NATIONAL PROGRESSIVE SCHOOLS CONFERENCE
PARTNERSHIP IN EDUCATION
18th FEBRUARY, 1998
at 11.00 a.m.
PRESIDENT DHARAM HINDUJA INTERNATIONAL CENTRE OF INDIC RESEARCH
MODERN SCHOOL, VASANT VIHAR, NEW DELHI.
The organisers of this Conference deserve to be congratulated for giving us all a valuable opportunity to focus upon a theme which is assuming great importance in our country as also elsewhere. Partnership in education is a perennial theme, but there are four factors which have combined together to place this theme into the forefront of our attention.
The first factor is related to the realisation that education is an integral activity that cannot be left merely to the few hours when the child sits on the school benches, and that school activities need to be supplemented by the educational activities at home and elsewhere in the midst of life. At a deeper level, this underlines the organic relationship between the school and the home, between the school and the society, between the teacher and the parents, between the teacher and the pupil, and between the parents and the child. It also underlines the deepest truth of education, namely, that education is preparation for life and life is the greatest teacher of life, and therefore, all education must be life-oriented and all life should be education-oriented.
The second factor is related to unprecedented explosion of knowledge, which impels educationists, teachers and parents to swim together in the tide of increasing information so as to render threefold help to the child: first, to distinguish between the essential and the unessential, the basic and the peripheral, the useful and the not so useful; secondly, to build new courses of education, new curricula and new teaching-learning materials whereby frontiers of knowledge are brought nearer to the doors of children as meaningfully and as expeditiously as possible; and, thirdly, to employ with deep concern the required skills to reduce the load of books as also of the thorny problems of home work on the minds of children.
The third factor is the increasing awareness that academic studies do not by themselves ensure what is expected in life situations, in employment markets and in terms of ultimate fulfilment of human seeking and endeavour. Development of integral personality is now increasingly recognised as the essential ingredient of education. And the implications of integral education oblige the schools to expand the scope of their activities so as to cover art education, physical education, craft education and skill-oriented education, including computer education. With this expanded scope, schools tend to impress upon parents to expand similar facilities at home and also wider and intenser attention on children. Educationists and educational administrators are also obliged to be awakened to devise education on a vaster canvass, to devise also complex and flexible timetables, to revise the prescribed syllabi, and to look for larger and larger resources in terms of finances and competent professional power.
And the fourth factor is related to the increasing awareness of importance of education in terms of social development, cultural efflorescence, and even in respect of deepest questions connected with human survival and human fulfilment at the global level. As a result, life-long education and development of learning society have come to be envisaged as essential goals. Not only child-centred education, but even child-centred life of the society and of the world is now being advocated. It is also being realised that formal education should be a part of the non-formal and informal education, which in turn should fill the fabrics of social life. It is also being envisaged that the most important influences emanate from environment and atmosphere and that the totality of the environment should be so designed that education becomes the life-breath not only of children but of all, and adults, too, are being counselled to retain the freshness of child's curiosity and child's spontaneous drive to learn and to learn faster and faster. This necessitates partnership in education of all sectors of life, of all members of society.
The kingpin of this partnership is, of course, the teacher. Nothing will work in education, if the teacher is not rightly motivated, is not enabled to perform and does not perform. Unfortunately, even though much is expected of the teacher, the society is not prepared to provide to the teacher the conditions, the status and facilities that would enable him or her to give his/her very best to the tasks that are to be fulfilled. On the other hand, it is also unfortunate that although there are very good teachers in our country, there are a number of them who do not look upon their task as a mission, and do not put their heart and soul in the sacred task of teaching. If teachers consent to educate themselves and dedicate themselves to the tasks of their responsible role, much can be done, in spite of deficiencies in the social and environmental conditions. They can also inspire parents and educational administrators to play their own roles of partnership.
It is to be realised that the role of the teacher is expanding. The teacher can no more afford to remain confined to the texts of the prescribed books. On account of the fact that children are getting better and better informed through media, teachers are required to become even better and better informed and equipped. If children are to be developed integrally, teachers also have to be developed integrally. There is a view that with the development of media, much of the work of teachers can better be done by the media, and that the best teachers of the world can be brought nearer to the students through television and computers. This is, to some extent true, but we must emphasise that living contact with teachers is indispensable. Even if best materials can be brought to children through audio-visual methods, teachers will still be required to contribute to their development, namely, the living example of the character of the teacher, the vibrant spark of illumined intelligence and inimitable power of communication through personal contact.
The role of the teacher has come to be especially emphasised on account of the increasing conviction that education must be value-oriented. Value-oriented education, however, is impossible without the living example of the value-oriented teacher. The teacher has three instruments: instruction, example, and influence. Even in the field of instruction, although much can be done by mechanical means, audio- visual aids, computers and other media, there are subtler modes of communication where direct and personal intervention of the teacher is indispensable. A good teacher is constantly in search of words and phrases that can awaken the pupil's consciousness. The good teacher who lives in the world of ideas can pour the rain of ideas on students at the right moment, so as to uplift the student on a higher plane of thought and inspiration. A good teacher, indeed, can teach even through silence or through dramatic presentation, which cannot be imitated or duplicated by mechanical means. But when come to the instrumentality of example, the role of teacher becomes still more inestimably valuable and irreplaceable. The teacher has to be or can be a good example of a thinker, of purity, of disinterestedness, and of how under trying situations, equanimity of mind can be maintained. The example of the inner life of the teacher is even more important than that of outer behaviour and conduct. Still greater than the example, however, is the instrumentality of influence which can be defined as the power that emanates from the soul of the teacher and gets imparted to the soul of the pupil. Nothing can be as effective in value-oriented education as this power of contact of the value-oriented teacher when the child opens up the inner recesses of its being to that power.
What is true of the teacher is also true of the parents. The role of the teacher has to be supplemented, aided and enriched by parents. Fundamentally, children learn first and foremost from the parents, and modern parents have very special problems because of the changing conditions and styles of life, where the old joint family system is breaking down, and where both the parents are often required to work on a full-time basis. The difficulties are further aggravated when influences over their children emanating from TV and outer environment of society are uncontrollable and when their effects are more often than not injurious to the healthy growth of the children.
How are the parents to participate in the education of their children? In what way are they to perform the task of partnership with the teachers of their children? Just as teachers, parents have also to utilise instrumentality of instruction, example, and influence. Parents have to set healthy example of harmony in the family relationship and are required to take care to avoid gender bias while dealing with children in the family. They have to establish bonds of trust with their children; they have to generate goodwill while helping the children in fighting their small battles of loyalties and friendships. They have also to accept the great burden of participating in academic development, artistic development, character development and in their integral development. In addition, parents of today have to realise that children are growing up in the general atmosphere where the East and the West are getting blended with a great deal of confusion of values, and where their own understanding and internalisation of Indianness will make a major difference in the process of the upbringing of children. The most difficult task of modern parents is to harmonise the demands of freedom which every child today imposes more and more persistently and the demand of self-discipline which parents want their children to develop.
Many of these tasks can be facilitated if teachers, too, supplement the tasks of the parents. Many of these tasks can be facilitated if the educational administrator provides better and better opportunities of dialogue between teachers and parents. Many more of these tasks can be facilitated, if the authorities in charge of media take care to sponsor and encourage such programmes that come to the aid of teachers and parents.
The role of the educational administrator has no more remained that of authority and controller. He, too, is required to make a major contribution in the task of partnership in a very significant way.
Administration and management today require those methods which are relevant to teaching and learning. The managers of today are required to be good teachers and good pupils themselves. The educational administrator has to be accessible to teachers, parents, students and to the public at large. Access has to be meaningful and effective and capacities of vision and leadership have to be manifested in every encounter. The educational administrator must be inspired by the intense concern for children's future, and must be guided by highest visions of advancing knowledge and its practical applications that will shape the new world-order. They have to plan the future with boldness of an adventurer and meticulous skill of a goldsmith. And, above all, they have to maintain the health of the educational institutions, raise the required resources, manage the programmes of development and expansion, and yet keep the optimum efficiency of all the factors of education.
Here, again, parents, teachers and students can help their educational administrators in many ways. The greater the self-discipline that they would impose upon themselves, the greater will be the efficiency of the educational administrator in fulfilling his task. Everyone must realise that the educational administrator can discharge his responsibilities properly only if the demands made on him are judicious, reasonable and motivated by consideration of general good rather than that of mere individual convenience or satisfaction. Teachers can assist the educational administrator in many ways; so can parents and students. But, above all, the educational administrator needs to be helped by higher authorities of management, whether governmental or non-governmental. Managements are also members of partnership and they, too, have to collaborate in such a manner that autonomy of educational process, autonomy of educational administration, and autonomy of educational ideals are not infringed or interfered with by the heavy hands of management. They should demand accountability from all who claim autonomy, but the standards of accountability should also be judicious, reasonable and beneficial to the totality of the educational process.
Partnership in education has one noblest aim, and that is to subserve the highest welfare of the student. The student is the sovereign of the heart of education, and it is this sovereign for whom the whole society has to come forward so that nothing in the atmosphere, nothing in the environment, nothing in the media should be allowed to injure that sovereign's interests. At the same time, the student, too, can make a major contribution to partnership in education. The highest secret of education is self-education, and the sooner the child is placed or places itself on the road of self-education, the greater will be the case with which other partners in education will be able to contribute their respective services. Unfortunately, our educational system hardly provides guidance in self-education. Lecture-oriented education makes the child highly passive, and the child rarely gets opportunities to ask questions and to practise learning through dialogue. Learning by doing has only a marginal place; and learning by practising is seldom heard of. Our textbooks are teacher-oriented; they are written on the assumption that teachers are there to explain and provide references, contexts and concepts. The pedagogy of self-learning has little place in our textbooks. Dynamic methods of teaching and learning are irrelevant in book-oriented and examination-oriented system. Freedom to choose, which is indispensable in the process of self-learning, finds only a negligible place. Most of the things are prescribed and almost everything is compulsory. Only in some progressive schools, we find project work, multiple choices and some freedom in respect of extra-curricular activities. Therefore, a major effort is required on the part of the teachers, educators, curricula makers, educational administrators and even parents and others to create conditions where students can learn the art of self-education and learn at their own pace, can create curricula in accordance with their own developing interests and can make their own timetables.
Self-learning also includes self-discipline; and the pillar of self-discipline is self-control. No education can fulfil its real role if it does not provide to the student the joy of self-discipline and self-control, right motivation to organise one's life in accordance with the highest aims of life, the precious lesson that self-control is the only effective method of self-knowledge, and that without self-knowledge world-knowledge is always out of focus. Educational institutions should be so organised that they become nurseries of self-discipline, and yet provide mirth and happiness,charm and joy, and unfailing attractions for the adventures of the learning, for the inspiring company of teachers, for development of their own faculties, their exercise and their daily progress.
On their part, students have to realise that the active life into which they would eventually enter will demand well-developed capacities that can come through vigorous physical education, through education that provides for courage and heroism, and through education that provides clarity in thought, virtue in will, refined taste in emotions and even deeper qualities of cooperative action, noble and generous spirit and increasing sense of universal fraternity. Above all, they have to realise that excellence that they want in their life will have to be earned only by attaining excellence in their own personality, and that excellence only comes by working assiduously to surmount one's own limitations.
There are larger issues concerning Indian education today and they demand greater and closer partnership in education. Fifty years of independence have proved that it is perilous to neglect education and to neglect particularly education for character development. We are now realising, as never before, the primacy of the girl-child. We realise that it is the responsibility of the State and of the society to remove all obstacles to the advancement of girls' education. We also realise that there is an imperative need to create living awareness and social pressure to persuade parents to send their girl children to schools. We also realise that it is girls' education that can be the most effective means of empowerment of women, and that empowerment of women is the only hope for regeneration of India. It is a matter of national shame that half the population of India is steeped in illiteracy and that dropout rates in schools is appalling. It is also painful that social evils resulting in drug addiction and AIDS are spreading into the portals of schools and educational institutions, and we find ourselves helpless and ill-equipped to deal with these problems. We need to organise people's movement to find appropriate solutions and to get them implemented.
Again, when we look at our curricula we find unacceptable goals and imprisoning schemes of contents and methods of education. Will the present curricula continue even when they are ill-equipped to provide value-orientation, ill-equipped to provide the lessons of Indian heritage, ill-equipped to lead our students to develop a solid basis for holistic synthesis of science and humanities, art and technology? Still, again, will the present system of examination continue even when we have now full experience of its failure, — when students are obliged to give special entrance tests at every terminal point? Is it not the time when all the components of education, even the components of social and cultural life agree to enter into partnership so that we begin to attend to the urgent problems which can be resolved only by overhauling the entire educational system?
Let us be clear that neither the NCERT nor the UGC has the adequate instrumentality or even authority to change the present curriculum; examination bodies can, to some extent, bring about some changes; but neither the Boards like CBSE nor the universities have the time or enough expertise to bring about the needed changes. We, therefore, need partnership of country's leadership, — political, social, economic, industrial, and above all, of the vast cultural edifice in our country.
Examination system needs such drastic changes that we need to set up a new kind of national testing service, which can determine national standards and the highest standards, and which can test not only academic attainments but also attainments in respect of character development, physical fitness, spirit of national discipline, and commitment to Indianness as also sense of universal fraternity. We need to set up a national commission of education with the necessary authority to secure partnership in education from all quarters and whose tasks will not be limited to give only one single report and leave everything to others to implement or not to implement, but who will constantly encourage deeper and deeper reflections on educational issues and make continuous recommendations as also ensure implementation of all that can be and should be implemented. Major changes, — revolutionary changes, — are the need of the hour. Fortunately, the country has awakened to some extent today, and we can take advantage of this awakening.
It is in this context that National Progressive Schools have a great responsibility, and they have done well to organise this Conference. I am sure that the deliberations of this Conference will make an impact and will awaken teachers, parents, students, educational administrators, educational managers, policy makers, controllers of media, and in fact, all, so as to bring about the right atmosphere for partnership. We need togetherness, and let us all work together.