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Universal education versus quality education

The system rules, educators obey

Published : Monday, 25 January, 2021 at 12:00 AM  Count : 312

Universal education versus quality education

Universal education versus quality education

Universal education, universal access to education and quality education are not synonymous. Universal education, according to UNICEF, is getting every child in school and learning, is essential to reduce global poverty, improving health, fostering peace, bolstering democracy, improving environmental sustainability and increasing gender equality. Universal access to education is the ability of all people to have equal opportunity in education, regardless of their social class, race, gender, sexuality, ethnic background or physical and mental disabilities.

Learning benefits every human being and should be available to all. Quality education enables people to develop all of their attributes and skills to achieve their potential as human beings and members of society. Education liberates the intellect, unlocks the imagination and is fundamental for self-respect. It is the key to prosperity and opens a world of opportunities, making it possible for each of us to contribute to a progressive, healthy society. One cannot ignore that in quite a number of nations quality education is on the back seat.

While writing on the long march in search of the 'quality' in education one cannot help witnessing the so called sport of punches between what really today a teacher is and what an educator ought to be in a 21st century classroom. Many South Asian institutions are in no position to trumpet aloud ill-perceived and ill-digested event management, the academic quagmire, especially the school education aided by government. Still a child in terms of 'Right to education', circled by the bad boys like 'no detention' and 'the right to join in any class of a school in the vicinity' without attending at all the previous class. A thorough revamp to approach to primary and secondary education is needed.

For instance, many states have washed their hands off with English, depriving generations from the most important language of communication, only to widen the gap between the ruler and the ruled, often exploiting political leverage out of it. After the imposition of the no detention policy and wiping off the notion of punishment, both physical and psychological, a new identifiable class of students have emerged, who are not only occasional visitors to institutions but also reluctant to read, write, learn, obey or abide by the bare discipline, essential for the academic  health. As evaluation or examination has lost its vibrant significance in this playstations of academics--indeed a true successful venture by the political class in the successive years--an unhesitant submission of blank answer-script within half-an-hour of the exam has become the go of the day -- as they very well know, that a student will march ahead to the new class without minimum knowledge of the student-friendly compromised curriculum. They don't have any compulsion to learn or appreciate the sense of qualitative improvement that internalisation of knowledge naturally does. The state that once remained academically so forward today struggling hard to even qualify in terms of some of the tenets of academic index.

The system stage manages the miserable eventualities that are bound to happen in the public examinations. If one government makes the Board exams optional, some of the others reduces the pass mark to twenty-five, wherein oral or project yields huge marks, the rest could easily be touched upon by the unofficial dictate to the examiners of 'non-conservative evaluation'--and the yearly fiasco--the states announce the high pass percentage with pride.

In this canvas if one wonders today where to find the teachers then one should be patient enough to rummage them out of heaps of other activities: after roll call submitting attendance details for mid-day meal, tree plantation, facilitating girl-child care drive, collecting admission fees, maintaining ledger, working for salary bill for staff, keeping provident fund ledger as well, preparing service book and pension file ; participating in census, becoming compulsory election officers from village to parliamentary elections,  and  yes, they are often called to join workshops for academic exposure too, apart from their conventional occupational engagements like paper-setting, invigilating, answer-script evaluation and preparation of results. In the gusto of such tumultuous cacophonic activities the educator and the teaching-learning materials are gasping for survival.

Today the school-teacher is not the 'Controller' or the 'Prompter' who was once in complete charge of the class, what students do, what they say and how they say it. In the classroom, the teacher is no more the centre of focus. The teacher may have the gift of instruction, the 'Resource', can inspire through own knowledge and expertise, but doesn't have such a scope in general. The teacher in this system is not the kind of 'walking resource centre', or provide learners with whatever language they lack when performing communicative activities, even if the teacher makes her/himself available so that learners can consult her/him, but the sense of need among the students is not a compulsion.

There are varieties of ways one can grade learners, the role of an assessor gives teachers an opportunity to correct learners. The teacher has usually assumed the role of the 'Assessor' to see how well students are performing or how well they performed. But the system has a caution to add: if any corrective measure leads to mental agony, trauma, and suicide then the society is very responsive too in these aided schools: 'local pressure' will take care of the rest. In educational psychology, the most difficult and important role the teacher has been to be an 'Organizer'.

The success of many activities depends on good organization and on the students knowing exactly what they are to do next. Today there is a wide gap between giving instructions and abiding the same. The role of an educator is restricted to a mere participant in executing education-related-activities without taking any risk of domination.

The system-generated face-saver is to hold at least one ingredient responsible to divert attention from its lapses. The educators are the soft target as they don't make up a substantive vote-bank. A cluster of pedagogues, mostly unsuccessful teachers and non-academic administrators but surely demagogues, have emerged to side with the resultant bankruptcy, calling it as a large-scale social syndrome, well-defended by political big-wigs, who tend to shift the focus to a different scale of debate about the 'first-generation learner', whether the term exists or not, etc, etc.

Though the International Education Day, January 24, 2021, occurs in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic that led to a global learning disruption of unprecedented scale and severity, the closure of schools, universities and other learning institutions, as well as the interruption of many literacy and lifelong learning programmes, has affected the lives of 1.6 billion students in over 190 countries. As a new year begins, now is the time to step up collaboration and international solidarity to place education and lifelong learning at the centre of the recovery and the transformation towards more inclusive, safe and sustainable societies.

Where a section of private schools and missionary schools are creating the 21st century classroom on the premise that students experience what they require to enter the 21st century workplace and live in the global environment, the educators of the aided schools are refraining their wards from getting admitted into their own institutions and fearing them to be the victim of the system. For whom, then, shall we feel pity with? The helpless educators or the unfortunate students?
Avik Gangopadhyay, an author,
educationist & columnist, writes
from Kolkata, India

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