Changing Contexts of Education ...

The other day I gave a talk to school teachers pursuing a B.Ed programme on changing scenarios of education in the Indian context. I argued that Distance Education has been a broad cultural shift in our rather stymied system of education obsessed with degrees, where the courses have not been designed to needs, but a thrusting upon of which we think is deemed fit for students.

There has been no acceptance of the learner’s point of view, hence education has always had a coloration of a teacher centric system as opposed to a learner centred orientation, which is not only an obsession with degrees, but also with the steriotypical classroom and a mad rush towards completing the syllabus. There is very little expression of ontologies and an extension of the prototypical ‘classroom’, well defined boundaries of both space and time. It is the timelessness of education which had been missing in terms of adult and continuing education; in terms of education for working people, and those ‘distracted’ unfortunates who have not been able to complete their studies and have been disgracefully, dubbed as ‘drop outs’.

Distance and Open Learning, I contended have been able to subvert such doctrinaire and domain thinking about education, and not relating it to a workforce, or for people who need to be trained in their jobs for promotion or an alternate switch over. Moreover, the degree bias has been attenuated by formative short term Certificate and Diploma Programmes to enhance training, skills and aptitude. Thus target groups for learning have been re-defined variously including the motive for a disinterested pursuit of learning, which can be self promotional and self efficacious. The market forces of education are another reality and this dangerous trend must be obviated by the hunt for truly earned degrees and certification.

Correspondence courses I averred are gradually turning into dual mode universities such as conventional stereotypes and ‘Distance Learning’. Secondly, is the popularization of Vocational Education and Training which is a welcome sign, with reference to skills initiation and, skills development. However, ‘skills’ are not only limited to technical skills, but can cover aesthetics such as performing and visual arts including new areas such as translation or citizen journalism. ‘Skills’ of tourist guides and operators can be another catchment area. Vocational Education and Training and Skills initiation is another process of radicalization of education, added to this is the use of new technologies and new media to adopt the virtual classroom and E-Learning modules. This is another culture shift in broad education pedagogies.

The target groups for skills development are diverse: educated unemployed, uneducated unemployed, domestic workers, street children, the differently abled etc. Hence the changing contexts of education are:

(1) Extension of the classroom through the aegis of flexible systems.
(2) Narrowing the degree bias and emphasis on certification for special needs.
(3) Use of technology and new media in imparting instruction.
(4) Introduction of core competencies based on ‘skills’ and hands on training.
(5) Redefining target groups to make education more inclusive.

The need to certify in areas of prior knowledge was also mentioned, that is, those who have innate talent in specialized areas can be considered for certification, leading to the creation of more knowledge bases.


More by :  Ananya S Guha

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