Cover Story Education Interviews

Mentor Speak: Curriculum can come and go; it is the framework that needs to be our focus

Anju Khanna

-Anju Khanna, PhD, panelist, NCERT, Delhi believes that the present curriculum needs a re-thinking and should be aligned to the value system. A good framework would go a long way in attaining goals

An epitome of primary education is a Utopian dream. Your comments

An ideal primary education is still a dream that needs to be continually aspired for, worked for and implemented in a systemic manner across schools. It’s a very colonial hangover and despite our freedom in 1947 we are still not free in our understanding and action of indigenous progressive education, one that focuses on the primary years for building the base on which the adult of tomorrow will step ahead.”

Progressive education occurs in pockets of excellence but these are few and often depend on certain ideological and philosophical leanings of the institutes, these are not the norm but the exception.

Through NCERT, we do have a robust framework for primary education. The problem is our teacher education that demonstrates this in theory and not practice, it is this dichotomy and lack of sync between the goals of the national framework and the teacher education in the country that causes this ailment of the primary schools not following children as active citizens with rights, as contributing members with their families and local school communities being built around this fundamental definition.

  • Where do you think the Indian schools are lacking?

 We at a collective level of policy and support to educationists are lacking the basic will to look at primary education as a foundation for nurturing future citizens who are sensitive to issues of harmony and peace and who will be worthy of our indigenous and human potential.

There is a need to build a national focus on this and weave it with teacher education and create a solid base for our ‘Aim of education’. We can further add research and skills for self growth of the teachers along with emphasis on before service and in-service professional development at the national level on a regular basis.

  • How is fee-hike affecting the primary education sector?

Hike in fee has to be linked with services that school provides, salaries it pays as the 7th Pay Commission. Professional development of staff is to be made a focus adding amenities with focus on teacher empowerment fund as a mandatory protocol.

Some older schools based on ideology started years back on low fee. The rule that fee hike can be proportionate to the first fee one charged years back is a miscalculated rule and kills the spirit of the institute.

Anju Khanna

  • Shed some light on learning difficulties and spectrum disorders?

 Children learn at their own pace in their own time and what we call special children in many ways are the children of the future. We cannot use the same technique of transacting curriculums, as these children need to understand the world from lenses which normal school education is not capable of coping with.

In my own experience and research, we had to step back, understand their world, learn afresh and many times discard our own thoughts. Each time one has worked harder and created more space to understand the different styles, a new star has been born.

We need to build on the strengths of the child and empower them for self sufficiency, social integration as much as it can be and empower the child for a lifelong skill that the child can hold on to.

Parents and teachers need to bridge their own gaps and create a relatedness that is respectful of their own needs and supports the child too.

  • How can the present educational sector shrug off the blame of an “outdated curriculum”?

 Curriculum can come and go; it is the framework that needs to be our focus. Present curriculum needs a re-thinking and aligned to our value system towards a larger ecosystem and concern for the inner and outer harmony of each individual. Sharing and community requirements too need to be part of the nature of engagement.

Fundamentally, we need to ask ourselves the question as to what kind of citizens are we nurturing for society and life in our community.

It’s a shift in our manner of looking at children, listening to them, understanding their varied styles. This has to integrate to the curriculum as an inseparable, integral part of the whole cognitive and symbolic expression involved in the process of learning.

Fixed curriculum curtails the spirit of questioning.

Curriculum today needs to be mindful of different kinds of learners in the same class.

Opportunities and choices should be available for exploration. We cannot build on a factory produced straight line manufacturing kind of phenomena. Children need time and each child is different and this basic knowledge is important to take primary education forward.

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