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Our Response to the Draft NEP 2019- Part 1

Our complete formal response to Draft NEP 2019, written by Radha Gopalan, other GenWise mentors and Vishnu Agnihotri, is available here - it covers our overall observations on the NEP, some observations on specific points and also makes recommendations. This post and others in this series, cover some of the ideas and recommendations presented in our formal response. To have a conversation with us, please follow us on twitter at @Genwise_ or write to vishnu@genwise.in

We made recommendations in 4 areas-

  1. Mindset change

  2. Capacity building

  3. Curriculum

  4. Gifted education and talent development

In this post, we cover our recommendations on mindset change. Our key point is that our education system can be transformed only when mindsets about learning change (and at the highest level). By mindset change, we mean adopting beliefs like-

  • Questioning is good and should be encouraged, even if the questions are uncomfortable

  • Learning to think well is more important than being able to speak English

  • Good learning is possible in a democratic, child-friendly environment (vs 'serious learning' is possible only by working through textbooks and drill)

  • Learning at school is more important than learning outside of school

Unless beliefs change, behaviours in the system will keep going back to the old ways. Mindset change and capacity building are closely interlinked- changing mindsets itself requires capacity building, and building capacity requires changing mindsets.

Recommendations on Mindset Change

1. Public Education Campaigns on a Massive Scale- Important messages that are well designed (remember the wide appeal of ‘3 Idiots’) should be disseminated through TV/ Radio/ Social Media/ Hoardings. These should be on different relevant themes. Popular national figures like Virat Kohli and Amir Khan or local figures can be used in the campaigns. Some important themes are-

  • The value of critical thinking and questioning- interesting questions can be used in the campaign (represent all numbers up to 1023 using 10 digits of our hands). Perhaps a mascot can be created (like Boojho/ Paheli in the NCERT textbooks) who signifies critical thinking and questioning and stories involving this mascot can be created to spread awareness of the importance of such thinking.

  • English medium is not equal to good education- by highlighting success stories of non-English medium learners and highlighting world-class regional language schools (see point no. 2)

  • Negatives of competitive pressure- highlighting the success/ well-being of students and schools which do not adopt a competitive spirit

  • Value of learning outside of school- The value of non-curricular learning (and the linkages between the curriculum and real life) can be highlighted using real-life case studies (the community learning hubs proposed below can be a source for such case studies). There are many children with significant knowledge, talent and skills who lose confidence in their abilities because of the excessive focus on theoretical learning and exams.

2. World Class Schools in Regional Languages- Highlight existing high quality schools in regional languages and have a goal of 10 world class schools in regional languages for all regional languages (say in 3 years). Make films on these schools and use in teacher training and in mass public campaigns for people to start believing in high quality education in the mother tongue.

3. Define and promote practices that lead to an organic shift in mindsets- Changes in mindset cannot be forced from the outside. However, mindsets can shift based on new experiences and how these are processed. Seemingly simple and specific practices have the power to bring about big change. For example, getting teachers to do regular home visits and discussing these in monthly CRC (Cluster Resource Coordinators) meetings could go a long way in creating a collaborative and inclusive school culture. Note that the teacher is not being told to be ‘inclusive’ but by helping her to experience the child’s home environment, we increase the likelihood of her taking a sensitive approach. Another example could be getting visitors to the school to wait in the school library to promote a culture of reading. The compendium, Eklavya Sari, shares such culture building practices of one school. We also propose a ‘Centre of Evidence Based Practice’ that could take the responsibility for compiling, evaluating and disseminating knowledge of such practices (see next post in this series).

4. Contests and Events that promote Real Learning- TV shows like ‘India’s got Talent’ and ‘Indian Idol’ have played a big role in inspiring talent in music, dance and performing arts. Shows like ‘Kaun Banega Crorepati’, ‘India Child Genius’ and ‘Mastermind’ have encouraged general awareness and knowledge. Well designed contests or shows that promote application of knowledge in different contexts, creativity, design thinking, tinkering etc. have the potential to inspire a generation of learners as well as teachers to learn joyously and focus on what’s important in learning. For example, a seemingly simple activity of making a paper column with half an A4 sheet that can support the maximum weight without collapsing offers deep richness of learning while being open-ended and can easily go on for 2-3 episodes, also allowing all viewers to participate in the experience because of the ease of availability of material. Viewers could also send in the problems they need solved to the ‘contesting group of inventors’. These contests could have close linkages to the Community Learning Hubs we propose ((see next post in this series).