Report on Challenges to Indian Education

A workshop organized by A.V.R. Educational Foundation of
Ayurveda & IFIH

on 2 July 2003, at A.V.R. Educational Foundation of
Ayurveda, Mangarai, Coimbatore

This one-day workshop brought together principals and teachers from Matriculation schools of the Coimbatore region. Its objective was to highlight limitations of the present educational system, and discuss ways to improve it and make it responsive to the needs of our challenging times. Thirty-three Matriculation schools from Coimbatore, Tiruppur, Pollachi and Udumalpet were represented by seventy-two principals and teachers. The workshop gathered their inputs and suggestions on topics such as curriculum, teaching methodology, development of soft skills, value-oriented education and extracurricular activities.

Group discussions centred on the main areas of curriculum, syllabus, pedagogy and teaching environment. Suggestions from the teachers, based on their field experience, reached a broad consensus on a number of issues:

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Subject-wise and Specific suggestions:

Immediate Action Plan

Physical Sciences


1. Students should be taught to understand scientific concepts rather than memorizing formulae and figures.


2. Instead of a textual exposition of scientific knowledge, the student should be made to observe, experiment, and compare their conclusions with the theory.


3. They should learn about India’s scientific heritage and the lives of Indian scientists.


4. The basic principles of Ayurveda should be introduced as a scientific subject, also because it is intimately connected with other Indian knowledge systems.


Social Sciences

  • Geography


1. After a few brief general lessons, geography should start from the local level: the district, the State and, then India. World geography should come only later on.


2. The quality and content of maps should be vastly improved. Learning aids based on maps, such as puzzles, games etc., should be used.

  • History


1. The history syllabus should be lightened: a few highlights from each period or dynasty are sufficient.


2. Historical facts should also be updated when necessary.


3. The student should be given freedom of thought in analysing history from different approaches.


4. History should also start with the local history — from district to State, and later, to the national history.


5. Brief highlights of world history are sufficient.


6. Visits to historical and archaeological sites should be encouraged.


7. Films and documentaries on various periods of Indian history can be useful aids.


8. The Western model and interpretation of history cannot be mechanically applied to the Indian context.


9. History should not be taught as a dead record of the past and should be used as a tool to learn from past achievements and failures.


10. In economics, reference should be made to the Indian worldview, based on ethics, collaboration and harmony with Nature rather than on competition and exploitation.

  • Civics


1. In civics, stress should be laid on duties rather than rights.


2. The Constitution need not be taught so early or in such legal details.


3. Instead, stories, parables and real-life incidents can effectively convey the meaning of social duties.


Languages, Literature and Art


1. Schools should be equipped with language labs. A student can have a good grasp of a subject only if he is proficient in the medium of instruction.


2. Inspiring works of Indian literature from many States should be translated into all Indian languages so as to promote cross-regional exchanges.


3. To develop the reading habit, library periods should not be diverted to other purposes.


4. Students should be exposed to a wide range of books and magazines of cultural or educative value.


5.The student should be evaluated for communication skills


6. Indian music (including learning to play on Indian instruments) should be given its due place, as well as some acquaintance with other Indian art forms.


Vocational Education


1. Dignity of labour should be instilled through vocational education, which helps in bringing about an attitudinal change in the student.


2. Basic skills in handling electrical equipment, carpentry, handicrafts (embroidery, toy-making, pottery etc.) should be taught.


3. Students should be taken to cottage or small industries, farms, and centres of higher learning in those fields.


Ecological Awareness


1. Teachers must convey the need to protect Nature


2. Schools should keep plots with local or medicinal plants, which students should grow and maintain.


3. Field projects and treks, the adoption of a nearby village, the creation of eco-clubs and visits to forests etc. are some of the methods by which students can acquire an environmental awareness.


Physical Education


1. Physical education is one of the most neglected yet important fields, as it helps instil team spirit and self-discipline in the student.


2. In practice, neither time nor facilities are suitably provided. Physical education must be made part of the curriculum and receive credits at exams.


3. Traditional Indian games can also be usefully introduced.


4. Yoga also must be made a regular part of the curriculum. Apart from its health benefits, it brings relief from stress and helps in the development of the student’s personality.

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Long-Term Vision

  • Lighten the Curriculum


1. It was agreed that much of the current data forced upon the students is irrelevant. A lightening of the curriculum was seen as the only way to make space for creative learning.


2. The stress should be on quality rather than quantity.


3. There is considerable repetition and overlapping in each subject from one class to another, and also across subjects.


4. A better coordination of the syllabus should minimize all needless repetitions, which will also contribute to lightening the curriculum.


5. The need to cut down on theory and have more practicals. This will make the learning more enjoyable and related to the student’s daily life.

  • Update Teaching Methodologies


1. Teaching methodologies need to be updated in order to move away from the old pedagogic style in which the teacher engages in a monologue and the student is a passive recipient.


2. An interactive atmosphere in which the student is invited to think, understand, and question, is crucially needed.


3. A student should always feel free to ask What, Why, Who, Where, When, and How.

  • Non-Competitive and Continuous Evaluation Techniques


1. Stressful Examinations should be replaced by continuous non-competitive evaluation up to and including the secondary level.


2. Negative grades (“very poor”, “poor”, etc.) should not be used; instead, the scale should be positive (for example, “average”, “satisfactory”, “good”, “excellent”).


3. At the higher secondary level, exams should test quality and understanding rather than memory.


4. Whether at school or at home, a student’s capabilities and character should never be compared to those of another student

  • Implement Value-Oriented Education


1. The ultimate objective of all learning being the blossoming of the student’s personality, value-oriented education is indispensable.


2. India’s cultural heritage is an excellent tool to achieve this. Indian children should be aware of the culture of their land.


3. Indian epics in particular, also ancient wisdom from other countries, should be integrated into the curriculum.

  • Innovative Educational Tools


1. Innovative methods should gradually become the norm. Projects (including group projects), multimedia resource material, art forms (including stage plays) etc. should be used as teaching aids.


2. Disciplines should be correlated so that the students understand how principles of one field of knowledge can be applied to others.


3. Students should be taken on regular visits to planetariums and heritage sites.


4. Schools should invite inspiring personalities known for their integrity and service to the Nation to share their wisdom and interact with the students.

  • Teacher Training Is a Must


1. The teachers should undergo continuous training and orientation to update and refresh their knowledge.


2. The B.Ed. and M.Ed. curricula should themselves be restructured and updated.


3. Teachers should acquire skills in information technology, communication, and counselling.


4. The schools of the Coimbatore region should take the lead in implementing the above suggestions as soon as possible.

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The above suggestions were sent to the Government of Tamil Nadu, the NCERT, and many educationists and educational bodies in India.

There was a broad consensus among the teachers present that our present system of education remains largely a colonial legacy, which has failed to equip the student and the teacher meaningfully. We hope that the constructive suggestions emerging from teachers with wide educational experience will be taken into account while designing much-needed new perspectives on school curriculum and pedagogy.

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