Recently, Ministry of Human Resource Development was renamed Ministry of Education by Government of India. A well-meaning gesture, one would say. A long-winding name, hard to decipher, gets replaced by a sweet and short one. The new name connotes the priority and objective of the department – what it upholds and works for. However, basis the actual actions of the department, I propose to rename it as Ministry of Examinations.
Under normal circumstances, actions of a Government department do not come to a layman’s notice unless it does something truly path-breaking. But these are not regular conditions. This is the time of the COVID-19 pandemic. After the Ministry of Health, if there is one Ministry that would be of utmost importance to citizens – it is the Ministry of Education.
It is the actions during this pandemic that signifies what the Ministry stands for and acts for. This is the time when the students need help, the parents need support for their children, the schools and colleges need back-up aid. Ministry of Education could have taken steps to justify and come true to its new name. It could have been the supreme champion of Indian education and become the most celebrated Ministry in the Government.
In reality, what has been the Ministry up to?
Guidelines and Guidelines and Examinations
Ministry of Education has released umpteen guidelines on online education. There is no follow-up on the efficacy, students left out, execution by the schools etc. The Ministry claimed to circulate a number of online modules for teaching. Again no data on how many students, teachers and schools actually benefitted, the reach etc.
Once the pandemic started to subside, the Ministry released guidelines on reopening of schools and colleges. Post the guidelines, the Ministry went into hibernation with no report on whether the States are following the directions. As on date, few schools and colleges have opened in bits and pieces or they are going to reopen now.
What happens to students left out by online education/unable to cope with the demands of screen-only learning? What about parents that are unable to pay the fees? How about the schools and colleges that do not have the bandwidth for online classes/reopening protocols? What about the well-being of teachers in private schools?
No answers. No ownership. Now, compare this with the self-righteous zeal for JEE/NEET/final-year college exams.
At that point of time, COVID-19 had just about started to recede, but the exams were held nonetheless. There were a big hue and cry by the students and the parents, but ultimately in the dog-eat-dog world of ultra-competitive entrance exams, they had to fall in line.
Though, nothing much has happened post the first-year admissions in engineering/medical colleges. That’s fine. Entrance examinations were mandatory. Final year college exams were a charade and after the graduation, students have few jobs on offer. That’s fine. Final year examinations were mandatory.
What’s the learning from the above-mentioned real-life actions by the Ministry? Mention the word Examinations and the Ministry swings into action. Else, it is the case of some guidelines here and there followed by a prolonged slumber.
No Alternative To Examinations
Indian education is infamous for the single-minded focus on rote learning that can be evaluated only by writing exams. Ministry of Education, coinciding with the name change, released the New Education Policy (NEP). However in that too, the focus on examinations has not got diluted any bit. Apart from the dreadful suggestion of primary education in mother tongue, it has nothing new to offer, least on exams.
The students are told to think out of the box, re-imagine, re-invent and all such theory. However, when it is about coming up with an option to the rote fest, the Ministry is devoid of ideas. Leave aside coming up with an option, we are made to believe that there is no alternative at all.
In regular times, nobody would discuss discarding the fossilized notion of exams that we have. If even during this unprecedented times, we cannot let go of our perception that there is no alternative to the normal exams; what a new normal are we talking about?
To reduce the students’ stress, what has the Ministry done? Reduce the syllabus by 30% but it is the exams for the remaining 70% that will matter. The syllabus can be worked around, but not the exams. The Ministry has let known the priorities to all.
Ministry of Examinations, It Is
All through the COVID-19 pandemic, what have been the maximum interactions of Honourable Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal about? Announcing the examination dates.
What did he speak about other than exams? I have not come across anything. If you get to know, please do share. His Ministry and his good self know nothing other than the exams, exams and the exams. At least, that is what his and the Ministry’s actions show and prove.
In light of the above, I propose to rename the Ministry of Education as Ministry of Examinations.
What are your views on this subject?
PS: PS: I am a stay-at-home father to six-year-old twin daughters, neither an educationist nor an expert. The above thoughts are an expression of parenting is having an opinion, getting involved and trying to better.