Indian education today is in a state of flux. Each new day brings with it reforms and rapid changes – legislation by the government, new ideas being implemented by schools and teachers and increasing expectations from parents and students who demand more from schooling than just literacy. While national curricula are revamping their learning objectives and their focus, international curricula have invaded the country and seem to be showing the way towards a more holistic kind of education. There is an increasing clamour for ‘inquiry-based ’and ‘application-oriented’ learning. It’s not just about rote learning and studying simply to ‘ace’ the board exams now, but more about the all-round development of the students, life-skills training, and striking a balance between competition and collaboration.
Tell me, and I forget. Teach me, and I may remember. Involve me, and I learn.
– Benjamin Franklin
This kind of change is needed, looked for and appreciated if we are to truly educate our children and equip them with the tools necessary to cope with and succeed in a rapidly globalising world. While the Indian education system does have a lot to offer in terms of rigour, work ethic and discipline, it has miles to go in the quest to keep pace with changes in the world around us (we had explored this theme in detail in the cover story of our third issue – “Raising Children who Straddle Indian and Global Worlds”). To support this shift in learning objectives and to infuse quality into education, it is obvious that teaching methods need to evolve as well – from the traditional curriculum-centred to a student-centred approach.
So, what does student-centred learning mean, what does it entail and why is the term so often on the lips of educationists today?
Understanding student-centred learning
Generally, student-centred learning can be taken to mean a form of education where, really, the student is at the centre of the teaching and learning process and the objective is to identify and meet his needs, rather than simply complete the syllabus on time or push him to score higher marks.
Student-centred learning revolves around teaching children how to ‘learn’; moving them from being ‘students’ to ‘learners’; or in lay terms, not just giving them the information, but teaching them how to find the relevant information. It is really about laying the foundation for life-long learning and equipping the student with the cognitive tools that he will use in real-life situations.
Kamakshi Jayaram, Principal, Samhita Academy, Bangalore agrees – “Students can face the rigours of any kind of curriculum as long as they learn in the right way. The focus of education should be on learning to learn; we don’t look at how much a child learns, but rather on how a child learns.” That said, let us examine the ingredients that combine to make learning truly studentcentred.
An important and critical aspect of any school is the curriculum it follows. In the words of G. Balasubramanian, ex-Director (Academics), CBSE, “A curriculum provides a framework of knowledge and skills contextualised to a local environment, enabling the learner to acquire self-confidence.” This seems to suggest that the Board that a school is affiliated with can make a difference to the kind of education that the school offers.
Post the RTE Act, Indian Boards are being closely studied and revamped to make the curriculum more child-friendly and focused on qualitative learning. In fact, there is an on-going and vehement debate around which Board is more student-friendly and delivers quality education. Let’s take a quick look at the different pan-India Boards and how each addresses the all-important need to be student friendly.