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'Education Problem Lies In The Lack Of Accountability Of Teachers'

In an interview with BW Businessworld's Rajguru Tandon, Harish Doraiswamy, Vice President - Schools, Qualifications & Vocational, Pearson India talks about the state of schools, curriculum and e-learning

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The focus of education now is on development of the learner’s capacity and capability with the goal of preparing him or her for the complexities of today’s changing workplace. 

In an interview with BW Businessworld's Rajguru Tandon, Harish Doraiswamy, Vice President - Schools, Qualifications & Vocational, Pearson India talks about the state of schools, curriculum and e-learning. 

The state of government owned schools in India is shambolic. Do you think the time is right to create better government school brands for better learning?

It won’t be right to generalise the statement for all government-owned schools as there has been some improvement in some pockets. But yes, the average state is far from good for a country like India that is in dire need of quality education institutions. Most concerning is that the reputation government schools is falling behind the aspirations of people with every passing day. The situation gets worse as we move from centre-run schools to state schools to municipal schools. The problem is with the lack in accountability that the system enforces on the teachers and principals. It is high time we create better institutions and incorporate system in place for students and learners of the country.

Is something wrong with the learning culture in India? When do you see Indian education competing with foreign curriculum?

In India, learning has always been associated with rote memorization, following instructions, studying for the sole purpose of getting marks and passing an exam and devaluing the ability to ask searching questions. Education is not an enjoyable learning challenge but a memorisation ordeal. Indian education can compete with international education not by curriculum tinkering but only by mindset change. Until we adopt a more questioning, exploratory and experiential mindset our curriculum will continue to lag. The other change we will have to make is in our assessments that must move from merely assessing the ability to reproduce facts to also the ability to join the dots and apply learning.

Where is the needle of “change in education” pointing at right now?

The needle of change is pointed towards the "hardware aspects" of education - buildings and infrastructure, computer rooms, digital learning, etc. While these are all important, what is most critical to move forward is a well-trained and well-paid teacher, a performance culture and a focus on creating pockets of excellence that can be scaled rather than floating in a sea of uniform inferiority.

Are you happy with the pace at which education is changing?

Certainly. Since 2000, the government has initiated two landmark educational reforms, first with the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) and then with the Right to Education Act (RTE). In the past few years, the government has taken immense steps in not only ensuring education for all, but also ensuring that the quality of education is improved at the grass root level. However, measuring education by budget or infrastructure outlay would be wrong. We must take into consideration other factors as well, such as accessibility, scalability, quality and outcomes etc. to gauge the impact of our policies and measures. And we can consider success only when we are able to achieve success in all these parameters.

How e-learning is getting its sheen? How do you see the potential of technology and traditional learning helping the education system?

E-learning has become increasingly popular across the country. The rapid increase in internet connectivity in the last few years has been an important catalyst for the growth of e-learning in India. The effectiveness of e-learning or digital learning,however, is dependent on the way one uses it. It can range from MOOCs tousing textbook lesson converted into VR format. While digital learning has a lot to offer to Indian education, the maximum realisation of this potential can only happen if all the stakeholders in the system are empowered and interested in incorporating these changes at their personal level.