‘Lot of changes taking place in the system’
Angela Ffrench , Educational Consultant, Cambridge, speaks with Prajakta Joshi regarding the changing education system and the need to continuously evolve the teaching and learning methods.
What are the most significant differences and similarities in the education systems in India and the United Kingdom?
Talking about the similarities between the education system in both countries, I must say that there are a lot of changes taking place in the system, the changes take place according to the political party that is in power in the country at the time, technology, the ongoing research and what people learn from the research.
In the UK, in my last 40 years of experience, I have observed that a lot of changes in teaching took place. However, in India, the pace of the change is quite slow although it is certainly picking up now. India is a huge country where there are so many autonomous educational institutions that have their own different attitudes towards education, so the speed of change differs according to all these factors.
The teachers’ competency is often an issue of concern as it directly reflects on the competence of the students. With the ever-evolving technology and the students having a vast access to information, how should teachers remain updated and trained to employ better teaching methods?
If you are a good educationalist, you never stop learning. You learn every day from everybody around you, including the children. Most teachers today will certainly be a few steps behind their students in their understanding of technology. Hence, they can learn from the children about what is relevant to them, and for their future. Also, within the fabric of the schools, there are programmes for teacher development in most schools. The important thing is to ensure that all schools have the capability and the budget to organise such programmes for their teachers.
There are teachers that teach and live in the rural areas, don’t necessarily have all access to the technology and the information about the changes happening all around the world. There are different teacher-training experiments taking place in different parts of the world, but these experiments can be very subjective. Hence, I think it will be useful if each school has a dedicated person to collect information and decide what is useful for his/her school according to the location, demographics and social fabric, and design training programmes accordingly.
Experiential learning is being promoted at all levels of education these days. What changes need to be brought in so as to inculcate this in our education system?
When I was in school in the UK, in around 1950s, the ‘chalk and talk’ method was the most popular one amongst the teachers. However, one of my English teachers introduced what is known as ‘activity-based learning’, and it was probably the beginning of this kind of teaching-learning method in the UK. However, in India, this concept came in a lot later, that is in the 1990s.
With computers and this vast storage space of information that is capable of giving so much knowledge to the students, a teacher’s role will soon change to facilitators of learning, rather than instructors. In most countries, in most classes, there is a year-group of students. Supposedly, there is a group of 8-year-olds, there is a fixed set of instructions and curriculum to facilitate learning for that age. But within that age group, you have diversity. You have a pretty large group that does what an 8-year-old is expected to do. Then you have some of them whose cognitive developments have not yet established themselves to do that. Also, there are others who are ahead of the normal ones. There is a need to develop individualised learning, with a capability to see whether the particular child has understood the programme to what extent, to stretch the ones who are ahead, to learn ahead, and also pay special attention to the lower end.