An evolving job market that stresses on innovation and digital aptitude has spurred school education boards to add new subjects, so that their students get an edge over others. From global perspectives to digital media and design, these subjects will impart 21st century skills, but schools are divided on whether they will find many takers.
One of the fastest growing boards in India, Cambridge International Examinations (CIE) has introduced two new subjects, global perspectives and digital media and design. Learners from five to 14 years can opt for global perspectives from 2018-19, while their counterparts in class 10 to 12 are already studying it. Digital media, which will train students in photography, graphic design and visual applications, might be offered by 2019.
Not to be left behind, the Maharashtra state education board has launched an array of vocational subjects from media, travel and tourism, banking and financial services, under the National Skills Qualification Framework (NSQF). While some of the subjects were offered from 2015-16, new ones are added every academic year.
Cambridge said that there is a lot of demand for skill-oriented subjects even though India is traditionally STEM (Science, technology, engineering and mathematics)-oriented. “The flexibility and choice of subjects that the curriculum offers is refreshing for schools,” said Ruchira Ghosh, regional director, South Asia.
The was a 30% increase in the number of entries for March exams that were started couple of years ago so that Indian students can get their results in time for local and national colleges. “We participated in the pilot for global perspectives and found that it equips students for discussions on current topics and critical thinking,” said Kavita Aggarwal, chief academic advisor, JBCN International schools.
However, schools said that subjects like global perspectives do not have any recognition from the Maharashtra government, making it tough for students to opt for them. “It is easy for conventional subjects like math and science to get equivalence as the state board offers them, too. But we are trying to get recognition from the government for the new subjects,” said Aggarwal, who heads MISA (Members of International Schools Association), consisting of international schools from Mumbai and other cities.
Similarly, state-board affiliated schools too, are grappling with problems in offering these subjects. Lack of awareness and resource persons specialising in the subject of choice are major hurdles.
In a vicious circle, some schools say that they cannot offer these subjects since there are not enough takers but students interested in them are unable to find schools who do. “We are not seeing any demand for the new subjects because parents are set in their ways, and do not want to think out-of-the-box,” said Father Francis Swamy, joint-secretary of the Archdiocesan Board of Education (ABE), which runs 150-odd schools in Mumbai.
Educators suggest measures like developing common centres to be shared by schools. “The board can appoint resource persons and learning material, and schools can send interested students to study the subject there,” said Swamy.