Failure in examinations is a shame in our society. The stigmatization of ‘ drop outs ‘ is another problematic aspect of education and its dynamics. How do we redress such problems? Vocational education is yet to get the impetus it deserves. Even now, although boards in India have vocational streams at the plus two levels, the ‘ elite ‘ students are in the sciences, commerce and then the humanities. Vocational means the world of dirt, repair, smudges and garages. Prior certification of skills is not thought of, and this is so readily in of need in the unorganized sector. The linking up of Industrial Training Institutes with vocational courses in conventional education is an absolute necessity. The point is that there should be no hair splitting between ‘ vocational and ‘ professional’ the latter largely meaning management, law, computer sciences or engineering sciences. What is ‘ professional ‘ depends on the needs and skills of the learner, whether it is cognitive or psychomotor. With all this talk about skills education, we have to enunciate and adopt a larger framework in the country for students who may not be intellectually oriented or gifted, but are good with skills and practically applied work.
Education is still fragmented into primary, secondary, tertiary, higher education and so on. It is the duty of every educator to think holistically in terms of education, and the linkages between school education, higher education and training of teachers. True there are refresher and orientation courses for college and university teachers in India, but these are done perforce to obtain certificates for the next promotion.
Educational policies, must take into account literacy, school education, higher education and also the opportunities provided by open and distance learning which is still considered by many to be second rate. They do not understand the technological nuances of open and distance learning, student management there and the chances it gives to address failure in schools and college, as well as to give fresh opportunities to the much maligned ‘ drop outs ‘. Why do such people drop out is the question, in the social and economic matrix. For example does everyone know that the Indira Gandhi National Open University in India allows school drop outs without a ten plus two certificate to do graduation, after undertaking a six months preparatory programme, in commerce or the humanities, with an alternative in mathemamatics? How many know that the same university offers Associate Studentship upto 32 credits, ie four courses, for students who might have missed out on a a subject say, Economics in college? True the end of education is a Degree, but the bias towards it must also be challenged, for the sake of deriving sheer pleasure in learning.
The teacher’s task at whatever level is to engage with students, whether by teaching, guidance or counselling. If the responsibility comes to a halt in the classroom, then any teaching or that matter learning will suffer from a gap or a hiatus, where the transaction is two way and didactic. Distance and Open Learning attempts to make this learner centred, rather than teacher centred, where the experience of teaching is not self congratulatory, I have delivered a brilliant lecture today- but how many have understood it, how do we follow it up for the ‘ weaker ‘ student?
The thinking that education is a linear progression is based on false premises. The very student who does outstandingly at the Masters or the Research levels, also studied at school and will probably reminisce fondly upon his or her school teacher than some of the university or college teachers. Prima facie education has to do with the head, but it is also the heart as well. If we can work linkages and clear logical connections between school/ basic education, literacy, higher education, and distance education, then we we will have holistic references to education. Again the example of the Indira Gandhi National Open University. The University offers a Post Graduate Diploma in Higher Education for college or university teachers, or those who desire to be so, in the form of very practically oriented academic programme.
It’s much more than a question of statistics. We need to introspect about the staggering number of drop-outs at a time when we are boasting of ourselves as a knowledge-based society. Access to quality education for all is a must for to end this systemic menace.