Students about to enter the university system in India invariably find themselves in for a culture shock. Nothing that has been taught, largely by rote, at the school system prepares them for higher education which is far more loosely structured and academically demanding. It is perhaps worthwhile then to consider the Human Resource Development (HRD) Ministry’s proposal that universities could have kendriya vidyalayas on campuses.
This idea was first mooted in 1964 by the Kothari Commission. That it should be resurrected now shows the cavalier attitude towards so a vital sector as education. Now as with all innovative schemes, this one may not take off. But certainly the concept is worth a try given that we really have no plan B on how to churn out creative and employable graduates.
A survey done a while ago found that a substantial number of our graduates did not possess the skills to enter the job market. The advantages of having schools on university campuses are many. For one, school students will not find themselves floundering about in an alien environment as they move to the university system. If the faculties of both the school and university systems were to interact more frequently, many of the anomalies that keep both so diametrically apart could be ironed out.
The fact that students have to undergo extensive and expensive coaching before attempting professional higher education courses shows the disconnect between the two systems. If schools were on campuses, perhaps trained education professionals could spot the aptitude of students and steer them in the right direction.
One of the reasons why students are disillusioned with the school system is that it totally bypasses individual interest and creativity. If the new plan works, we may eventually be able to evolve a system like the ones in the West where the student is not strait-jacketed into choosing subjects a la carte at the undergraduate level. They could, for example, take creative writing along with microbiology owing to a passion for both. If, as the HRD ministry proposes, the idea of on-campus schools can be extended to other institutes of higher learning, the Indian education system could be revolutionised.
But let us not forget that the Kendriya Vidyalayas are among the better-run of our primary educational institutions. The real success of such an experiment would be when government schools, now at the bottom of the food chain, can also be integrated with the college system.
For this, of course, massive investment would be needed. But, more crucially, there has to be a paradigm shift in the mindset that dictates that the education system must be compartmentalised and not allow any scope for the student to develop an enquiring mind. To give the plan a fighting chance, the first thing that must be done is to hand it over to a panel of independent educationists with the HRD Ministry acting only as a facilitator. As implementers, education’s babudom has not exactly scored high marks. So it is time to unlearn the lessons of the past.