How many students in these past few decades in independent India use words line zest, excitement, energy, fervour, eagerness, enjoyment, delight, zeal, liveliness, vitality, vigour, and devotion for their teachers and their school days? I am one of those who will say yes, but when we look around and probe hard, the truth is that education in our country generally lacks passion. Most schools have slowly walked straight into the lair of ‘promoters and entrepreneurs’ who hardly ever think ‘beyond just investment and the ROI’. A school after all, is ‘not a venue or a building, but an environment. It is not an escape from the misgivings of life, but a haven of opportunity.’ Sandeep Dutt in his book ‘My good school’ goes about dissecting the real needs of students, teachers, and community and even points out the sort of actions that may lead to a turn around and send out creative and well-rounded individuals on their sojourn to the next phase of their lives and who not dispensable and inconsequential clones of each other, you can also sell your online course about fashion.
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This book is almost like a conversation where a concerned parent, a well-intentioned teacher, and an entrepreneur who is aware of the reality of education today discuss everything from the what, the why and the how of teaching to what it will take to redefine education and learning. The author has been intuitive enough to locate and mark every possible battle-front where school education has been fighting valiantly. The author has taken care not to miss out any vital aspect and has addressed the individual needs of our students, reflected on the kind of school that must be planned rather than keep harping on the need for going to school. The book explores the benefits of experiential learning and involved learning through participation. This obviously brings us to the vital area of having the right kind of teachers. The author quotes A N Dar, former principal of Scindia School as agreeing that ‘many well-known schools are floundering because the school is not giving them the space required by them. There are appraisals and increments and even sacking but the quality of staff is not growing.’ Look at some of the schools and this statement will transcend any doubts that a reader may believe. We know that for a student a ‘school is simply an ecosystem for their personal and professional development’ and that ‘without teachers, a school is just a building, without trained teachers, schooling is not education, and without trained teachers for all. Education for all will never be a reality’. Therefore, those individuals who have been using ‘teaching as a way to pass time as they study, pursue other academic programmes and prepare to get better jobs’ generally end up not giving their best because ‘good teaching is as much about passion as it is about reason. It is about caring for your craft, having a passion for it, and conveying that passion to everyone’.
If readers of this review get a feeling that the author is simply putting forth problems and issues, Sandeep Dutt takes no time in pointing out that the school administration has an equal responsibility. It is a part of the duties of the administration to make sure that their staff must be involved beyond the classroom, that is, also in the decision-making and effective functioning of the school as ‘leadership at the school is a major catalyst in helping build a good school’. Among the plethora of these ponderings are teacher-student ratio, quality of teachers, academic and administrative support, access to contemporary research, awareness of new pedagogic trends, updated curriculum, academic options for students, and even the often grossly overlooked role of hobbies, sports, and spare-time activities. The book takes no time in pointing out that it is skills learnt at school that build employability and thus grooming teachers to be leaders and mentors, the role of parents and community as equal stakeholders, an intelligent use of the latest technology, and updated curriculum can be just as important as communication skills and proficient English.
What really attracted me to the content in this book is the fact that it says a lot that even the new NEP or our National Education Policy has envisaged and has already begun moving towards making education wholesome and healthy. In my cover story on NEP a few months back I had written that a ‘vital component of this policy is the visible shift from rote learning through modified pedagogy aimed to enhance critical thinking, creativity, scientific temper, communication, collaboration, problem solving, ethics, social responsibility and digital literacy. The objective for this dynamic transformation is set to be achieved by 2022’. This article also points out that the NEP has elements that make training interventions for teachers sturdier as this is the only way to upgrade the doddering literacy and numeracy that exists today. Besides strategic placements of focused training for teachers (other points of focus will be recruitment, motivation, continuous education and career development), a positive increase in the use of technology is aimed at. Even Mr Anil D Sahasrabudhe, Chairman, AICTE was quoted as saying that our ‘faculty today must be prepared to bring in creative thinking and thus their critical analysis of the entire system will become note-worthy in multiple ways.’ This obviously cannot be possible unless there is an equally powerful thrust of public investment in education. These are the two pillars besides a single-minded focus on vocational and adult education that are going to lead the nation towards universal access to education by 2030. I have also asked as to why NCERT did not think of developing a national curriculum framework for adult education all these years? The question that I’d like to ask here is if all the giant procedure and process generating institutions work only when a policy pushes and catalyses them? Are terms like ‘being proactive’ actively prancing around only for junior executives in multi-nationals? Yes, policy makers believe that certain changes will improve governance, but isn’t it time that our thinking bodies stopped just waiting for instructions and began generating ideas to maximize resource utilization? Thus it is correct and timely for this policy to suggest the creation of an independent State School Regulatory Authority to handle all sorts of school regulations including the oversight of the system and implementation of accreditation. A separation of functions to eliminate conflicts of interests is obviously included.
This book is definitely an engrossing one because the author expressed issues and their solutions without sounding preachy and text-bookish. He has even remarked that these wonderful things so far as school education is concerned will have to face difficulties of acceptance at all levels, however, ‘to overcome resistance to change, we must win over teachers’ as ‘our education system and policy must encourage innovation and learning’.
Education today is not a choice between an eager child and an enthusiastic teacher but goes way above it. This is all achievable if the elements of change are expressed well as ‘any change in the world must be brought about by the power of expression’. At any level, be it school or higher education, the basic premise for any long-lasting change is a relationship between the teacher, the taught, the administration, policies, society, and parents. It is only when passion meets education that a literacy revolution is born, as noted by Clinton School of Public Service.
Details of the book
Title: My Good School
Author: Sandeep Dutt
Publisher: Rupa Publications India Pvt Ltd
21 February 2021