A more calibrated approach is needed to reduce the syllabus
GN Bureau | March 1, 2018
The decision to cut the NCERT syllabus by half is a laudable move, but one that is fraught with long term risks.
The NCERT syllabus will be reduced by half from the 2019 academic session to provide relief to school students, human resource development minister Prakash Javadekar has said, reported Hindustan Times.
This is expected to benefit thousands of youngsters who are burdened with a syllabus bigger than that of students pursuing their graduate degrees. “At the stage of development of cognitive skills, students need to be given full freedom. I have asked NCERT to reduce the syllabus by half and it will be effective from the 2019 academic session,” the minister told Rajya Sabha TV.
On the face of it, this makes a lot of sense. The students are indeed burdened with heavy books, so much so that children stoop under the weight of their bags. The bags, loaded with textbooks, guides, homework notebooks, rough work notebook, weigh over 15 kg.
Reducing the syllabus will also help in giving more time to the children to play and participate in co-curricular activities. This will enable holistic development, something on the lines what Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore had envisioned. He was in favour of holistic education that was deeply rooted in one's culture and surroundings but also connected to the wider world.
So, what’s the problem then? What must be bothering parents now is if the syllabus is reduced, then at what stage the child will begin to learn those concepts which have been shorn.
First it will be a challenge to reduce the syllabus and then once it is done, the students will have to be introduced to difficult concepts at some stage of schooling. If all the tough elements are loaded into class XI and class XII books, then the burden will prove too much and there could be a steep hike in failure rate.
And if the tough elements are not introduced at all in school, then it would have to be taught at the undergraduate and postgraduate level. What happens then? The children will suddenly find themselves at sea. The best option is to gradually scale up subjects so that the student is well prepared by the time he or she reaches the university level.
In any case, each individual will have to take up academic challenges and there is no point in pushing it down the road.
Another thing which is not quite clear at this stage is why the syllabus has to be reduced by half. Why not bring it down by a quarter or one third. What is the logic behind choosing the half way mark? Have some experts recommended it or a study has been carried out to assess how much it needs to be reduced to derive maximum benefit for the students.
Perhaps a more calibrated approach could well do the trick. Something in the lines of shaving off 10 percent of the syllabus every year over a five year period, instead of striking off 50 percent of the syllabus in one go.
One does have to keep in mind that in the entrance examinations for engineering and medicine, there is no discussion reshaping it. So, if a child wants to be an engineer, she will face a Himalayan hurdle at the time of taking the entrance exams since she may not have comprehensively studied concepts due to reduced syllabus.
A way out will be to also restructure the higher education syllabus. That, however, may prove to be counterproductive as the country will slip behind other nations in terms of the knowledge bank of young professionals.
Fine tuning of the syllabus is going to be a tight rope walk and the education policy experts will need to bear in mind that short term gains do not lead to long term losses.
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