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  • Priyank Sharma

Why education reform efforts don't work?

Problem: The system is rote learning based.

Solution: Let's do experiential learning.

Problem: The students from marginalized background are unable to crack IIT-JEE

Solution: Let's set up coaching centres that provides them free coaching

This is how education reform works mostly. People come to understand that X is the problem and they design a solution Y for it. But almost no one asks, why was X existing as a problem in the first place?

Taking the above (first) example, you will see that we educators often say that we have rote learning in schools and it's one of the core problems, so, let's do experiential or activity based or hands-on learning. Cool!

But, ask the same educators - why is the system rote learning based? You will hear vague (but delightful) answers. I came up with this post because I was approached by a fellow educator discussing solutions for the problems in the education system but there was no why in it. It's interesting, isn't it? We design "equitable solutions" for problems without knowing the why of the problem deeply. Such solutions do have an impact on the system, but it can hardly reform it.

For knowing the why, one has to dig critically, read, participate, examine, get a historical perspective, discuss, reflect; in short, understand the system deeply. And that requires a lot of effort! But, how do we reform a system when we don't know why the system is like that in the first place?

If not anywhere else, the "solutions" will fall flat for the last mile, but it's almost always too late when we realize that.

Look at the video below. I love this movie, not because it's based on a real life story where series of events impacted some of the most marginalized but because this movie brings to fore subtle nuances to equity in education that mainstream media is often unable to.

For instance, in this scene, students from humble socio-economic background, even though, knew the answers to the questions in the exam, still couldn't perform, because they felt inferior and out of place in the big magnificent exam hall. That's a crude and important reality for us educators to understand.

So, unlike education reforms where govts. and organizations give entrance exam coaching and call it equity - it is still not, there's a lot more to equity.

In fact, it doesn't stop there - what happens to these students after they enter college? Do you know who drops out of the IITs? What is the background of the drop-out students? And why do they drop out from one of the most prestigious institutes of the country?

For every problem we see in the education system, let's first ask why? It may look simple and obvious, but it's not. Your why has to be a deep and critical one. If you were to believe me, once you understand it with depth, your solutions will change, or rather your solutions will stay but there's going to be a lot more work before you reach your solutions.


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