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Transforming the Terms of the Debate

Sarada Balagopalan

By Yashpal.
NCERT, New Delhi, 2005, price not stated.

VOLUME XXIX NUMBER 10 October 2005

How children learn has been largely overlooked in curricular policy- making in this country. More significantly, this has never been the reason these policies draw public attention. Civil society in India is less persuaded by the politics of how children learn and more swayed by the politicization of what they learn. This was once again exemplified in the recent controversy that surrounded the National Curricular Framework 2005 (NCF from now on) whose public discussions were limited to whether the document adequately promoted a secular education or not. This when in fact the NCF 2005 is perhaps the only national document that has brought into the public domain a detailed discussion of progressive pedagogy whose understandings had thus far been restricted to educators and experiments carried out either at the grassroots level or in very elite schools.   Chaired by Professor Yashpal, the NCF was written through a process of public collaboration in which over 200 persons were involved in 21 focus groups. These focus groups discussed and analysed various curricular areas including the usual suspects of science, social science, mathematics while adding to its purview four new areas of work and education, physical education, arts and heritage crafts education, and peace education. In addition, focus groups were constituted to reflect on fundamental concerns that affect the functioning of the educational system, including the problems faced by SC and ST children, an analysis of gender and education, and education for children with special needs. Lastly, in recognition of the obvious fact that the proposed epistemic shift being advocated in the document (from learning by rote to the child as an active learner) cannot be undertaken within the system as it currently exists, the NCF argues for systemic reforms to be undertaken in the areas of teacher education, syllabus and textbooks, in government schools, educational technology and in the logic of the current examination system.   While all of these focus group papers are part of the three volume appendix of the NCF, the five chapters in the main document focus on the issues of overall perspective; learning and knowledge; curricular areas, school stages and assessment; schooling and classroom environment and systemic reforms. The wealth of material in the focus group papers has not been able to find adequate discussion in the main document and quite a few of the chapters read like a well intentioned, but hurried, cut and paste job from these. This not only affects ...

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