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Insights into Editorial: Creating critical thinkers

 

Introduction:

Despite the pandemic unleashing in full force, the debate over the last month has entailed a mindless conversation over holding or postponing board examinations instead of exploring alternatives.

Rather than viewing this unprecedented situation as a unique opportunity for re-imagining educational assessments and evaluations in a world that no longer looks the same, the government insists on the possibility of holding exams in person and posing a further threat to the lives of loved ones.

 

Real Learning Abilities:

  1. An education system that values creativity is one that makes a deliberate effort to spark thoughtfulness and independent thinking, teaches students how to learn, instils a lifelong love of learning, pushes students to find their own interpretations, and guides the development of a strong moral compass.
  2. Creativity in education has to do with a constructivist approach to education, where learning is an active, contextualised process of knowledge construction that builds on prior knowledge, social interaction and authentic tasks, rather than the passive receiving of information.
  3. A culture that allows children to explore, take academic risks and learn from failure is a culture that creates curious, passionate, confident, and empathetic adults.

As Einstein famously noted, “Imagination is more important than knowledge”.

 

Therefore, Alternative ways of thinking:

  1. Students and parents have valid concerns about the future, which include admissions to higher educational institutions.
  2. Nonetheless, considering we are in a worldwide crisis where India cannot afford to have gatherings of small/big groups, why aren’t virtual educational committees being organised to rethink approaches on assessing student learning?
  3. For instance, one of the challenges is deemed as students ‘cheating’ if the exams were to be conducted online.
  4. However, if question papers were designed in a way that encouraged students to critically engage with the material, contest perspectives and build opinions, no book would be able to provide all the answers.
  5. Relatedly, in light of the right to education that affirms the importance of formative assessments, teachers could be invited to engage in evaluating student’s performance across the year.
  6. If there are concerns around the tendency of schools to self-bolster their performance, reports, portfolios, samples of responses and grades could be shared across a pool of schools so that teachers can anonymously assess and provide insightful feedback on student performance, until a sense of self-accountability and trust can be cultivated.
  7. Opening up possibilities of evaluating students on their performance through the year will contribute towards making evaluation and learning much more holistic.

 

  1. Further, inviting higher educational institutions to facilitate online entrance exams could be another option to explore as students gear up for college admissions.
  2. Eventually, the goal could be to involve students in self and peer evaluations so that the ability to reflect while participating in learning communities and giving/receiving feedback prepares them for what lies ahead.
  3. Thus, a question to consider is whether academic performances can continue to be the sole representation of student growth or we can begin to redefine student success based on social, emotional and spiritual development benchmarks.

 

The teaching-learning process:

The pandemic has facilitated Teachers to expand their horizons and increase their circle of influence.

Teachers are transitioning, stronger, to the virtual learning mode, supported by adequate Training for effective use of different learning platforms for engaging students.

Teachers are conducting ‘electronic polls’, to improve interaction with learners, while visual aids are being increasingly used to help them better understand the application of concepts.

While the teaching-learning process has ‘migrated’ to the digital medium, their empathetic response to the internet connectivity glitches, while solving doubts on a particular topic, ensures that the ‘classroom simulation’ brings to the fore, the human fallibilities of the teacher.

 

Redefining education should be done immediately:

The National Curriculum Framework of 2005 affirms the importance of embracing the emotional, social, physical and intellectual growth of children within a framework of human values.

  1. There is perhaps no other country in the world that glorifies examination results and starting salaries the way we do.
  2. In most cultures it’s a bit rude to talk about these things even in private. But in India, it’s the stuff of front-page, prime-time news.
  3. Buses and outdoor hoardings are plastered with images of top rankers who have “cracked” significant exams and “aced” standardised tests.
  4. We put starting salaries and entrance exams on a pedestal and force a singular definition of success down our collective throats.
  5. We have an opportunity to redefine meaningful education and even though it does require a concerted change across curriculum in K-12 schools, the entrance criteria determined by higher educational institutions and what we value as communities and societies, we have to start somewhere.

 

Conclusion:

Viewing this crisis as a signal for urgent change, core issues can be engaged with and re-evaluated to prevent students from being trapped in the current system of cramming, rote learning and anxiety.

The government needs to give complete autonomy to educational committees composed of students, teachers, educational leaders, scholars and researchers who can advocate, organise and implement this change nationally and internationally.

Raising the quality of educational assessments and evaluations by involving higher educational institutions may even prevent a mass exodus to international universities so that young leaders can be nurtured to engage with underlying national challenges and add value by advocating for and sustaining the fabric of a diverse and non-stratified India.