India has a lot to Learn from Foreign Education Systems
Naysayers need to realize that the global approaches will definitely be localized to fit in Indian classrooms
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Education is a priority for most countries as it determines their future workforce quality. Thus, educators and policy makers are always looking for innovative pedagogy to improve learning outcomes. While such searches and researches in our country often look into Vedas and Upanishads for inspiration, they should also look into policies of other nations for inspiration. The search need not be only inward, it can be outward too. Reasons such as, India is a diverse country and only indigenous ways can help its education system, can be cited to nullify such attempts. However, the naysayers need to realise that the global approaches will definitely be localised to fit in Indian classrooms. Moreover, there is no iron curtain preventing the free flow of ideas, and countries need to learn from one another.
Let's check out a couple of countries which have garnered appreciation for having good education systems.
Though childhood education is not mandatory, it is availed by almost all in Finland. There is also no formal assessment till the age of 7; they are required to take a standardised one when they turn 16. Children are not bombarded with homework either. Finnish educators seem to have understood that lifelong learning is crucial for all-round and true development of minds, and thus, coercion does not find a place in their education process. India needs to adopt a similar approach towards education.
Phenomenon-based learning, a recent approach adopted by Finland, has made quite a buzz in the education sector. A holistic approach, it aims to shift focus from individual subjects to phenomena and topics like water, media and technology. The inter-disciplinary approach facilitates enquiry-based and constructivist methods of teaching. Learning only theory often results in superficial understanding. Only when life practices are integrated in a pedagogical framework can individuals truly participate in their learning process. Indian education system needs to understand that no subject studied in isolation can yield a real-life understanding of concepts.
An example closer home, Singapore's education system is setting new education goals for the Western countries. Like ours, Singapore's education system during colonial period was elitist and marked by religiosity and ethnicity, but they have come a long way from there. Singapore government spends about 20-22% of their annual expenditure on education. The budgetary allocation for education needs to increase in India, and this can be one of the lessons India can learn from Singapore.
Singapore shifted the focus from quantity to quality education as it entered into the era of knowledge economy. The country's strong foundation on literacy and numeracy is attributed to adoption of two approaches – Mastery Method of Mathematics and Strategies for English Language Learning and Reading (STELLAR) programmes. Mastery Method of Mathematics allows students to gain complete proficiency in one core principles of Maths. This is attained through a range of hands-on activities. The STELLAR approach aims to improve students' language skills with the help of interactive exercises like drama techniques.
Again, teacher training is one of the prime focuses of education in Singapore. Teaching is an esteemed and financially rewarding profession in the country. India needs to learn to compensate her teachers better if the latter are expected to perform their duties efficiently.
In the past one decade, many innovative pedagogies have impacted Indian K-12 sector positively. Openness to change and experimentation with new ways of learning has to be adopted by India to bring forth positive learning outcomes. And, other than Singapore and Finland, there are countries like Japan, South Korea, China and Canada, which have exemplary education systems. India can look at their education systems, too, for inspiration.