The prime objective of British historian-educationist Thomas Babington Macaulay aka Lord Macaulay’s famous Minute on Indian Education (1835) was to produce note-taking clerks for perpetuation of British raj over India. In this document, which initiated the process of wiping out traditional Indian education that included vocational education and training (VET), Lord Macaulay famously asserted, “all the historical information which has been collected from all the books written in the Sanskrit language is less valuable than what may be found in the most paltry abridgement used at preparatory schools in England”.
Since then, a systemic bias against vocational and skills training in Indian education has endured despite Mahatma Gandhi, who led India’s unprecedented freedom struggle from the exploitative rule of imperial Great Britain, advocating “head, heart and hands” education. The Indian economy has paid a heavy price for this neglect. A mere 4 percent of India’s 420 million labour force has received formal VET (cf. 30 percent in China).
The recently released National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 attempts to set right this prolonged prejudice against hands-on VET, and mandates compulsory vocational education for all class VI-VIII children. It states that students should take courses in important vocational crafts, such as carpentry, electric and metal work, gardening, pottery, etc and intern with local craftsmen such as carpenters, gardeners, potters, artists, etc. NEP 2020 sets an ambitious target of at least 50 percent of all children and youth learning a vocational skill/trade by 2025.
However, even as the nation waits for the ambitious reforms proposed by NEP 2020 to be implemented, educators and parenting experts advise parents and teachers to avail the opportunity presented by the unprecedented Covid-19 pandemic-induced national lockdown and closure of schools, to encourage children to engage in constructive Do-It-Yourself (DIY) activities. There’s unanimity within educators and counselors that enjoyable DIY activities enable children and families to beat lockdown blues and anxiety. Hands-on learning boosts problem-solving and decision-making skills and encourages creativity. In this issue’s specially curated cover story the PW editorial team presents enjoyable DIY options for children and parents.
There’s a lot else in this information-packed issue. Check out the Early Childhood essay ‘Breastfeeding during Covid-19’ by well-known pediatrician Dr. Ketan Bharadva who addresses safety questions about whether mothers with suspected or confirmed Covid-19 infections should continue to breastfeed their infants. And in our Academic Advantage feature, Rajiv Kacholia, a former US debating champion, details the benefits of developing children’s debate skills.