“How inclusive have we been?” – A Unified Education System
In a class of 40, how many students actually score above 40?
Let’s say, a teacher just explained the concept of Reflection & Refraction in that class. How many can explain it back in their own terms? How many actually understood it in its complete sense?
Now, are the other 50-70% students weaker in their abilities? Or were they not really addressed by us, the teachers, with their unique learning styles?
Well, a teacher is a teacher to all 40 students and is obliged to create a complete understanding in all 40 minds. Every teacher holds so much creativity within, which flourishes in a moment of excitement and vigor for the art. So, how do we miss out on a larger set of students? Is it really because we don’t go the extra mile or do we unconsciously lack inclusivity in classrooms?
Bill Gates once said, “If you are born poor it’s not your fault, but if you die poor it’s yours.” Going by that, if we teachers are brought up in an environment of neglect or noninclusive to all ways of learning, it’s not our fault. But if we don’t act upon our neglect, it is our failing.
The lack of a unified system
Let’s come down to an inter-school comparison of inclusivity of students. In India, Kendriya Vidyalaya & Govt. schools are both government-led institutions, and both pay similar good salaries to their teachers. But more often than not, govt. school students miss out on quality teachers. Mostly, the teachers they get lack proper knowledge themselves. Other times, they lack the sheer will to enlighten and interest the students coming from poor socio-economic backgrounds about the importance of education.
Let’s come to America. In this capitalist economy, schools have better facilities but more often than not, it sees people of color as outsiders (even if they’ve been living for generations). The government and administration view resourcing their education as philanthropy and not their unbiased duty, and consider it as straining the resources for the whites.
In fact, this form of racism is rooted in South Africa itself where the blacks in their own country have to fight for their education rights since 1955. Even now in this extremely poor country, children struggle for resources and trained teachers.
Though we see a robust education system in China with primary and secondary education backed by the government, poor village students still lack equally trained teachers and adequate resources. Moreover, charges for food and co-curricular activities still exist in such schools.
All of this begs the question. Don’t learners of the same country from the same government deserve a unified system of quality education? Do they deserve to be led by their fate of having Government Worker parents, their skin color, financial capacities, or just an equal opportunity as children of one nation?
It’s not that there hasn’t been an effort…
NCERT(National Council for Educational Research and Training) is one initiative of the Indian Government that publishes books for classes I to XII following a uniform CBSE curriculum along with digital availing on E-Pathshala.
But is having a unified curriculum an assurance to uniform efforts in transmitting that education?
After the long-prevailing need for an update, the National Education Policy, 2020 brought in some reforms in methods of teaching such as Emphasis on Mother Tongue until class 5, activity-based learning below class 2, coding and internships in class 6, multi-disciplinary flexible subjects in classes 9-12, multiple entry and exit options in degree courses, etc. But how widely and efficiently are these changes implemented in light of an India where neither vocational and additional subjects in high school are available in more than 50% of the schools in the country nor the skill electives for class XII.
Besides, how updated and relevant is the NCERT syllabus for all such subjects in today’s fastest-growing society, technology, and lifestyle behaviors? If that wasn’t enough, there is an innate divide between schools with NCERT curriculum and those with other syllabi. With so many boards in the country, Indian students often struggle to cope with different boards.
Well, NEP does echo us somewhere and so do the Chinese Govt.’s efforts in vocational education. So do America’s efforts in guiding parents and students in high school and higher education plans.
However, we, as UN Secretary-General, demand evident implementation at the micro and global levels at the same time. The UNESCO report, titled ‘Reimagining our Futures Together: A New Social Contract for Education,’ emphasizes intercultural and ecological learning anchored in social, economic, and environmental justice. Read about António Guterres’ message here.
COVID in action
In light of change, Covid has questioned everything. From virtual education to increased opportunities and challenges in learning, it has proved to be a true catalyst of growth in the world of learning. Be it just an awareness of what’s not right, an interest in exploring global systems and resources, or initiated actions in regard to deeper learning and practical applications by learners and teachers alike — everyone has gained something.
The emerging E-learning supplements, hybrid schooling, and high involvement of tech have had different results for everyone. On one side, the privileged and conscious learners flourished in growing capacities, and on the other side, this left the disadvantaged drastically behind. Firstly, the access to devices and proper Internet, a sound knowledge of tech for using that technology for virtual classrooms and online assignments, and the adaptability to understand through virtual boards and lectures. All of this is still a challenge to many remote rural learners across the world.
Moreover, consistency in imparting that education is also sacrificed. In Australia, education is governed by individual States and Territories whose jurisdiction further varied in lieu of COVID cases. For instance, the school holidays were effectively brought forward by a number of days at the end of term one in South Australia, Western Australia, and Victoria to give principals and teachers additional time to prepare for remote learning in term two. But while South Australian public school students returned to school on the first day of term two, Victorian pupils were still learning from home six weeks later.
Secondly, social isolation and the children’s need for inattention and supervision at the same time (to encourage freewheeling creativity and understanding respectively) have made it difficult for learners to engage naturally.
Simply put, the challenges that covid has brought upon has increased the need for a unified system that caters to different learning styles. Because learning is not just a monolog by a teacher, conversation with a learner, or mere reading or watching an animation – it is an experience of a complete learning process where all of the senses are well engaged to induce learning in different styles.
Global access to learning resources
What is it like to taste new waters, meet new people, and face new challenges every day (so tough that your survival can be at stake)? It’s surely a thorough experience however thrilling it turns out to be too different individuals. Well, this is the exact dream of learners around the globe intending to enter exchange programs for learning new skills in a new environment.
In the new wave of learning, access to courses from global institutions and professionals has been a boon to ambitious and dedicated minds. Be it offline or online, it is always aspirational to have a world-class learning experience. But it hasn’t been easy either. Amidst the tedious application process, cross-country laws, financial burden, and decent accommodation in the unfamiliar world – there’s a basic challenge of University guidelines for eligibility and academic adaptability to fit in the learning environment. This makes their very first decision of Choice of University challenging enough for some adults to give up on the idea.
This brings us back to the question of inclusivity in classrooms at a global level. All a learner is asking for is an opportunity to interact with global minds with their unique worldview on topics of common interest. They have been following the system they’re part of and are so ready to follow the new ones. Is their ineligibility their fault? Don’t they deserve a unified system welcoming them only based on their talent and a strong determination to learn and explore?
Just think for a minute…
Shouldn’t we focus on 40 under 40?
Shouldn’t we focus on EACH in a class of EVERYONE?
Shouldn’t EACH be EVERYONE (every child) across the world?
How can we be content with Finland’s education system or Chinese or Japanese or Indian or the latest amendments in America, when a larger part of the world’s children is still deprived of their basic right to get access to quality education?
“Vasudev Kutumbakam” (The whole world is our family) is a line from a Sanskrit scripture, Maha Upanishad is what our world tries to live by or at least the idealist section of the society. However, how can we implement this line in our world without striving for a unified education system for EACH and EVERY child across the globe that addresses their individual needs to nurture their minds to thrive and open the world for them?
What we are left to focus on
Inclusivity is considering all children around the world as equal humans with varied needs to cater to their diverse learning environments and unique individual skill sets. They all deserve equal support not just from their geographic governing bodies but from their world family in terms of resources and a unified system. To enable such an education, we need:
- Trained and qualified Teachers in every little-big school
- Equitable resources to every child and school
- Minimized learning gap amongst students
Is this fair allocation achievable? Are we pledging to do everything to fill in the inclusion of the most unexpected? How are we doing that? Finally, can an inclusive and unified education system empower our future generations more? We’ll leave it to you to answer that.