Attending towards learning diversity

For decades, students across the country have been assessed under one common format-- final examination. While there is no argument that students’ learning needs testing; to bring an extremely diverse set of students under the scrutiny of one platform seems unfair. Kids come from all kinds of backgrounds and their interests vary significantly. Their innate leanings towards subject groups also differ. Subsequently, there are some children who are not academically inclined naturally but hold great potential for non-academic skills.

The question is are we creating an environment that nourishes, tests and rewards all learners? To develop a new standard of learning & testing, here are three pillars of education that can be used as a new and fresh approach.

Exposure

Education at all levels, especially at schools, needs to create an environment where teaching should align with the outside world. Often, students are suspicious about their real-world application of knowledge, which needs critical attention. However, not only do we have to make the academic curriculum more in sync with jobs, careers, vocations, we also need to incorporate a slew of skill-based exposure and instruction into the
academic programmes of education boards.

Let’s, for instance, assume that there is a student who is inherently weak and disinterested in math. However, he is a natural leader and has displayed a keen sense of organisational understanding. Unless a school creates opportunities for that
student to develop his organisational and leadership skills, even if through small events, how will it evolve his or her skills?  Hence, skills need to be bolstered through strategic teaching resources, which can add to a student’s inherent wisdom of leadership.

Students should also be made aware of real-world career options where leadership plays a pivotal role. However, in the absence of all of the above, that student is likely to remain a below average student because he was weak at math, and the education system simply did not tap into his intrinsic potential, or make him aware of viable alternatives. 

Inclusive curriculum

The second pillar and natural corollary to this more inclusive and broad-based education are finding ways of incorporating non-academic skill sets into the curriculum in areas such as leadership, personality development, communication and organisation skills to be made
as an elective into the teaching curriculum attached with the mainstream subjects. This inclusion would give legitimisation to the included elective. There already exists a rather illogical hierarchy of subjects where students who learn science are considered intelligent while those pursuing commerce take the next shelf followed by arts at the bottom.

Against this backdrop, if non-academic skills are not formalised, they will never acquire the importance they deserve, and therefore will never be looked as viable alternatives by students and parents. The other big advantage of assimilating these skills into academic curricula will be that rather than getting treatment through sporadic workshops, the non-academic skills will be regularly taught and learned by students.

And it is only when we provide these options of a multifarious and an inclusive curriculum, at an early stage in schools, authorities and students
representing a wide gamut of interests and passions would identify their strengths at a formative stage and build on this foundation to creating a prospective career.

Once a system that provides exposure and teaches students to an array of subjects is set-up, we need a more holistic and robust testing system as well.

Testing will need to be tailor-made as per specific subjects and student groups. It will have two critical aspects of increasing frequency of testing (more informal testing as against a single gargantuan exam that will help students and institutions test learners at regular intervals without the pressure of mugging up entire courses for one time), and a practical aspect of testing where rather than just purely theoretical examination, skills such as leadership, public speaking, communication and organisational skills will be graded through various activities throughout the academic year.

Assessment overhaul

It isn’t until there is this much-needed ‘real-world conditions’ philosophy of
testing that we will get a true measure of a student’s skill development.

Add to all this the vitally important aspect of relevant, realistic, holistic career counselling that matches a students’ aptitude, intellect and skills with jobs, higher studies, and careers; and we would have completed the entire systemic overhaul, comprehensively.

As a matter of fact, these approaches also stress on the importance of developing ways and means of sensitising learners to concepts such as gender, emotional awareness and other societal issues as a way of building a mature and evolving society. 

Only then will we give our future generations a chance of breaking the stereotypical moulds of decades past, and engage students based on true aptitude, and not limit them in any way.

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Attending towards learning diversity

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