should be three-fold: written tests, oral tests and practical tests. These tests should further be reinforced by the above mentioned methods of scrutinising progress reports of the candidates, as also by the physical fitness tests, which will provide ready means for assessment of character development.

A National Agenda for Education

A National Agenda for Education

XVII. Higher Education and Research

Neglect of higher education under the facile suggestion that the State must devote all its major attention and resources largely to elementary education is perilous. While no one would say that higher education should be developed at the cost of primary education and secondary education, it has to be admitted and realised that negligence of higher education will be detrimental to the nation. Education cannot be divided into compartments, and hence, higher education must be regarded as having decisive place of its own; and any opposite argument is an attempt at educational colonialisation and must be strongly resisted. Without higher education, and that too, of a very high quality, we shall suffer from unemployable graduates, incompetent teachers, and second rate or third-rate professionals. Again, the entire world is global, and we have to ensure that the global frontiers of knowledge and research can be nourished in our institutions of higher education.

There is no denying the fact that meaningful higher education is very expensive. The government, therefore, should provide as much as it possibly can towards higher education. At the same time, higher educational institutions should be promoted and encouraged to come up in the private sector. Care should be taken that private bodies do not commercialise higher education, and that no student who is admitted is allowed to drop out because of financial reasons.

Reforms suggested for attitudinal changes among teachers, students, parents and educational administrators will apply equally to all sectors of education, including higher education. Reforms in regard to contents and methods of education as also in regard to examination system have to be carried out with the help of the best teachers and educationists, and even those who have retired from active service, should be provided with facilities and opportunities, particularly in the People's Council of Education, so that they are able to contribute the ripe fruits of their long experience, professional competence and wisdom.

Adequate attention needs to be paid to information technology involving computer science, information science and communication

A National Agenda for Education

A National Agenda for Education

science, and facilities for developing expertise in information technology should be expended so that the future needs for professional man-power in this field in the country are adequately met.

The problem of accountability is extremely important. And we have to emphasize that accountability has to come from the top. Several examples can be cited to show how the top people, when they demonstrate accountability and personal integrity, various problems of discipline, finances and relationships have been resolved with great efficiency and thoroughness.

A comprehensive scheme of soft loan scholarships, which would, in course of time, become self-financing should be introduced for meritorious but economically weaker students. This scheme should underline that the normal conditions which are imposed while giving loans such as security, etc., are waived for the students seeking loan scholarships.

Areas of research have to be widely and wisely enlarged. Interdisciplinarity and holism are increasingly gaining relevance. It is at the higher levels of research that major themes of the synthesis of the knowledge of Matter and the knowledge of the Spirit can be rightly dealt with so as to meet the growing aspiration in humanity to realise interdependence, between science and values and even between science and spirituality.

While encouragement should be given to fundamental research, applied research on themes relevant to socio-economic development should also be promoted. Monitoring of research projects should be strengthened and measures should be adopted to utilise properly and expeditiously the research findings.

There are several suggestions as to what should be the strategy for enhancing and maintaining quality of higher education. People's Councils of Education must attend to these suggestions and help promote consensus in regard to them so that agreed proposals can be implemented as speedily as possible.

XVIII. Let us not forget the Essentials

Care of the Living Soul of the Child

A National Agenda for Education

A National Agenda for Education

Let us not forget the essentials. Gurudev Rabindra Nath Tagore has given us an instructive short story "The Parrot's Training", the moral of which is that whatever structures we may build for education, whatever facilities and opportunities we may create for students and teachers, nothing will be of any real use if we forget that education should subserve the highest interests of the child who is a living entity And if we place the child in a system that would imprison its free and living movements and if we stuff the child with plethora of materials, the child will get suffocated and may even wither away.

Let us, therefore, create for our children and youths nurseries of living souls where they can blossom like smiling and shining flowers spreading their fragrance by their vibrating freshness and youthfulness.

This shall be the soul of the national agenda for education.

A National Agenda for Education

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