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Introduction

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Perspective: Introduction: India is a free nation with a rich variegated history, an extraordinarily complex cultural diversity and a ...

Perspective:

Introduction:
India is a free nation with a rich variegated history, an extraordinarily complex cultural diversity and a commitment to democratic values and well-being for all. Ever since 1986 when the National Policy on Education was approved by Parliament, efforts to redesign the curriculum have been focused on the creation of a national system of education. Given the enormity and importance of the task of educating the country’s children, it is necessary that, from time to time, we create occasions to collectively sit back and ask ourselves,“What is it that we are doing in our engagement with this task? Is it time for us to refresh what we provide to our children in the name of education?”

If we look at what the system of education has accomplished since Independence, perhaps we have much to be satisfied with.Today, our country engages nearly 55 lakh teachers spread over around 10 lakh schools to educate about 2,025 lakh children. While 82 per cent of habitations have a primary school within a radius of  one kilometre, there is an upper primary school within 3 kilometres for 75 per cent of habitations. At least 50 per cent of our children who appear at the school-leaving examinations pass out of the secondary school system. Despite these trends, 37 per cent people in India lack literacy skills, about 53 per cent children drop out at the elementary stage, and over 75 per cent of our rural schools are multigrade. Further, there is a deep disquiet about several aspects of our educational practice: (a) the school system is characterised by an inflexibility that makes it resistant
to change; (b) learning has become an isolated activity, which does not encourage children to link knowledge with their lives in any organic or vital way; (c) schools promote a regime of thought that discourages creative thinking and insights; (d) what is presented and transmitted in the name of learning in schools bypasses vital dimensions of the human capacity to create new knowledge; (e) the “future” of the child has taken centre stage to the near exclusion of the child’s “present”, which is detrimental to the well-being of the child as well as the society and the nation.

The basic concerns of education—to enable children to make sense of life and develop their potential, to define and pursue a purpose and recognise the right of others to do the same—stand uncontested and valid even today. If anything, we need to reiterate the mutual interdependence of humans, and, as Tagore says, we achieve our greatest happiness when we realise ourselves through others. Equally, we need to reaffirm our commitment to the concept of equality, within the landscape of cultural and socio-economic diversity from which children enter into the portals of the school.
Individual aspirations in a competitive economy tend to reduce education to being an instrument of
material success. The perception, which places the individual in exclusively competitive relationships, puts unreasonable stress on children, and thus distorts values. It also makes learning from each other a matter of little consequence. Education must be able to promote values that foster peace, humaneness and tolerance in a multicultural society. 

This document seeks to provide a framework within which teachers and schools can choose and plan experiences that they think children should have. In order to realise educational objectives, the curriculum should be conceptualized as a structure that articulates required experiences. For this, it should address some basic questions:
(a) What educational purposes should the schools seek to achieve?
(b) What educational experiences can be provided that are likely to achieve these purposes?
(c) How can these educational experiences be meaningfully organised?
(d) How do we ensure that these educational purposes are indeed being accomplished?

The review of the National Curriculum Framework, 2000 was initiated specifically to address the problem of curriculum load on children. A committee appointed by the Ministry of Human Resource Development in the early 1990s had analysed this problem, tracing its roots to the system’s tendency
to treat information as knowledge. In its report, Learning Without Burden, the committee pointed out
that learning at school cannot become a joyful experience unless we change our perception of the
child as a receiver of knowledge and move beyond the convention of using textbooks as the basis for
examination. The impulse to teach everything arises from lack of faith in children’s own creative instinct and their capacity to construct knowledge out of their experience. The size of textbooks has been growing over the years, even as the pressure to include new  topics mounts and the effort to synthesise knowledge and treat it holistically gets weaker. Flabby textbooks, and the syllabi they cover, symbolise a systemic failure to address children in a child-centred manner. Those who write such encyclopaedic textbooks are guided by the popular belief that there has been an explosion of knowledge. Therefore, vast amounts of knowledge should be pushed down the throats of little children in order to catch up with other countries. Learning Without Burden recommended a major change in the design of syllabi and textbooks, and also a change in the social ethos, which places stress on children to become aggressively competitive and exhibit precocity. To make teaching a means of harnessing the child’s creative nature, the report recommended a fundamental change in the matter of organising the school curriculum, and also in the system of examination, which forces
children to memorise information and to reproduce it. Learning for the sake of being examined in a
mechanical manner takes away the joy of being young, and delinks school knowledge from everyday
experience. To address this deep structural problem, the present document draws upon and elaborates on the insights of Learning Without Burden. 

Rather than prescribe, this document seeks to enable teachers and administrators and other agencies
involved in the design of syllabi and textbooks and examination reform make rational choices and
decisions. It will also enable them to develop and implement innovative, locale-specific programmes. By contextualising the challenges involved in curriculum renewal in contemporary social reality, this document draws attention to certain specific problems that demand an imaginative response. We expect that it will strengthen ongoing processes of reform, such as devolution of decision making to teachers and elected local-level bodies, while it also identifies new areas for attention such as the need for plurality of textbooks and urgent improvement in the examination system.


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Introduction
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