The spirit of inquiry is what we must instil in students, as we battle the rising dropout rate.
The appointment of a new nine-member panel to reset the National Education Policy will only delay the much-needed reforms in elementary education, besides giving a thrust to our outdated college education. The earlier panel, headed by former Cabinet Secretary T.S.R. Subramanian, had done extensive work for 30 months in collating information and opinion from stakeholders, academics and experts. It appears the change at the helm of the HRD ministry, from a flamboyant Smriti Irani to a more sober Prakash Javadekar, led to this change of heart, with a new panel to do much the same work of giving Indian education a contemporary touch. Of course, a fair deal of ideologically-driven motivation is likely in the fresh exercise as the inputs of Sangh affiliates will also be sought afresh by the panel headed by former Isro chief K. Kasturirangan.
The earlier committee’s 230-page report drawn from 5,000 responses addressed several crucial issues, from rote learning and overdependence on board exam marks down to the quality of teachers, assessment methods and management of education. It’s the quality of instruction that was found lacking, with the colonial legacy in basic education leading to a shocking lack of critical thinking by students. A complete overhaul of the exam system is needed so that it tests understanding than the ability to reproduce verbatim from textbooks. The spirit of inquiry is what we must instil in students, as we battle the rising dropout rate. But if this whole exercise is to rewrite a few history books to give them a saffron tinge, it will be an exercise in futility while our graduates continue to remain largely unemployable.