The pandemic is the most recent example of when and how values such as resilience, patience, compassion, and empathy can help us be more rational and humane.
What we need is a combination of varied subjects with differentiated and individualised methods of teaching, and a focus on overall development of mind and body. Education needs to train students for the world outside schools and universities, which is far more challenging than a classroom.
Students should be imparted knowledge in such a way that they are prepared to face global challenges as insightful and responsible citizens. A curriculum on a par with global standards, along with the right amount of hands-on practical training as well as social learning projects, is the need of the hour.
The Indian government has addressed one component of such progressive education through the New Education Policy 2020. Some key reforms that affect the way education is viewed are: the introduction of a 5 + 3 + 3 + 4 format, instead of the 10 + 2 system; the merging of Science, Commerce and Arts into multidisciplinary subjects, giving students fluidity to study what interests them; focusing on soft skills development and the integration of vocational education.
Soft skills development needs a comprehensive lens and the inculcation should start at school by partnering with non-government organisations that are doing some sterling work in these areas.
Youngsters need to be taught humanistic skills and values such as respect, patience, and kindness, among others.
It is vital to develop foundational practices that cultivate compassion, build resilience, and address the issues of our time through a systematic values-based approach.
As the learning landscape in India evolves, we must keep in mind our goal: to prepare students for life and its challenges. To do so, our education must look and feel more like the outside world — full of divergent voices, and complexities but with the tools to untangle them. If we foresee our youth as global leaders and citizens of tomorrow, we must begin the groundwork today. What better place to start than their classrooms?
The writer is Managing Trustee, Max India Foundation and SEE Learning India