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June 04, 2019 Tuesday 12:48:08 PM IST

HOLISTIC EDUCATION --INTERVIEW WITH DR.J.LETHA, Ex-VC of CUSAT

Cover Story

?Is cultural literacy a core objective of education? If so, how should it be accomplished?

 

 All of us are concerned about diminishing moral values and the growing intolerance among communities, castes and groups that make up our great nation. Our school education relies almost exclusively on predetermined sets of ‘competencies’ to be acquired through rote memorization, thereby denying our children opportunities to exercise their innate thinking capabilities and their individual creativity. Our classroom pedagogy deprives children opportunities to learn in a collaborative, reflective manner that would have at least helped them acquire basic social skills. The existing system of examination has contributed to a mad rush for ‘ranks’, ‘seats’ and ‘jobs’...making us wonder whether we have missed the real objectives of education. One way of enhancing the quality of education is by bringing cultural literacy as a core objective of education.

 


The school curriculum should be process-based, and experiential, with sufficient flexibility to integrate local culture. The dominancy of textbooks has to be lowered down. There must be sufficient space for accommodating local art forms, practices, places, institutions, festivals, rituals, artifacts, literature, even local riddles and humour. The teacher should become a friend and facilitator encouraging different cultural patterns and processes. Children enjoy talking about their own lives, their families, what they personally like and dislike and so on. Teachers should be sensitized to encourage children to explore their own as well as alien lifestyles. What is relevant from the cultural point of view is that the teacher should be carefully guided to acquire attitudes, understanding and skills for utilizing the cultural and language diversity creatively (through even multi-lingual learning activities including drama, music and so on).  For the pre-primary and elementary stage of school education, the mother tongue shall be the medium of instruction so that children do not feel ‘threatened’ by an alien language thrust upon them. This will ensure that the thinking processes of the child, which happens in the mother / home tongues do not get hindered. The school calendar should have at least two periods a week set apart exclusively for cultural activities. Local artists, musicians, painters, writers and story-tellers could be guests and performers at some of these sessions. Children should be encouraged to directly interact with them.

 

?With the high implementation costs and replacement of human resources, does the use of Artificial Intelligence justify itself?

 


 Artificial Intelligence is conquering all phases of human activities. I will never say that it is a curse; but prefer to argue that it is a blessing because it never replaces human resources. It only supports and enhances human capacities and thus promotes efficiency and productivity, As we know, the Robots can never replace humans because they are not emotionally oriented. Similarly, the high implementation costs can be justified because the costs will definitely reduce in the long run when the usage increases and the benefits fetched through high productivity and efficiency overcome the costs.

 

? Do schools have the responsibility to inculcate values of social justice in students? If so,how can it be achieved?

 


The social values to be inculcated in the minds of school children are self-discipline, punctuality, integrity, honesty, respect to elders, team-work, social obligation, hardwork, empathy, humanism, etc. These values can be inculcated during school education through various procedures. Moral Education can be made as a subject. Co- Curricular activities which focus on social values can be introduced which include drama competition, story-writing, story-telling, slogan discussion, etc. Every week a period can be exclusively kept for such activities when the time table is framed. Even when subjects such asLanguage, Geography, Science, etc. are taught, they can be oriented in this direction wherever possible. Group discussion and team-work can be introduced giving them topics which will highly focus on social values. Games based on social values can be introduced. During Sports activities. emphasis be given for values such as sportsmanship and respecting success of others. Prayers are a routine process in all schools. Apart from that, children may be encouraged to make their own prayers and quotations which instill importance of social values in their minds.

 

? Is coding a necessary subject? Is there a need to promote digital literacy?

 


Coding is very much necessary to be offered as a subject. Coding not only helps the students to be digitally literate but also helps to introduce the habit of tackling a complex problem by breaking it into small units and solve them. This helps them indirectly in their life also because such life skills are required to succeed in life. The second aspect is about becoming digitally literate. This also is very essential because the next wave of technology is the complete transformation of world into a digital one. If we don’t fall in that track, we will become an outcaste and technologically disconnected from the entire world.

 

Qn.5 Women's education is important in boosting the quality of life. Many women are denied education owing to a variety of reasons. What measures are required to ensure education to all irrespective of gender?   

Already the government has taken measures to empower women and attain gender equity in education. Some of them are:(i). Short Stay Homes to provide relief and rehabilitation to destitute women and women in distress. (ii). Working Women Hostels for ensuring safe accommodation for working women away from their place of residence.  (iii). Support to Training and Employment Programme for Women (STEP) to ensure sustainable employment and income generation for marginalised and asset-less rural and urban poor women across the country. (iv). RashtriyaMahilaKosh (RMK) to provide micro-finance services to bring about the socio-economic upliftment of poor women. (v). National Mission for Empowerment of Women (NMEW) to strengthen the overall processes that promote all-round development of Women.(vi). Rajiv Gandhi National Creche Scheme for Children of Working Mothers (including single mother) to provide day care facilities for running a crèche of 25 children in the age group 0-6 years from families having monthly income of less than Rs 12,000.
(vii). One Stop Centre to provide integrated support and assistance to women affected by violence. (viii). Scheme for Universalisation of Women Helpline intended to provide 24 hours immediate and emergency response to women affected by violence.(ix). Sabla Scheme for holistic development of adolescent girls in the age group of 11-18 years. (x).The Maternity Benefit Act which allows women to take leave for delivery and care of the child and The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013.


Such measures will definitely ensure women empowerment if implemented successfully. We have to create an awareness programme of such measures among school children. The schools also can come forward to conduct awareness classes among the local public.They can come forward at panchayat level to take up some activities on their own.

 

? Granting autonomy to colleges has faced criticism from various quarters. Is the practice good for improving education standards?

Granting autonomy is an essential aspect for becoming educationally foreward. Autonomy shall be granted only after ensuring the academic capability of the institutions. Once the academic autonomy is obtained, the institutions will be capable of introducing subjects of high relevance, updating syllabus with current trends, keeping correct schedule of examinations and result declaration, introducing pedagogical techniques which will definitely enhance the academic ambience of the institution.


 

? Quite a few Indian institutions may have attained international competence while the majority of colleges have to go a long way to attain the same status. What are the challenges to make Indian education globally competitive?

 

To make education globally competitive, international collaboration of institutions is very much essential. International collaboration shall be in terms of student exchange, faculty exchange, joint programmes, etc. The academicians and distinguished Professors from internationally reputed institutions can be invited as visiting professors to spend a definite period inside the campus, interact with students and faculty and give guidance. Conferences and seminars ensuring presence of international students and faculty will definitely improve the academic standards and make it globally competitive.


 

? The curriculum is often heavy in a system which gives prominence to high scores in public examinations. Can education ensure holistic development of students, whatever be the course of study?  

“Holistic education is a philosophy of education based on the premise that each person finds identity, meaning, and purpose in life through connections to the community, to the natural world, and to humanitarian values such as compassion and peace. Holistic education aims to call forth from people an intrinsic reverence for life and a passionate love of learning.” - Ron Miller.

It is necessary that curriculum is designed for holistic education to equip students to meet the challenges of tomorrow. The aspects to be considered in the above design are as follows:


  • Emphasize learning by doing and provide hands-on projects and opportunities
  • Design integrated curriculum focused on thematic units
  • Help the students learn to develop problem-solving and critical-thinking skills
  • Provide regular opportunities for group work and the development of social skills
  • Facilitate understanding and action as the goals of learning as opposed to rote knowledge
  • Emphasize collaboration and cooperation rather than competition
  • Educate for social responsibility and democracy
  • Integrate community service and service-learning projects in the daily curriculum
  • De-emphasize the use of text books in favor of varied learning resources
  • Create life-long learners
  • Assess by evaluation of children’s projects, goals and learning experiences
  • Help students understand and respect their learning styles

 

? Employability of students is a key issue after graduation. Is the present mode of education able to focus on it? Are colleges equipped to provide soft skills to students to improve employability?

 

The employability is a crucial issue to be considered in college education. There are procedures adopted by professional colleges to equip students with soft skills. But in the case of Arts and Science colleges, only very few colleges address this with serious concern. To make the students employable, such kind of training is essential.


 

? How far are the concepts of technological innovations integrated to make it palatable to the student community?


The future of the educational system is practically determined by the development of technology. Proper technology integration guides students towards greater understanding of all concepts covered in class. The teaching strategies based on educational technology can be described as ethical practices that facilitate the students’ learning and boost their capacity, productivity, and performance. Technology integration in education inspires positive changes in teaching methods on an international level. A few advantages brought about through integration of technology are as follows: The teaching is made easier through smart boards presentations, video clippings, etc. The teachers as well as parents are able to track students’ progress at any point of time.It can also be stated that Educational technology is good to the environment because it reduces the use of paper, chalk, etc. The, students enjoy learning when they are exposed to latest technologies. Technology makes distance learning more accessible than ever. Students and teachers can access information at any time.

 


? How can we achieve experiential learning through the new processes?What should the educators and the government at the national level do to make education more meaningful and enjoyable to the present and future generations?

 

There are many challenges when we deal about incorporating modern tools in education. The lack of necessary equipment, the lack of training given to teachers, the method of assessment which does not orient in this direction, the curriculum overweighed by content which does not allow enough time for personalised teaching,etc are some of them. These have to be addressed by the educators seriously by bringing changes in the curriculum, teaching methodology, assessment methodology, training and public awareness.


All the issues discussed above have to be brought to the notice of national attention and a revolution has to be brought about in school, college and university education.

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