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What’s Our Game Plan?

Over the past few days, I have been in conversation with senior industry leaders (not only from the education space), and parents (not by design actually) and whether it was pre-planned or happened by chance, different perspectives shared were interesting. While I share them with this blog, I hope it gives us in the education space a lot to reflect on what we can achieve in the next decade or so.

There’s an overwhelming welcoming of the NEP for all stake-holders across the board – be it educators, managements, cross industry teams, teachers and parents. It is, after all meant to address the gaps and set the path on course given the history and experience we have had. Well let’s just say this is on course at least currently on paper, and hopefully with the SOPs being rolled out in different States at the ground level as well. A closer look at the NEP and there is clear direction about relevance of content, emphasis on literary and numeracy as core subjects, inter-disciplinary learning, digitisation and creating world ready students by shifting focus to include co-curriculars and more practical and hands-on learning.

While this sounds ideal without the changes brought about by state and national board (international board tend to be more creative with their outcomes so leaving them out) assessment patterns at the Grade X and XII board examinations, all this effort to help students think creatively and intuitively, build research and questioning skills may not lead to optimisation of the vision as eventually the funnel effect will be the ‘grade-book’ or what we popularly refer to as a report card. Just have to share that my friend Preethi Vikram of Tapas Education beautifully points out – why are we calling it ‘report’ as if some crime has been committed and we are ‘reporting’ it!! Hmmm – food for thought? I tend to agree.

Clearly, at the macro level without ‘outcomes’ and culminations changing, it is easy to see why parents would worry about this ‘grade-book.’ For placements that follow at every stage need a benchmark and optimisation of this is what assures their child a ‘spot’ in their preferred choice of university. Given the sheer volume of those applying it is easy to understand that parents would want to ‘maximise’ and with this parental expectation, the teachers will always be tempted to also channelise ‘learning’ to maximise this outcome. It is natural isn’t it?

The temptation to get back in rote learning and ‘model answers’ would be a chosen path yet again as the ‘outcome’ must be met!

So at which point does the creativity get channelized and then ‘conformity’ take over? Grades 9 to 12? The question parents ask often “will all this freedom work because then kids are struggling to write and meet answer keys”, ‘hate’ is the word used, “they are unable to ‘memorise’ like we did” as some parents tell me and for others, what’s really the fuss about, ‘we all learnt the way we did didn’t we?’

Well, we sure did and our education system back then and and now has had decades in between and most importantly, a pandemic. And not to be mention a generation that is way more exposed and aware and quicker than we were. It is a simple case of evolution and thank god the graph is going up in the healthy upward direction!

Maybe, just maybe as parents, there needs to be an understanding and realisation that ‘learning’ is critical and that this ‘learning’ can be in the form of a C plus, B or an A grade.

What do I mean by that?

Well, simply put, when I engage with students and they speak about what government policy makers must think about, how laws must change to make way for the future (remember these kids in middle and high school have been witness to the drama of US elections and different states in their very own in own country), women rights, migration worker plight, farmers plight, and what religious heads must stay away from … they have ideas about the fiscal policy, and rate cuts, population control and equity in workplaces – it is incredible how well informed they are, thanks to technology. And yes parents when they are on their phone, it is not always chatting but at times, accessing information that makes them think and ideate as well!

Unfortunately, these conversations are not entertained  because these do not lead to ‘acing’ the biology paper or the math quiz and most likely these students may land up with a C plus, but listening to them speak with their clarity, facts and some cool strategies makes me think of grading them A plus. Unfortunately the answer key does not permit this grade, and the students are labelled as average with their C’s.

Which one would you rather have in your house? A thinking C or a straight A? Clean bowled you didn’t I?. Most parents want a straight A. And for reasons explained above.

So with that I leave you with this thought – what is our game plan? To create ‘grades’ or thinking adults. And in that we will have the answer to make this decade and the ones ahead count. But the tricky part is that both parties need to unite, and accept this ‘learning’ as the goal else it will be another case of mis managed expectations.

And oh by the way, I almost forgot, industry leaders want decision makers, problem solvers, creators, team players, initiators etc.

I rest my case.


Fatema Agarkar

Founder, Agarkar Centre of Excellence Veteran of 3 educational start-ups – is now a Founder of Agarkar Centre of Excellence, Fatema’s passion for teaching-learning and children defines the different roles she has crafted – as an edupreneur, educator and mentor.

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