The academic year 2023 for schools ---both primary and secondary---is drawing to a close. But how this will end is of serious concern. Confrontational politics apart, the new school curriculum introduced post-haste has presented unforeseen problems for evaluation of student performances. This is the time when school students prepare themselves for the annual examinations. To go by the guidelines of the new education curriculum, students of classes I and II of primary schools, for whom the new curriculum and text books have been introduced, cannot be subjected to any examination. Similarly, students of class VI and VII pursuing their education under the new curriculum are supposed to appear for a truncated annual examination unlike that of the traditional system but with no provision for quarterly or half-yearly examinations.
When there is a clear instruction for not holding examinations for students up to class III, many private kindergartens even in this capital are following the old system of education and examinations. Also, many schools arranged for half-yearly examinations for class VI and VII in defiance of the directive from the Directorate of Secondary and Higher Education (DSHE). An organising joint-secretary of the association of headmasters of the country's private secondary educational institutions disclosed at that time that only 10 per cent secondary schools followed the guidelines for evaluation of students' performances. The rest 90 per cent schools taught and evaluated students in the traditional manner they were used to.
Naturally, the DSHE did not like it and served notices on the non-compliant schools. What followed is not known. But teachers of the non-compliant schools were not solely to blame for the fracas. In fact, the DSHE took months to prepare and distribute the guidelines by which time chaos reigned supreme. Introduction of such a groundbreaking system without adequate preparation was a wrong choice in the first place. When teachers, the most potent instrument, needed to be made comprehensively knowledgeable about their task, they were left in the dark. Under a five-day training programme arranged for teachers, 418,000 of them were supposed to be trained to develop their knowledge and skill to do justice to the new curriculum. Only 280,000 teachers received this inadequate training when half of the academic year elapsed. As many as 137,000 teachers could not be brought under the proramme and 30,000 selected teachers could not receive it for various reasons.
After 10 months, how much change has taken place in the matter of teachers' knowledge and their skill development? In the answer to this question lies the transformation of what can be called a spoon-fed education system. When the just discarded education system --- under which students' merit used to be assessed on the basis of wrongly termed 'creative questions', in fact, structured questions --- was introduced, a large number of teachers simply failed their students. A lack of interests and incentives was responsible for this. One surely has reasons to be afraid that this more challenging system drawing heavily from real life experience will meet a similar fate simply because the ground was not prepared before sowing the seed.
Is the DSHE aware of the existence of private kindergartens, primary schools that are following the traditional method of teaching and holding of examinations for grades 0-03 right now? The percentage of teachers who can guide students to acquire practical knowledge in real life situations is likely to be very low, maybe, less than 10 per cent. It would be a daunting challenge to reap the benefit of the system in its letter and spirit. Educational institutions will find themselves in a soup over devising appropriate assignments for students. Not all students have common interests. A teacher's job is to observe each student closely to know his or her interests, potential and ambition. Only then can a learner be imbued with the mantra that s/he is equal to his or her dream. If the average schools are not likely to rise up to the occasion to take education to its desired level for want of competent teaching staff, a few reputed missionary schools with some down-to-earth approach and greater relevance to education may consider this an imposition on their system of teaching.
There is another unwanted party in the whole system, which is a beneficiary of the spoon-fed education system. These are the birds of the same feather ---teachers who write note and guide books and publishers who mint money. If the conventional system of education and examination can be retained, their purpose is well served. Under the system, students are not to think out of the box but are encouraged to learn by rote and the creative part is worked out for them in the note or guide books. Students learn only the answers to the set questions in order to score high. They would not develop an unquenchable thirst for knowledge and go for extensive reading of books on an array of subjects. A generation of high achievers in examinations has come up with hardly any comprehensive knowledge of and insight into purpose of life, social responsibility and inalienable relations existing between the living organisms and the material world. Exam-related education has made the educated, barring a handful, self-centred and robotic with hardly any quest for discovering their place in the scheme of the universe. Their education has remained incomplete because of poverty of human qualities and values. Contextual in relation to life situation, the new curriculum could pull the nation out of the morass if only it got implemented in letter and spirit. But the new system may once again fail because of a lack of preparation of the right environment.