Its time for the next General Elections in India, and I think it is also about time that citizens put together an education manifesto for all parties, given that they have been notoriously lax in laying down a concerted vision for the education system in their manifestos!
India is an amazingly diverse country and its strength is literally its people. An election manifesto that democratizes education in India, is the need of the hour.
Let me explain. I call the current systems of education educracies – basically a combination of the terms education and bureaucracy. Our systems are educratic – top down, hierarchical, role based and asymmetrically organized. As a social system, they exhibit feudal behaviour, rigidity, discrimination, nepotism and many other ills. But, as a mode of organization, at scale, they likely have no “design” parallel (insofar as mass organization and adaptation cannot just be designed, it emerges based on consensus of certain principles).
Our educracies need democratization of thought, leadership and action. In thought, we have to focus on research, knowledge and innovation, an area where we are gloriously under-served. With 10 million teachers in India serving just school and higher education, and just a handful of researchers and innovators across fields such as pedagogy and education technology, we do not have the design power that a country of this scale needs. Investing in these areas, is the foremost priority. If, without scientific R&D, there cannot be economic development, then, without R&D in our educracies, we cannot leverage the demographic dividend. This is evident from our failures to implement play, discovery, new age assessments and so many other scalable practices.
Our educracies need infrastructural transformation. The only way India can apply large scale effective practices in its educracies, is to build enabling infrastructure – whether physical (like connectivity and computing) or intellectual (like in knowledge stores and training). We need this infrastructure, just like we need electricity, because there is no way to achieve rapid transformation and growth, unless we can effectively propagate content and enable communications for learning and managing in an agile manner. Keep in mind that this transformation is not only for our schools and colleges, but also for centers of educational research and training and our boards of education.
Our educracies need to reinvent themselves to adopt new models of teaching and learning, governance and credentialing. At the very basic levels, our educracies are rotocracies – education practices and curricula based on rote teaching and rote learning. They still treat technology with grave suspicion. They are still trying to scale uniformly, rather than by decentralizing and empowering. These require re-invention at a very basic level in policy as well as systems of education. Perhaps we need to begin anew – maybe create and empower district level boards of education rather than national or state level boards, build a large cadre of change agents, re-scale and re-skill our teacher educators and administrators to face different compelling realities, influence social perceptions of other ways of education and consistently restructure our learning pathways for lifelong learning.
These changes are here and now changes we can make to our educracies to reap long term impact. If we can enable knowledge, infrastructure and new age practices, our educracies can transform and reinvent our collective futures. This is a national emergency, an imperative for political parties and a call to action for all of us. Step up! Write your manifesto for the next government today.