Here is a story you shouldn’t miss. Rough Book is a movie built somewhat parallel to the theme of the movie 3 Idiots and has some common reflections on commercialization with the Nana Patekar movie, Paathshaala.
Rough Book is a muted drama focused on the teacher and her friends in a K12 setting – preparation for the board exams and the foremost engineering entrance exam, the IIT Entrance exam, in India. It details the trials of a teacher unwilling to go with the rest, to put learning in front of rote, life in front of learning. It tells the stories of students willing to accept the risks of being non-traditional, to allow themselves to be inspired by great educators.
While 3 Idiots was focused on a student’s life in an engineering school, and Paathshaala was focused on telling the story from the eyes of a school principal, beleaguered by owners greed, Rough Book tells the story from the perspective of the teacher.
The common theme is that the love and joy for learning and teaching can create triumphs in even the existing system. That it can happen at our scale is the holy grail many of us aspire towards.
But the anomaly in all these narratives is the veneration of the existing system. The currency of the current system becomes the benchmark for performance on which the students and teachers in the system still stay judged. In fact, Rough Book ends with a respectful statement about the IITs, perhaps rightly so.
It is quite alright to suggest that if the ideology changes, the means and ends must also change. It may also not be incorrect to state that when ideology changes, existing systems no longer remain relevant or appropriate. But to state that ideological changes can be brought about from within a system, is to stretch it a bit. A system is only as good as the ideology that underpins it.
This has powerful implications on how we look at our systems. A shift from rote to participative learning, from tests to a thousand learning plateaus, from degrees to competencies and from the restricted spaces of the traditional curriculum to open and experiential learning and teaching spaces, marks a shift in ideology. Schools aren’t really built to navigate this shift, which is why people all around the world have engineered different environments to reflect this shift.
This leads us to the question of transformation of the education system, or more appropriately its disruption to make way for new structures of teaching, learning and evaluation, for new currencies in education and new goal posts for the future. The narrative isn’t that the education system is broken (no system can be represented in black and white), it is rather that a new system is needed to supplant it.
What does this imply for policy? It implies that policy makers have to start diverting funds, energy and focus into building new systems – even building migration paths for appropriate existing components, rather than continuously trying to reinvent from within. Practically, this means that new Central and State (and even district level) Boards of education, with new mandates, technology, curricula and training, must start being set up, with the existing ones notified of their end of life term.
Since this preparation will take time, it is likely going to be a generational change. But if envisaged now, at the brink of a new education policy, it will provide a lasting change model for our system.