Should you be happy about the syllabus cut?
When the major national boards such as CBSE and CICSE announced their respective reduction of the syllabus recently, a major reason cited for the same was the lessening of the burden for the students. While the response to this announcement from different parties was as per what was expected (schools were elated as they were less anxious about completion of syllabus on time, students were joyful as there was less burden on them before exams), the decision highlights some key structural flaws of the Indian Education System.
Over a period of time, a strong correlation has been established between examinations and textbook learning. This was started under the British Raj and has ever since, remained more or less the same. A student is expected to remember the ‘model answers’ and ‘keywords’ to score marks. One who answers using their own personal reasoning is penalised with fewer marks or no marks at all. Thus, an incentive is given on to rote learning. Not much deviation has occurred for decades from this approach. This is because an examination award marks to the student. The marks awarded serve as the determinant in the selection process for higher education and future employment, penalising a student who wishes to deviate from this system to achieve holistic growth and development.
The emphasis given to critical and logical reasoning remains minimum in the formative years of one’s school life. Any curiosity shown beyond the prescribed syllabus is discouraged by the system. Thus, a student is made to study a particular book with a particular language that prepares him for the examinations than understand and apply what he is learning. Even a question of mathematics is expected to be solved as per the method taught. For a system as archaic as ours, a mechanical percentage cut of syllabus seems to be justified in times of the pandemic. This reduces the burden from the student, who, now would have to invest their time in fewer chapters.
Another tendency that sharply contributes to the stagnancy of the education system is the attention given to the goal and intention of examination organisers than curriculum designers. A student, especially in the high school years, is taught to think like an examiner in order to predict the most likely questions and attempt the same in a way that is in line with what the examiner shall have in mind when they correct the answers. However, where the focus of the students should have been on the mindset of curriculum designers. Students must know the reason why a topic has been introduced in their curriculum and what goal it sets to achieve in the understanding of the subject.
The K-12 education system gives little attention given to co-curricular development of a student. This section has remained dark to the extent that most students and teachers use this term interchangeably with extra-curricular activities. A student, having pursued sociology in higher secondary fails to put forward a hypothesis and test it with the tools of sociological analysis. Practicals in science have remained restricted to completing the experiments on the lab manual and performing an experiment as taught by the teacher with little application of self to perform a deviation. Such efforts have been kept limited to inter-school competitions and exhibitions. There are hardly any high school graduates who know the basics of academic writing and public writing. Avenues such as school blogs, centres of excellence and places for publication backed by schools within the system remain negligible.
While if the quality of learning were to be the focus of the education system, a better and sustainable form of assessment could be curated to test the scholastic potential of a student in times of the pandemic. The assessment could have been made on critical thinking, logical reasoning, creativity and expression which are the skills needed in any profession in the coming years. As the system has failed to develop such skills in the students today, the best possible solution had to be a mechanical percentage cut from their syllabus.
*Debargha is the Founder and President at Project Saathi. He is pursuing BALLB from Gujarat National Law University.