Paradigm Shift in 21st-Century School Education

Nikita Tomar Mann

Principal, Tagore International School, Vasant Vihar, New Delhi

“Our current expectations for what our students should learn in school were set fifty years ago to meet the needs of an economy based on manufacturing and agriculture. We now have an economy based on knowledge and technology.” • Bill Gates

The paradigm shift in the Indian education policy from 'Certification' to 'Skill Development' is a welcome change, as the system is now cognizant of the fact that hands-on education is in the true sense, education for life. Although sound theoretical and conceptual knowledge does serve as a strong edifice, without the development of skills, there remains an evident disconnect with application in real life and employability in the future. This move reflects our priority of investing in the future of our nation, facilitating economic advancement as well as productivity and social wellbeing of the individual and society.

The first and foremost challenge to the school systemsremains the alignment of the thought processes of heads of institutions, teachers and parents to appreciate the need of the hour and encourage and steer students to focus on skill enhancement in order to leverage the opportunities that they will encounter in the coming years.

With increasing awareness of the need for skill development, schools must focus on identifying the requisite skills for the workforce of the 21st century, introduce these skills at schools, provide infrastructural support to sustain this change and train the faculty/ hire qualified staff to deliver these courses effectively.

Future-ready skills encompass honing competencies such as financial and civic literacy, global awareness, cross-cultural skills, critical and inventive thinking, problem-solving, communication, collaboration as well as social and emotional competencies. The system and the syllabi need to be revamped to facilitate educators to integrate the development of skills within the existing system and reform subject-based curricula to an amalgamation of the subject coupled with skill-based curricula.

In a content-centred classroom, teachers 'cover' content, and students 'acquire' it. In contrast, in a learner-centred classroom, teachers and students use content to construct knowledge. The classical classroom model needs to be revitalized and metamorphosed in terms of fluidity in classroom arrangement, kind of interactions between the teacher and the taught and incorporation of time for focussed activities aimed at skill development.

Untethering the facilitator from the front of the class will yield more fluid learning space, which will promote a wider range of interactions between the learners and the facilitator. We need to create learning commons which are engaging, comfortable and, perhaps most importantly, flexible to allow for a wide range of teaching practices.

At present, the schools are steadily getting sensitized to the imperative need for skill development but are ill-equipped to implement the plethora of changes pertinent for making it a reality.

Modern teaching practice can no longer be modelled on the didactic teaching methods of the past. Classrooms will need to be flexible learning spaces, which enable multiple users to work concurrently with diverse purposes.

While bringing in changes in the content and textbooks will be relatively easier, the more daunting task would be to train the teachers to transform the quality of classroom instruction by including experiential learning and adequate time for internalization of the concept by the learners. Appropriate tinkering laboratories, material support and forums for brainstorming will be required to create self-directed learners.

Administrative agencies are required to review the system holistically to capture an accurate picture of impediments to this process and propel radical as well as gradual changes that will be integral to this transformation.

Classroom transaction is a dynamic process which defines the efficacy of learning outcomes. To make any learning apropos, it is vital that the teacher is enthusiastic, passionate, sensitive to the needs of different learners and takes the initiative to assist them in knowledge construction through enriching experiences where a learner's old knowledge transacts with new information to construct new, relevant and meaningful understanding. The academic achievement would then be demonstrated through the use of this ability to address and solve real-world problems or to create products that are valued in one or more cultural settings.

For these radical changes to seep in, teachers need to 'unlearn and relearn' and undergo training to encourage lateral thinking. Teachers should endorse collaboration and sharing of ideas. A paradigm change of this kind will necessitate a hand holding period with infrastructural & material support which will prepare them to be more accepting of this change, effectively manage this change and finally turn into change agents.

Nikita Tomar Mann

Principal, Tagore International School, Vasant Vihar, New Delhi