Setting a strong foundation

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Campus is the most happening place with new explorations in research, technology-enabled education, challenging debates, and upskilling students and teachers among other things. This is the second column of Campus KurioCity. The first one appeared in KurioCity February 26, 2021 edition.

Danuska Da Gama | NT KURIOCITY

Education, just not to succeed in exams but also to prepare children for the future as they get exposed to the world, is what is needed more than ever. A demand for holistic education that encompasses ‘skills for life’ has now been included in the National Education Policy

The very ambitious National Education Policy 2020 has been one that’s been lauded by many.

The policy aims to provide students with a well-rounded, holistic and flexible education. It states that knowledge of 64 arts is what defines good education and therefore, a multi-disciplinary system of education will bring together the world of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) institutions with liberal arts and social sciences institutions

The policy has been welcomed with open arms, by stakeholders in the education sector. Teachers and educationists have hailed how integrating arts and humanities with the social sciences and sciences has always brought positive learning outcomes. A knowledgeable person who has command and an understanding of varied subjects always stand out. Companies too are always looking out for not just a narrow skill set, but a deep something that’s more diverse and unique.

And as we move forward in a post-COVID world, where education today has transcended from the classrooms, to beyond, skills like critical thinking, problem-solving, dynamism, adaptability have become key to recruiters.

“Students today, know it all, have it all on their fingertips – information, education, technology and more. Where they fall short, where we feel the education provided didn’t prepare us well was when it came to skills like critical thinking, problem solving, using theory with application,” says a retired teacher.

Allan John, a physician from Porvorim echoes these sentiments. “We never had the choice of choosing a wide range of subjects during our time. I was from a middle class family. My parents wanted each one of the sons to be an engineer, an advocate and a doctor…and it was so,” he says. “Today, so many youngsters today do a fine job in their field of expertise, but they lack speaking skills, adequate problem solving skills and negotiation skills.”

Under the new multi-disciplinary system, students will also have more freedom to choose their specialisation, as moving forward without any stiff boundaries between subjects, courses and streams is the way forward.

“Students today are well informed through the media about lucrative career options, following one’s passion, schemes for businesses and start-ups. They know well about the opportunities. So this system allows them multiple access to disciplines while focusing on a particular specialisation,” explains a psychology assistant professor.

Such a system will not just open doors of opportunities after completion of studies, but eventually will help these youngsters to become well-rounded persons. They will have in-depth knowledge of core subjects, have a sense of creativity, and will have nurtured other important skills such as critical thinking and problem-solving.

“There are problems everywhere, be it in leadership, in businesses, etc. And while qualifications do count, people skills that include negotiation, understanding, and problem solving is what generates more demand,” says an entrepreneur.

Thus this future-focused policy calls for achieving the right academic balance with equal focus on professional and vocational courses. “The best part here is that there will be less gender bias for courses. I hope when I am older, I can have the opportunity of mastering trades like carpentry and plumbing. Rarely do girls take up such courses, and we depend on only men who have knowledge of the same,” says a Class 9 student, Alka Naik, from Mapusa.

Her college-going brother laughs, but believes that in fact everyone should be taught skills that are important for life. These include not just those that help people succeed and become rich but those that help live life every day; dealing with small issues and learning to be happy early on in school.

“We were just taught to be focused, and do well in exams – first to get a seat in a good institution for higher studies, and then to get a good job. In all of this, we were never thought how to learn to be happy. I think that’s the most important aspect that needs focus,” says founder of Dranding, Floyd Tavares, adding that he also believes that students should be taught to save money and learn about investments early on. He believes that being taught how to be happy in every situation with classes like laughing sessions, and with modules created on life skills are important and required.

Having an integrated approach with this multi-disciplinary system will eventually give rise to a bunch of young and creative, skilled and intellectually curious Indians. They will know well how to increase productivity and efficiency, he says.

But, while the new policy seems promising, the desired benefits will depend upon how it is implemented. The onus lies on schools and colleges, to set forth and develop a possibility to incorporate multiple disciplines as suggested. It undoubtedly calls for the curriculum structure to be remoulded and be made flexible enough to enable students to choose freely and happily.