"Focusing on the students' health along with their education is a part of the government's plan for the next year.(Representational Image)
"FOCUSING ON the students' health along with their education is a part of the government's plan for the next year. A sick child cannot be expected to perform well at school," says Rajnish Kumar, director of the Department of School Education at the Ministry of Human Resource Development.
The director was in Chandigarh to meet representatives from the UT education department for the progress made by Chandigarh schools in preparation for the Programme for International Student Assessment or PISA test, which is taking place in the city's government schools in 2021.
"Introducing health and well-being programmes to look after the health of students enrolled at our schools through Ayushman Bharat is the major step that will be taken by the government by the next year," said Surinder Singh Dahiya, head of State Council for Education and Research, who was present with Kumar to address mediapersons. Ayushman Bharat refers to the government's flagship national health protection scheme.
Kumar claimed that although he cannot comment on the exact date by which the government plans to finalise the New Education Policy, "the policy should definitely be finalised within the next two or three months". "If you look at the draft, the policy also ventures into improving quality of education and evolving pedagogical practices in line with what is tested in PISA," added Kumar. The PISA test is part of an evaluative international programme, which seeks to create a report on how each nation is performing in terms of their education policy and pedagogical practices.
"It is important not to see PISA as a traditional test, it does not score the students, nor will the scores reflect on the student's intelligence. How we rank on the PISA is a way for us to evaluate the status of our education policy and administration, and we should take the results in our stride to bridge the gap between our education system and what the PISA test expects from us," Kumar said.
"It is not a test, and we make sure that students also don't think so. In front of them we don't mention the word PISA, we tell them we are preparing for ‘creative and critical thinking exercises'," Dahiya said.
Furthermore, the MHRD director stated that India has also decided to participate in the 2024 PISA test as well, though the state whose students will participate in the test have not been chosen as yet. "Instead, we have asked the states themselves to come forward and nominate themselves. In this way, they will all begin preparing their education systems and equipping their students in advance," Kumar said. He added that this will make all states to begin thinking about integrating changes in their education system to improve quality and match up to worldwide standards of education.
The director also claimed that efforts are being made to introduce small changes in the syllabus and ‘classroom transactions' in CBSE schools across the nation in order to inculcate more critical thinking, and depart from the India's ‘rote-based' education system. "We wish to introduce PISA-like questions in the board exams which we have already done a little. Each year, we will keep adding such elements to exam questions and the syllabus, so that children are not exposed to a drastic change, but are slowly weaned off a system of rote learning," Kumar said.
"Apart from that, we have asked all schools to begin using the general knowledge and current affairs-related questions that are posted on the DIKSHA portal regularly, and disseminate them amongst the students for analysis," the director said. Digital Infrastructure for Knowledge Sharing (DIKSHA) is an online portal which posts resources for teachers to educate themselves in advancing their teaching methods, frame questions and create syllabi. The portal publishes five general knowledge questions every Monday which teachers can use within their classrooms, and uploads answers to these questions by Thursday.
As for making sure that teachers are driven enough to inculcate these new pedagogical practices in the classroom, Kumar claimed that efforts are being made by the MHRD to ease the burden of administrative work assigned to government school teachers. "I understand that teachers are being burdened with a lot of duties and administrative work. But we are trying to come up with AI-based technology that can easily collect data on student's academic progress, without the teacher being compelled to collect data and fill in forms for analysis. This will save some of their time," Kumar said.