50 Leaders who can revive Indian education: Dr K Kasturirangan

EducationWorld June 2020 | Magazine

Dr. K. KasturiranganDr K Kasturirangan
Chairman, draft NEP 2019

Former chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation, Dr K Kasturirangan is an eminent educationist and chairman of the nine-member committee for draft National Education Policy (2019) which was submitted to the Union government in May last year and is being finalised by the Union HRD Ministry, New Delhi

What are the major challenges confronting K-12 education in the new Covid-19 era?

The biggest challenge of K-12 education — the failure of many children to attain even basic skills such as foundational literacy and numeracy — will persist in the Covid-19 era and beyond. The new situation has forced us to experiment with new modes of pedagogy and greater reliance on technology. But, such experimentation must be done with care and seriousness. The Covid-19 crisis can be converted into an opportunity for senior secondary and higher education students to engage safely with their communities in a National Service Scheme to acquire real experiences in society.

What are your Top 3 proposals for reviving and reforming K-12 schooling in India?

First, we must elevate the teaching profession, because teachers are — and will remain — essential. Second, we must reduce the sheer volume of facts and simple procedural knowledge in our curriculums and pay greater attention to developing students’ higher order thinking and communication skills. Third, we must address the persistent crisis in foundational literacy and numeracy, which requires concerted redirection of resources. In addition, it’s important to introduce flexible curriculums and learning approaches, overhaul assessment systems and develop school complexes.

What are your Top 3 proposals for raising standards in higher education?

First, we must provide institutions with pathways to autonomy via accreditation and de-cluttering of regulatory mechanisms. Second, there is urgent need to introduce multi-disciplinary holistic education at the undergraduate level, including an element of research at this stage.

The third important recommendation is to stimulate and strengthen research systems in our universities through effective channelling of resources, creating appropriate institutional mechanisms. The most important imperative is to establish a National Research Foundation to create opportunities for research across all disciplines with resources that aggregate at least 2 percent of GDP to start with.

Any other comment?

We should continue to expect disruptive changes in education, whether it is from crises like Covid-19, or technological disruptions like AI, among others. We urgently need to make our education system more resilient, and acknowledge this is a massive challenge. The silver lining to the Covid-19 pandemic is that it has forced education reform to the front of our minds. Let’s not lose this focus.

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