“What is it that we are doing in our engagement with this task? Is it time for us to refresh what we provide to our children in the name of education?”
If we look at what the system of education has accomplished since
one kilometre, there is an upper primary school within 3 kilometres for 75 per cent of habitations. At least 50
per cent of our children who appear at the school-leaving examinations pass out of the secondary school system. Despite these trends, 37 per cent people in
vital dimensions of the human capacity to create new
knowledge; (e) the “future” of the child has taken centre stage to the near exclusion of the child’s “present”, which is detrimental to the well-being of the child as well as the society and the nation. The basic concerns of education—to enable children to make sense of life and develop their potential, to define and pursue a purpose and recognise
the right of others to do the same—stand uncontested and valid even today. If anything, we need to reiterate
the mutual interdependence of humans, and, as Tagore says, we achieve our greatest happiness when we realise
ourselves through others. Equally, we need to reaffirm our commitment to the concept of equality, within the
landscape of cultural and socio-economic diversity from which children enter into the portals of the school.
Individual aspirations in a competitive economy tend to reduce education to being an instrument of material success. The perception, which places the individual in exclusively competitive relationships, puts
unreasonable stress on children, and thus distorts values. It also makes learning from each other a matter
of little consequence. Education must be able to promote values that foster peace, humaneness and
tolerance in a multicultural society.
This document seeks to provide a framework within which teachers and schools can choose and plan
experiences that they think children should have. In order to realise educational objectives, the curriculum
should be conceptualised as a structure that articulates required experiences. For this, it should address some
(a) What educational purposes should the schools seek to achieve?
(b) What educational experiences can be provided that are likely to achieve these purposes?
(c) How can these educational experiences be meaningfully organised?
(d) How do we ensure that these educational purposes are indeed being accomplished?
The review of the National Curriculum Framework, 2000 was initiated specifically to address the problem of curriculum load on children. A committee appointed by the Ministry of Human Resource Development in the early 1990s had analysed this problem, tracing its roots to the system’s tendency to treat information as knowledge. In its report,
Learning Without Burden, the committee pointed out that learning at school cannot become a joyful experience unless we change our perception of the child as a receiver of knowledge and move beyond the convention of using textbooks as the basis for examination. The impulse to teach everything arises from lack of faith in children’s own creative instinct and their capacity to construct knowledge out of their experience. The size of textbooks has been growing over the years, even as the pressure to include new topics mounts and the effort to synthesise knowledge
and treat it holistically gets weaker. Flabby textbooks, and the syllabi they cover, symbolise a systemic failure
to address children in a child-centred manner. Those who write such encyclopaedic textbooks are guided by the popular belief that there has been an explosion of knowledge. Therefore, vast amounts of knowledge should be pushed down the throats of little children in order to catch up with other countries. Learning Without Burden recommended a major change in the design of syllabi and textbooks, and also a change in the social ethos, which places stress on children to become aggressively competitive and exhibit precocity. To make teaching a means of harnessing the child’s creative nature, the report recommended a fundamental change in the matter of organising the school curriculum, and also in the system of examination, which forces children to memorise information and to reproduce it. Learning for the sake of being examined in a mechanical manner takes away the joy of being young,
and delinks school knowledge from everyday experience. To address this deep structural problem, the present document draws upon and elaborates on the insights of Learning Without Burden. Rather than prescribe, this document seeks to enable teachers and administrators and other agencies involved in the design of syllabi and textbooks and examination reform make rational choices and decisions. It will also enable them to develop and
implement innovative, locale-specific programmes. By contextualising the challenges involved in curriculum renewal in contemporary social reality, this document draws attention to certain specific problems that demand an imaginative response. We expect that it will strengthen ongoing processes of reform, such as devolution of decision making to teachers and elected local-level bodies, while it also identifies new areas for attention such as the need for plurality of textbooks and urgent improvement in the examination system.
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