Uncovering Educational Misalignments: A Closer Look at India`s Flawed Learning Landscape

Category : Educational Initiatives | Sub Category : Posted on 2023-12-23 02:28:10

Uncovering Educational Misalignments: A Closer Look at  India`s Flawed Learning Landscape

Exploring the pivotal role of education in society, this article delves into the ongoing scrutiny and discourse surrounding the educational landscape in India, a nation marked by diversity and continual transformation. The educational journey, spanning from initial learning stages to advanced levels, is anticipated to foster critical thinking, creativity, and originality. However, a noticeable misalignment is apparent, where cognitive development stages seem out of sync with educational levels. This discrepancy manifests in an overemphasis on rote memorization and a deficiency in skill development. Utilizing the well-regarded Bloom`s Taxonomy, this article aims to unveil the intricacies of this misalignment by aligning its hierarchical levels with the six stages of education: lower primary, upper primary, secondary, senior secondary, undergraduate, and postgraduate (including doctoral).

Each stage of cognitive development builds upon the previous one, nurturing a more intricate understanding of concepts and a higher level of cognitive competence. Consequently, the education system is anticipated to equip individuals with the essential cognitive skills and knowledge necessary for success in their chosen fields and meaningful contributions to society. The skills acquired at one level should serve as preparation for advancement to a higher tier, contingent upon a conducive environment and effective guidance.

When viewed from the perspective of the cognitive domain as delineated by Bloom`s Taxonomy, a learner`s progression follows the sequence of Remember, Understand, Apply, Analyze, Evaluate, and Create. The capacity to understand builds upon the developed ability of remembering, adhering to the hierarchical structure of any taxonomy. Similarly, the preparation of higher education learners to evaluate and create would be most effective if they were trained to analyze and apply at the secondary level, and understand and remember at preceding levels.

Primary education concentrates on laying the groundwork for basic cognitive skills, such as literacy, numeracy, and social interaction. It predominantly involves nurturing fundamental cognitive abilities and acquiring essential knowledge to establish a robust educational foundation. Resources at the lower primary level, including teachers, books, and learning materials, focus on training learners in grasping and memorizing information. As students progress to the upper primary level, the focus should shift toward preparing them to assimilate knowledge, with information serving as a natural subset.

Building upon the groundwork established in primary education, secondary education aims to deepen cognitive abilities, critical thinking, and analytical skills. In terms of Bloom`s Taxonomy, learners at this level should be equipped to apply and analyze the information or knowledge they have acquired, having been prepared in the preceding stage. The classroom environment should bridge the gap between theoretical concepts and real-world applications, enabling students to apply and analyze.

Resources should be allocated less toward preparing learners to remember and understand, as these aspects will naturally be taken care of. Teaching methodologies should not remain static, particularly when transitioning from the primary level to the secondary level. There should be reduced reliance on textbooks and a greater emphasis on the application and analysis of knowledge. A component of secondary education should transcend conventional classroom instruction, allowing students to connect their learning experiences with real-world scenarios.

As we move up the hierarchical structure into higher education, pedagogy, or rather heutagogy, should predominantly support the development of skills that enable learners to evaluate and create. The critical question here is whether learners can acquire these skills solely through reading books and following instructions from their teachers. The current education offered at this level appears to be corrective, restrictive, prescriptive, and facilitative, starkly misaligned with the desired focus on skill development. Students entering higher education should have already mastered the skills of applying and analyzing knowledge, regardless of the subjects, and should be able to progress independently with the guidance of a teacher.

Let`s now examine the fault lines. Rather than empowering learners to build upon their previous levels of education, we appear to be allocating resources to reinforce the lower levels, which appears to be a significant flaw. One of the reasons for this is the prevalent belief within the academic community that learners start with an empty slate, needing instruction (and examination) to remember, understand, apply, and analyze. However, these are skills that learners should ideally possess beforehand. Instead of focusing on assessing the retention of domain knowledge, the emphasis should be on evaluating the corresponding skills and abilities required for acquiring knowledge and higher-order cognitive skills.

Another fault line appears to be the focus on examining learners based on subjects rather than their skills across the 6 levels of Bloom`s Taxonomy. While the former approach prepares students for passing examinations, the latter cultivates a mindset of lifelong learning. This seems to resonate with Swami Vivekananda`s observation: “No one can teach anybody. The teacher spoils everything by thinking that he is teaching. Thus, Vedanta says that within man is all knowledge—even in a boy it is so—and it requires only an awakening, and that much is the work of a teacher.” [https://vivekavani.com/priya nath-sinha/]

Practically speaking, there seems to be no distinction in the approach to learning, the structural setup, and assessments between the secondary and primary levels. The same holds true even for tertiary education. This is evident from the structure of our examination papers. Instead of focusing on assessing the abilities and skills necessary for application and analysis, questions at the secondary level predominantly assess remembering and understanding. The situation is disconcerting when undergraduate and postgraduate students are also examined primarily on their ability to remember and understand, with little emphasis on application and analysis, which align more with the demands of secondary education. It is indeed alarming that we are employing the same examination approach across all levels, from primary to tertiary education.

As mentioned earlier, the dependency on textbooks or predetermined content and lecturing by teachers must be phased out as students` progress through the education levels, even more when knowledge stands democratized. This should coincide with the discontinuation of question papers that primarily test memory and understanding, even at the senior secondary level. College and university-level courses should be designed to promote evaluation and creativity skills that cannot be adequately assessed in time-bound and proctored examinations. Rather than proving their ability to memorize, students` time should be dedicated to creating knowledge through research, developing resources through innovation, and creating wealth and livelihoods through entrepreneurship. This issue may provide a significant reason why, as a nation, we lag in all three fronts.

While my elucidation of these flaws may appear to be an over-stretching and unworkable exercise, let me triangulate cognitive levels and educational levels and the types of teachers present in the system before the industrial age. Strikingly, there were six types of teachers in Indian literature: Adhyapak (transmitter of information), Upadhyay (knowledge giver), Acharya (skill imparter), Pandit (facilitator of deep insight), Drishta (visionary guiding thought processes), and Guru (awakening wisdom in the learner). An analysis of the roles of these teachers reveals a clear alignment with the six levels of education, from Adhyapak at the lower primary level to Guru at the postgraduate level. This also highlights the diminishing reliance on books or predetermined content; a Drishta or Guru teaching solely from a book would be unable to train learners to master the skills required for evaluation and creation. Lowering our guard in this respect would only produce graduates, not knowledge, resources, or livelihoods, which may also explain the relatively low volume of publications/ patents/ innovations compared to the enrollment rates in higher education.

Having drawn these connections which are redolent of alignment between cognitive and educational levels, let me return to scrutinize further what is going wrong. Higher education institutions are not sufficiently focusing on the development of higher-order cognitive skills, just as secondary education institutions are expending resources and efforts primarily on understanding and remembering. Textbooks are excessively relied upon in secondary and higher education, where they should ideally serve as references during the process of solving open-ended problems rather than as tools for passing examinations. A reliance on book-based examinations persists across all levels, proving to be a bottleneck to fostering creativity.

Moreover, there has been a dilution in the intended role of teachers at almost all levels. This is directly attributable to the training that prepares them for roles that are less demanding than the roles they are expected to assume. The role of teachers and their engagement with students should reduce as students progress through the education system. While they might adopt the role of a sage on the stage in primary classes, they should transition to being guide-by the-side, aiding students in applying and analyzing information, and engaging in demonstration and facilitation rather than adhering solely to an instructive mode in the senior grades of school.

A portion of secondary education should transcend traditional textbooks and classrooms, enabling students to establish connections between their learning experiences and the real world. Classroom windows should metaphorically open to the real world, allowing students the opportunity to apply and analyze concepts, which, in turn, would take care of their understanding and remembering. The involvement of teachers in the classroom should decrease, with their role as a guide, navigator, or pathfinder dominating over that of an instructor or lecturer. Evidently, the training of teachers in secondary schools does not correspond adequately with the role they are expected to play.

The persistence of failure or detention within our education system can be attributed to our insistence on perpetuating known knowledge across all levels, as well as our insistence that students adhere to it. As learners age and accumulate and build upon their cognitive skills, they should be relieved of the burden of what-to-learn paradigms and instead, transition into a system that emphasizes how-to-learn approaches. Minds are not sufficiently challenged to evaluate, judge, create, or assess, and the fear of failure fosters a culture of memorization, penalizing those who are unable to reproduce content from textbooks. Regrettably, even institutions of higher education prefer to err on the side of caution, choosing to operate within the lowest cognitive orders. This perpetuates a significant loss of potential.

Conclusively, it is pivotal to reevaluate the existing structure of the education system in India. A transformation that aligns the cognitive development stages with the educational levels, thereby fostering critical thinking, innovation, and creativity, is the need of the hour. Empowering students with the skills to evaluate, judge, and create, rather than emphasizing rote memorization, will pave the way for a generation of lifelong learners and innovators. The role of teachers should evolve to become facilitators and mentors, nurturing a culture of independent thought and analysis. Let us dare to dream of an education system that not only imparts knowledge but also nurtures the seeds of wisdom, creativity, and critical thinking, enabling our learners to thrive in a rapidly changing world.

Disclaimer: The views are Author`s personal.

Professor Dr. Neeraj Saxena, Pro Chancellor, JIS UNIVERSITY

Leave a Comment: