Friday, October 30, 2020

Hard choices

We all know that teaching and learning is a two-way bridge. While teachers impart necessary training, transmit knowledge and develop prescribed skills, and expertise among their students, the latter must reciprocate with added innovative inputs, creative insights and analytical perspectives. While learning is a never ending quest, assessment and evaluation are significant milestones of this journey; but not the destination. However assessment and evaluation is the logical conclusion and fitting culmination of an effective teaching-learning process without which this transaction remains incomplete and consequently effectiveness of this process remains inconclusive. Learning outcomes of teaching cannot be sufficiently accomplished and ascertained unless students are adequately assessed and evaluated for the same no matter what kind of means and methods are adopted for that purpose. Assessment and evaluation ethically, epistemologically and statutorily binds a student in an uncompromising commitment to learn, fulfill the set criteria and acquire necessary knowledge outlined in the curriculum. Once this binding is scrapped, teaching-learning process becomes rudderless. It is no hidden secret that in our scheme of things, only a small percentage of our students remains personally committed and sufficiently self-motivated towards learning while unfortunately a vast majority of them, practically speaking, enter educational institutions merely to earn their degrees and subsequently seek jobs to earn their livelihood. More than the students themselves, our education system needs to be blamed for this debacle. Worldwide, focus of education is rapidly shifting from imposed teaching to self-learning, from obtruded knowledge to self-exploration, from stringently packaged-learning to free and creative thinking but it will take some time in our settings to inculcate that kind of mental attitude, creative ideals and constructive mindset among our students owing to our meager exposure to the best practices followed in the developed world and therefore at this juncture we cannot completely give away our conventional methods overnight. Our transition towards this kind of enlightened thinking has to be gradual and well-calibrated; nevertheless sooner or later this kind of transition has to happen. We have to liberate our education from the shackles of monotonous teaching. Today our education sector has suffered immensely due to the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown and shutdown of educational institutions. Because of the circumstances, some students’ bodies are demanding mass promotions in colleges and universities. But if such mass promotions are given, it will have disastrous consequences upon our budding generations. This will amount to aiding and abetting in churning out graduated illiterates and uneducated graduates from our colleges and universities. Instead of developing novel and innovative ways to assess and evaluate the students, we sometimes might find it easier to dole out mass promotions to the students at large and absolve ourselves of all responsibilities of evaluating the basic pre-requisites of graduation among students. But this way we will be paving way for a long-term deterioration of the society since this act amounts to slow poisoning. Mass promotions will lead to graduates sans any knowledge, skills and competencies. People will be holding degrees in their hands without any aptitude and know-how about their area of expertise. Such graduates can hardly be expected to contribute significantly towards nation building. There is no denial of the fact that the lockdown has taken a toll on the education sector. Students are finding it hard to receive knowledge from their teachers, building more pressure upon them to study on their own and explore educational resources for themselves. Though some online teaching has been started, due to low internet speed and poor connectivity, students have been finding it hard to attend online lectures without any disruptions. Overall it has been a very discouraging and unpleasant experience for both the students and teachers. However mass promotion is no solution to this problem faced by the students! In fact the main focus of our students should always be on learning rather than on passing examinations and gaining degrees. They need to introspect what and how much they have learnt at the end of the academic session. If we try to appropriate the system to our advantage by unscrupulous means we will be fooling ourselves and not the system. While pushing for mass promotions we need to make a hard choice whether we want to develop ourselves as knowledgeable graduates or educated illiterates. It is time that we strengthen our resolve and commitment towards gaining knowledge.