How to Adress the Widening Learning Gap in Indian School Education

How to Adress the Widening Learning Gap in Indian School Education

By: Preethi Vickram, Founder, Tapas Education

One of Covid-19’s most significant aftermath has been the lasting impact of children’s learning trajectory. The situation has snowballed into a learning crisis. Educationist and parenting coach Preethi Vickram, Founder, Tapas Education underlines strategies to combat the gaping learning-gap in the pre pandemic world.

In the post-covid world, we have all heard of ‘learning loss’ being experienced by children across the world. This problem was more apparent in India. It has manifested in different ways, the regression being most visible in ‘reading levels’ across the country. But, was this a problem really created by Covid or did Covid expose the archaic education system and exacerbate the issue? In my opinion, the issue is deep rooted and Covid highlighted it and made it worse. Before we can dive into understanding how we, as a country, can take corrective measures, let’s understand where the issue lies in the first place.

The Indian schooling system is built around the memorisation of topics and not on the practical understanding of topics. This has created an intrinsic system of rewarding rote learning of theory over the actual practical application of theoretical topics. This has led to a big gap in the education being imparted and the actual real-world skills needed to thrive in this increasingly complex world. The traditional classroom setup, with its ‘sage on the stage’ method is often inadequate in preparing a child for demands of the real world. Whilst memorisation of topics were the building blocks in the years gone by, in today’s era of freely available knowledge, it falls short and is inadequate. It overshadows the cultivation of actual applicable real-world skills like critical thinking and problem solving. As Bharat moves forward into the digital age, it is high time we examine and bridge this gap.

First, let’s understand a bit more about the real-world skills needed to thrive in the 21st century global society. Some of the key skills needed are:

a) Critical thinking: The ability to critically analyse and evaluate information is a fundamental requirement in almost all professions today. It is what differentiates the leaders from the followers.

b) Problem solving: The real-world is all about recognising patterns and problems, and coming up with solutions to it. It needs critical thinking faculties first and foremost, and then having a systematic approach to solving problems. It needs the cultivation of a solution creating mindset. This, oftentimes, is how innovation takes place.

c) Creative thinking: Gone are the days when one could get away with vanilla solutions to problems. As Bharat leads the way for the global south, it is crucial for our population to be able to think creatively. Rather than follow the established norms blindly, we need to start colouring outside the lines and come up with our own solutions to problems. This needs the ability to think creatively.

d) Collaboration & teamwork: Working in a global economy, collaboration and teamwork are paramount skills to possess.

The traditional education system exists in silos and is inadequate in enabling today’s learners with the requisite skills. We need a complete refresh of our approach to teaching. When I say a complete refresh, I’m not advocating replacing the entire system. But we do need to heavily augment our current system with practical applications and providing opportunities for children with opportunities for application of gained knowledge.

The solution to changing the education landscape in India is the implementation of project-based learning in all classrooms across the country. Project-based learning provides children with hands-on learning opportunities across disciplines. It is a trans-disciplinary learning approach that provides the essential overlap between subjects and integrates the different disciplines in a meaningful way. This is essential for preparing our children for the complex, inter-connected world they face. We need to start preparing our children for life outside the classrooms. And the only way to do it is to break away from the traditional rigid system of boxing education within the classrooms. We need to put children in real-world situations that go beyond the classrooms and equip them with skills to act appropriately in those situations.

Educators and policymakers need to recognise this gap between the education being imparted and the actual real-world skills needed, and incorporate appropriate changes in the curricula. The need of the hour is practical education. This can be imparted through involving students in actual real-world projects through planned internships and apprenticeships. Educational institutions also need to set up innovation and incubation centres in schools that promote product design thinking. This will ensure that students apply their theoretical knowledge in real-world situations. Students should also be given vocational training as a part of these innovation centres. Teachers across the country need to be trained and upskilled to be able to impart this kind of practical education to children. In today’s era, unfortunately, most teachers are ill-equipped to make this change. The change has to be led by policymakers. Teachers need to be given the requisite training to be able to foster critical thinking, problem solving, and creativity amongst children rather than being bound by rigid syllabi.

We also need to relook our system for assessments. We need to move away from the rigid system of assessments that reward rote learning. India needs to embrace a merger of formative and summative assessments where children are assessed more holistically and regularly. This will help recognise and identify diverse talents, and aid holistic development of all children. We need to completely commit to this system, and not put up a halfhearted attempt at trying to do it. We need to do away with exit assessments like board exams that test students on all subjects - subjects they might not even be interested in pursuing further. Instead, we should focus on entrance exams that are specific to the subjects or streams that the student wants to pursue.

Embracing these changes will not only ensure that our children are better prepared to be leaders of the global society, it will also enable us educators to create more customised, personal learning plans for each child. We need to start approaching education as a bridge between the classroom and the real-world. Only then can we ensure that our children are not only well-educated, but also well-prepared.


About the Author:

Preethi Vickram, Founder, Tapas Education is a committed educator, an exponent of ‘learning through play', a passionate parenting coach, a change catalyst, a leadership mentor, and a brand champion.

Preethi has authored and presented papers on education and parenting globally. She is an experienced professional who has trained teachers, coached parents, and worked with Government bodies in shaping policies. She is also a serial entrepreneur having built 3 successful businesses in education, leadership mentoring, and training over the last 2 decades. Additionally, Preethi is an IIMB Alumna, currently pursuing her PhD in School Leadership.