The fourth goal of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) pronounces Ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning. If the goal is split into apparent three parts, making efforts for inclusive education through increased access to it is one part. Maintaining the quality of education and promoting lifelong learning form the rest two parts. The primary part i.e. inclusive education can be realized by making it universal for all across regions, between genders and irrespective of social and economic situations. And, the world has made extensive progress in this aspect in pursuit of the Goal 2 (Zero Hunger) of the previous global effort under MDGs. Hence, the focus must be more on the rest two components of the goal.
The mission towards ensuring quality of education and promoting lifelong learning demands a range of prerequisites including, primarily, a spirit for knowledge, relevant as well as futuristic curriculum, and well-trained teachers. And, as all these feed each other, they need to be realized in an integrated and holistic way.
The changing state of affairs in several areas of socio-economic life around the globe provides innumerable challenges and opportunities which can be dealt with a knowledge-based approach. Putting it simply, all the 17 goals and 169 targets of SDGs designed to address such challenges and opportunities need knowledge as capital for their accomplishment. So, education plays a critical role in achievement in SDGs. Learning and acquiring knowledge is continues and long life journey.
Coming to the Indian context, as the country with its 130 crore population is bracing itself for this new socio-economic order, reforming the education sector for creating a knowledge society and knowledge economy has become highly imperative. While the youth, as future generation, forms 50% of the population of India, making them future-ready means equipping them with quality education. But, the current education system having its origin in the pre-independence era has somehow become anachronistic in several ways. Now it fails to generate and maintain scientific temperament, creative spirit and aspiration among the learners. It does not awaken the student, and only promotes rote-learning. With its poor and irrelevant learning outcome it no longer helps in citizenship creation and social reconstruction. Even it has become ineffective to live up to the demanding standards in the field of everyday work. Hence, in no way this existing education system can be called qualitative to serve the SDG goals. India should invest more and more in Education, particularly in STEAM education.
For making a qualitative shift it is necessary to relook at the education sector and modify existing policies and practices which enable the system to bring the creative faculty of children and youth and put into use for social progress. The primary objective of such reform ought to be moving from examination-oriented learning to life-long learning which rests on the undying spirit for knowledge. Such spirit is generated from the understanding that knowledge is the most important capital for human development and balanced life.
This understanding is to be inculcated in the mind of students at an early age. Course curriculum of schools and higher educational levels should be designed with the intent to make them applicable and appropriate for everyday life. Undergoing such studies students can connect themselves better with the real world and develop problem-solving attitude. Further, their tendency for imagination, aspiration and innovation may be boosted by these studies. One such method of education i.e. STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) is gaining ground these days in many parts of the globe.
STEAM is a unified learning system with an interdisciplinary approach. It is taught in simulating and connected situations. If we look back to our ancient systems of education we will possibly find some similitude in their approach with the STEAM approach. So, now it is high time to rework and transform the current way of learning, which are in practice for decades, by instilling elements of holistic approach to education.
In addition, apt to state here, this quality transformation can be possible if quality teachers are created and brought into action. Creating enabling environment and arming them with the best inputs are critical for this mission of quality education.
Himanshu Sekhar Panigrahi works with Hindustan Copper Limited as Dy. Manager-CSR. Rusen Kumar is founder of India CSR Network.
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Photo: University of York