GenWise's Response to the New Education Policy Draft

Vishnuteerth Agnihotri from GenWise very kindly shared some of the suggestions sent by, in response to the NEP Draft of 2019. 

Response to the Draft NEP 2019 from GenWise

GenWise is a group of accomplished mentors (25+), with an excellent blend of corporate, academic, local and international perspectives. We see our role as supporting schools and parents, by bringing in contemporary knowledge and ways of thinking of researchers, experts and practitioners to young students, and we have been doing this through residential summer programs, experiential programs as well as in-school day scholar programs. Our key strength is enabling students to truly experience deep learning on contemporary themes. 

We congratulate the NEP Panel on working on this very difficult task and bringing out the Draft NEP which has several excellent recommendations. In the spirit of constructive and productive engagement in the transformation of our education system, we also present a critique of some of the proposed elements. Our response focuses on the School Education section of the Draft NEP, and has 3 parts-

  • Overall Observations- our comments on the overall direction and focus of the Draft NEP

  • Specific Observations- our comments on specific sections and paras of the Draft NEP which could be considered while finalizing the NEP

  • Specific Recommendations- Specific implementable actions that we believe are ‘high leverage’ in achieving the goals of the NEP

For clarifications on our response to the Draft NEP below, please write to [email protected]

Overall Observations

  1. The Draft NEP lays out the vision for the education system in India to be one that will  “ensure that it touches the life of each and every citizen, consistent with their ability to contribute to many growing developmental imperatives of this country on the one hand, and towards creating a just and equitable society on the other.”. This vision appears to see the individual only from the dimension of her/his contribution to the country and not as a being whose human personality can be developed and enriched through learning. Enriched individuals will naturally make strong contributions to the country.

  2. The Draft NEP proposes major revamps in several areas while talking very little about lessons learned from the past- why certain initiatives worked or did not work. India has extensive historical experience in education. It is crucial for the development of an effective and impactful education policy to be informed and shaped by the learnings from this experience and institutional memory.  

  3. The Draft NEP makes several excellent points that have the potential to bring huge improvements to the system. However, there are too many proposals with no prioritization. A more focused NEP will provide a clearer direction to implementing bodies. 

  4. The Draft NEP ignores the huge challenge of ‘mindset change’ among parents, teachers and educational leaders/ administrators that would be needed to promote critical thinking in democratic classrooms. It assumes that the educational leadership believes in ‘questioning, critical thinking, and teacher empowerment’ as crucially important. However, past actions of educational leaders indicate that such a belief is rare among educational leaders, and a mindset change is needed even among leaders.

For example, when one educational program is replaced by another, we rarely see an analysis of learning from the past effort and how it is informing the new one (e.g. shift in the ABL models in Madhya Pradesh and Tamil Nadu- see pages 67, 68 and 70 of ). What message does this send to the system on how important we consider ‘critical thinking and questioning’? Teacher involvement in important decisions about teaching-learning models and other things that affect them, is typically quite low; what does this tell teachers about our belief in ‘teacher empowerment’? (see pages 66 and 67 of . Even the extent of input of the best teachers in our country to this Draft NEP seems unclear.

  1. Another aspect of mindset change is to recognize that learning happens not just in school but also at home and in the larger community we are part of. Pasi Sahlberg, Finnish Educator, believes that the excellent performance of Finland in PISA is influenced by the opportunity available to Finnish children to engage in productive activities outside of school- whether reading because of the ‘dense library system’ or immersion in sports, arts and culture through one of the many ‘NGO clubs’. Closer to home, experts believe that the relatively higher levels of literacy and reading ability in Kerala was influenced by the availability of reading material at low cost and the availability of reading rooms or ‘vayanashalas’ across towns. Thus the NEP should look at ways of nurturing informal networks and communities that support the work of schools in helping all children to succeed.

  2. Apart from initiatives to bring ‘mindset change’, significant capacity building is needed to equip key players in the education system to play their role effectively. While the Draft NEP does talk about measures needed for capacity building of teachers, it does not talk about capacity building measures for educational administrators. Capacity Building refers to-

    1. Teacher Education- This is the rate limiting factor (to use an enzyme kinetics analogy) in the creation of a meaningful education system. The NEP articulates, fairly strongly, about the urgent need to overhaul teacher education, hiring and deployment and the overall teaching and learning culture. It also provides an extremely ambitious programme towards this but the implementation roadmap (Addendum 2) provided does not reflect this urgency. The priority as laid out in the roadmap continues to be on infrastructure and administrative arrangements.

    2. Building a Body of Knowledge on Learning and Implementing Educational Programs- A research-based body of knowledge that is robust and easily accessible is necessary. This should be built upon the knowledge of both teachers and experts. To use the medical analogy, the teacher is a practitioner analogous to a doctor, who is in the best position to help the learner learn. Just like the doctor though, the teacher too needs to refer to research journals or speak with academic experts in the area of medicine to hone her understanding and knowledge, while also contributing to this knowledge, through her on-field experience. A similar case can be made for building a body of knowledge relevant to educational administrators and leaders on areas like ‘how to build a vibrant community of teachers’.

    3. Training of Educational Leaders- This involves providing leaders with an understanding of the context of the education system, what a ‘system’ is and principles that are important in bringing about systemic improvement. For example, all educational leaders should be familiarized with the work of Donella Meadows, that points out how changes in social structures (like allowing teachers to self-organize) can be far more powerful that changes in physical inputs. See -an article by Donella Meadows on 12 Leverage Points (or places to intervene) in a system. The recommendation on creating vibrant teacher communities, later in this document, is based on Leverage Point no. 4 in Meadows’ list- ‘The power to add, change, evolve, or self-organize system structure’. In simple words, communities of teachers who evolve teaching practices on their own (and are thus ‘self-organizing’), are far more powerful and resilient than teachers working independently relying only on ‘top-down’ inputs.

In our opinion, a more focused NEP would have Capacity Building and Mindset Change as the areas of focus in School Education. Further, the many contradictions in the Draft NEP proposals (whether real or apparent) should be addressed and clarified. 

  1. Some examples of the contradictions are shared below.

    1. importance of instruction in mother tongue vs learning to read in 3 scripts by Grade 2

    2. reduce curricular load by focusing on essentials vs proliferation in the number of subjects

  2. When there are contradictions in the policy or across educational programs, the goal and approach to be adopted are unclear and leads to low adoption (see pages 67 and 68 of ). Therefore communicating a single clear goal can be very powerful. For example, to achieve Foundational Literacy and Numeracy, it would be good to give a single goal along the lines of “By Grade 5, a child should be able to read an ‘unseen passage’ in her mother tongue, write a page expressing her own ideas, do simple arithmetic involved in a real-life transaction. Nothing else is more important till 2023 by when this goal should be achieved”.

  3. Lasting change is difficult, requires time, and moving away from entrenched paradigms. In other words, the desired outcomes- like children reading, doing arithmetic, knowing 3 languages etc. will take time (a 2-3 year process which may be achieved between age 6-7 to 10-11).  Because of the time lag involved in this change, such outcomes can be termed as ‘lagging indicators’.If the system is looking only at ‘lagging indicators’, the assessments will get dumbed down to ‘show’ that these goals have been achieved. This has been seen on numerous occasions when large scale assessments are done. One striking example one of our team members saw in an evaluation study, is a child reciting a story in English confidently, but being unable to explain the story in her mother tongue! This problem is exacerbated if there is an insistence that certain goals are achieved every 3 or 6 months. This issue can be addressed by having ‘leading indicators’ of change that provide confidence that we are on the right track (for example the ‘number of pushups done daily’ is a leading indicator of increased muscle strength that may take some months to develop). Possible ‘leading indicators’ would be children speaking up freely in their mother tongue, taking part in language/ arithmetic games, sharing stories, teachers being aware of what students can/ cannot do at any given point of time. In other words, the system should be clear and confident about the ‘process’ to be employed and results will come in due time.

Assessment of learning outcomes is of course important but these should be done along with the assessment of 'leading process indicators', in a low stakes manner and perhaps less frequently (say once in 2-3 years, at least in the beginning, until significant improvements are made).

Specific Observations

  1. Leveraging Peer Learning- P 2.5 talks of ‘best performers’ in each school being selected for the National Tutors Programme, and being selected for the NTP will be considered a ‘prestigious position’ - the spirit of such language if it seeps in is likely to create unnecessary competition and a superior/ inferior mindset among students. It would be more inclusive and effective to foster an informal culture of peers helping each other learn.

  2. Instructional Aides from the Community- P 2.6 talks of recruiting Instructional Aides , especially women, from local communities for remedial teaching during and after school hours. While the idea of community involvement and remediation is good, one needs to take care that this does not end up like the ‘para-teacher’ scheme with core teaching activities being done by these aides.

  3. Ethical and Moral Reasoning- Ethical and moral reasoning is rightly identified as a very important goal. Values of empathy and compassion must be nurtured which will build values of acceptance, tolerance and fraternity.  Empathy, compassion, acceptance will also allow children from a very young age to value diversity – cultural and social. This is critical in the context of the deeply entrenched caste differences prevalent even today in India. Such value systems are essential for the development of a just society as envisaged in the Draft NEP's vision. However, the NEP should recognize the conflict between its goal of ‘critical thinking and questioning’ and ‘getting students to adopt certain values’. For example, the value of ‘sacrifice’ could result in gender, ethnicity, class and caste inequalities remaining unchallenged and the value of ‘patriotism’ could lead to unquestioning nationalism. We believe that it is possible to manage this conflict by recognizing values development as a process that can be nurtured and facilitated through critical engagement with issues pertaining to personal and social values and behaviour, as well as ‘modeling’ of behaviour. The most important values, in any case, cannot be ‘transmitted’ through moralizing and laying down a code of conduct. Appropriate teacher education is crucial to ensure that these values are nurtured in a sensitive and thoughtful manner rather than ‘handed down’ in a moralistic or dogmatic fashion. 

How teachers and school staff engage with students in day to day interactions is extremely important in nurturing values- as it has been said, values are ‘caught’, not ‘taught’. For example, impartiality and fairness in and outside class, how teachers encourage children, how they provide feedback, whether they listen to them, how they interact with their parents, how adults in school resolve interpersonal conflicts- all of these influence values development in students more strongly than lessons on ethical and moral reasoning.

  1. Sex Education- In the context of sex education [Section] it is important to begin this process from the Middle Stage (11-14 years) to coincide with and provide emotional support at the onset of puberty.  An important objective of sex education should be to inculcate a healthy relationship and understanding of gender and sexuality.

  2. Gender Equality- In the list of inspiring leaders [P.] provided, women scientists and leaders are conspicuous by their absence (M.S. Subbalakshmi is the only woman mentioned). Such an inherent gender bias in a policy document must be immediately corrected. This is in contradiction to the proposals referred to elsewhere in the policy to promote education for girls. It is also counter to the Government's push towards ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao’.

  3. Knowledge of India- In Section 4.6.9 where integration of Knowledge of India into the education system is discussed, the NEP talks about inclusion of local and tribal knowledge into the curriculum and textbooks. Does the policy propose region specific text books to be written? As indicated in 4.8.2 and 4.8.3, SCERTs will be tasked to produce State specific sections in textbooks. Does this include integration into Science textbooks? For instance inclusion of Traditional Ecological Knowledge (recognised today as a distinct stream of study globally) and its relevance to taxonomy, understanding of ecological systems and adaptation to climate change.

  4. Integration of Subjects- New subjects like 'Critical Issues' and 'Indian Knowledge Systems' are being introduced while talking simultaneously about 'reducing curricular load to essential ideas to permit nuanced discussion and understanding'. The objectives of the Draft NEP can be met much better by integration of the proposed 'courses/ subjects' with existing subjects. For example, there is plenty of scope to integrate Language with Social Studies/ EVS at the primary level, and important content and ideas of 'Critical Issues', ‘Current Affairs’ and 'Indian Knowledge Systems' can be integrated into Social Studies at the Middle and Secondary levels.

  5. Critical Issues Course- It is appreciated that an effort towards creating greater awareness is proposed among children starting with Grades 7 and 8. However it seems rather strange to see a Government programme (Swacch Bharat) listed among issues such as climate change, water, sanitation etc. among the list of critical issues [P4.6.10.1].  Students should be exposed to various approaches / responses to managing water sustainably rather than specifically a programme. 

  6. Experiential Learning- The NEP mentions experiential learning at various points in the context of curriculum and pedagogy. Conspicuous by its absence is any reference to engagement with nature across all stages of learning. Innumerable studies from across the world have shown that the increased alienation of children from their natural surroundings has impacted physical, mental and emotional growth. Nature Deficit Disorder / Syndrome is being recognised as a legitimate problem. Together with reading and numeracy it is critical that the policy emphasize experiential learning through active and hands-on engagement with nature in the surrounding environment (e.g., learning through the senses, working with soil, creating with natural material, observing changes in the immediate natural environment around us etc.). This is essential not only for intellectual and emotional development of the child but also for developing motor skills, dexterity, observation and other sensory skills. At each learning level described in the NEP, suitable curriculum will need to be developed to deepen the engagement, exploration and learning. This is not something to be included merely as a part of Biology in the STEM curricula but as an essential component of experiential learning. See .

  7. Centralization of Development of Learning Material- P 4.8.2 mentions NCERT’s primary role in developing textbooks. While it is useful to have textbooks from NCERT given their expertise, there needs to be capacity at the state and local level to build good quality learning material including textbooks, given the wide diversity of contexts across the country. There is a wide diversity of contexts even within a state.

  8. College-readiness by the end of Grade 12- Students should have depth of knowledge in at least one stream by the end of Grade 12, if they are to be college ready. Given the clubbing of Grades 9-12 under one ‘secondary umbrella’, a wider variety of subjects and the proposed semester based assessment system across 4 years, depth of learning in one stream may get compromised. In 4.9 it is proposed that between Grade 9 and 12, there will be 40 ‘subjects’ across all semesters, 24 of which will be assessed by board exams, of which 2 are Math, 2 science, one each in Indian and world history, one in economics, commerce etc. and other 15 + left to school assessment. Perhaps it would be better to focus on the ‘breadth’ goal till Grade 10 and focus more on ‘depth’ in Grades 11-12 (maintaining some degree of ‘depth’).

  9. Lack of Clarity on Assessment System – P 4.9 talks about various points– Assessment of higher order thinking skills, Easier board exams, Repeated taking of board exams with two or more attempts to improve scores, Board exams every semester replacing end of year school assessments, assessments through open book exams for secondary school students and so on. There is no clarity on what exactly the assessment system will be, and some of the suggestions are not aligned with the others.

  10. College Admission Testing- If the ‘board exams’ are being reformed is there a need for another testing agency for admissions to universities. Multiple high-stakes exams will increase stress. The school leaving exams and the college admission exams need to be thought through carefully and rationalized.

Specific Recommendations

Mindset change and capacity building are closely interlinked- changing mindsets itself requires capacity building, and building capacity requires changing mindsets. Still we have shared our recommendations under separate heads to emphasize the importance of each.

Mindset Change

  1. Public Education Campaigns on a Massive Scale- Important messages that are well designed (remember the wide appeal of ‘3 Idiots’) should be disseminated through TV/ Radio/ Social Media/ Hoardings. These should be on different relevant themes. Popular national figures like Virat Kohli and Amir Khan or local figures can be used in the campaigns. Some important themes are-

    1. The value of critical thinking and questioning- interesting questions can be used in the campaign (represent all numbers up to 1023 using 10 digits of our hands). Perhaps a mascot can be created (like Boojho/ Paheli in the NCERT textbooks) who signifies critical thinking and questioning and stories involving this mascot can be created to spread awareness of the importance of such thinking.

    2. English medium is not equal to good education- by highlighting success stories of non-English medium learners and highlighting world-class regional language schools (see point no. 2)

    3. Negatives of competitive pressure- highlighting the success/ well-being of students and schools which do not adopt a competitive spirit 

    4. Value of learning outside of school- The value of non-curricular learning (and the linkages between the curriculum and real life) can be highlighted using real-life case studies (the community learning hubs proposed below can be a source for such case studies). There are many children with significant knowledge, talent and skills who lose confidence in their abilities because of the excessive focus on theoretical learning and exams.

  2. World Class Schools in Regional Languages- Highlight existing high quality schools in regional languages and have a goal of 10 world class schools in regional languages for all regional languages (say in 3 years). Make films on these schools and use in teacher training and in mass public campaigns for people to start believing in high quality education in the mother tongue.

  3. Define and promote practices that lead to an organic shift in mindsets- Changes in mindset cannot be forced from the outside. However, mindsets can shift based on new experiences and how these are processed. Seemingly simple and specific practices have the power to bring about big change. For example, getting teachers to do regular home visits and discussing these in monthly CRC meetings could go a long way in creating a collaborative and inclusive school culture. Note that the teacher is not being told to be ‘inclusive’ but by helping her to experience the child’s home environment, we increase the likelihood of her taking a sensitive approach. Another example could be getting visitors to the school to wait in the school library to promote a culture of reading. The compendium, Eklavya Sari ( shares such culture building practices of one school. The ‘Centre of Evidence Based Practice’ proposed below could take the responsibility for compiling, evaluating and disseminating knowledge of such practices.

  4. Contests and Events that promote Real Learning- TV shows like ‘India’s got Talent’ and ‘Indian Idol’ have played a big role in inspiring talent in music, dance and performing arts. Shows like ‘Kaun Banega Crorepati’, ‘India Child Genius’ and ‘Mastermind’ have encouraged general awareness and knowledge. Well designed contests or shows that promote application of knowledge in different contexts, creativity, design thinking, tinkering etc. have the potential to inspire a generation of learners as well as teachers to learn joyously and focus on what’s important in learning. For example, a seemingly simple activity of making a paper column with half an A4 sheet that can support the maximum weight without collapsing offers deep richness of learning while being open-ended and can easily go on for 2-3 episodes, also allowing all viewers to participate in the experience because of the ease of availability of material. Viewers could also send in the problems they need solved to the ‘contesting group of inventors’. These contests could have close linkages to the Community Learning Hubs proposed below.

Capacity Building

  1. Community Learning Hubs- These will be high-quality learning spaces, with a library, ‘maker-space’, craft material, computers with internet etc. co-located in the same facility with adequate staffing. A lot can be done with simple tools and modest budgets, as long as there is a resourceful facilitator. The initial target could be to have several such centres at district/ block level and ultimately one per school-complex. The centre should be open to all children in the community (even if not enrolled in the school), and be open beyond school hours also. Local ‘vocational experts’ can operate in this facility; local craftsmen, electricians, plumbers etc. should play as important a role as facilitators in this space as scientists, engineers, doctors etc. This space should be used for local contests, study circles, community dialogues and celebrating festivals, and become the ‘learning hub’ for the community. Some of the best work and learning in colleges in the country is happening in such informal clubs and groups and the presence of a vibrant learning hub in each community could create a huge transformation.

This initiative is related to the School Complexes proposed in Chapter 7 of the Draft NEP. However, the Community Learning Hubs will be most powerful when the community takes ownership of this space, and the kind of energy of informal collaborations that is seen in a community during festivals, gets transferred to learning (learning here is defined in the broadest sense as any activity that does not involve ‘passive consumption’). School Complexes must look at their role as enabling the community to run a vibrant learning hub, rather than seeing this as hub as an extension of the formal schooling system.

  1. Nurturing Vibrant Communities of Practice of Teachers- In Point 6b of ‘Overall Observations’, we pointed out that the importance of the teacher as a ‘professional practitioner’. All thriving professions require vibrant communities of practice. The school complexes proposed in the Draft NEP probably provide an opportunity to nurture such communities of practice. Vibrant communities of practice have always existed in our country. Some of these have also been nurtured consciously by educational leaders e.g. In Gujarat, during the early years of implementing ‘Pragya’, master resource persons from SCERT would visit schools in a block, capturing snippets of lessons on video, and these would be discussed by teachers across schools in the block after a couple of days, leading to a rich exchange and motivating teachers.

However, much more can be done to consciously nurture teacher-led communities of practice. The challenge of ‘scaling’ should be looked at as proliferating such networks of practice with ‘top-down’ initiatives nurturing ‘bottom-up’ communities and ideas. The Berkana Institute’s framework of Name-Connect-Nourish-Illuminate offers a different paradigm to look at scaling (see ). The work of Wenger-Trayner on communities of practice also offers relevant insights. The power of building a vibrant community of teacher practice is that it is a self-organizing system (see point 6c of ‘Overall Observations’ and pages 14-16 of

A powerful example of a self-organizing community of teacher practice is the practice of ‘Lesson Study’ in Japan, that has been in existence for one hundred and thirty years. Lesson Study involves teachers working together to design, test, and improve lesson sequences, with multiple teachers observing the session, reviewing the sessions jointly and other teachers reteaching the revised lesson plans. This practice introduces teachers to the power of collaborative inquiry and the important role observation plays in opening our eyes to alternative practice. Many good ideas come from the teachers’ own experiences, increasing their confidence in practising the craft of teaching. This practice gained international attention after publication of results from the Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) video study.

  1. Educational Leaders with strong context of teaching-learning- Given the complexity in education, it is important to ensure in some way that Educational Leaders and Administrators have at least 10 years of teaching experience or strong context about education. A ‘governance paradigm’ without an understanding of how learning happens is not sufficient to be an effective educational leader. A career path should be available for teachers to grow into the highest roles in educational leadership. Lateral entry could also be allowed to exceptional individuals with a proven track record. IAS officers who come into education roles should be identified at least 2 years in advance of their actual posting and should undergo a rigorous orientation of at least 15 days and be certified by a committee before their appointment in an educational leadership role. Perhaps it is time to create an ‘Indian Education Service’ under the Civil Services.

  2. Centre for Evidence Based Practice- Constitute a ‘Centre for Evidence Based Practice’ at the central level (with representation from states), staffed with high quality researchers and teachers. This can include fellows who are part of the centre for a few months to a couple of years. This centre should collate existing evidence and do new/ further research in important areas of curriculum and pedagogy, teacher development, how to bring systemic change etc. The members from this centre should be part of committees (state and central) that define and deploy educational programs. The centre should network with educators around the country and around the world. The centre should have a high quality website of resources, start its own journal and publish high-quality research (the What Works Clearinghouse initiative in the US could guide the design of this repository- see ). This centre could be responsible for training and certifying educational leaders, including those who make a lateral entry into the government education system.

  1. Repository of good questions and projects- No effort to change the education system will work unless the ‘goal posts’ are changed. In this light, the Draft NEP rightly speaks about reforming the board examinations to assess the ability of students to think critically and reason on their own. However, such learning can happen only when teachers frame discerning questions and learning tasks and engage students in working on these. (Often it appears that there is agreement on the kind of learning that is being targeted, but on seeing the actual questions, differences in opinion surface). Initially it is difficult for teachers to differentiate between such questions and other questions, or even if they can, there is a fear that discerning questions will be too tough for students. An easily accessible repository of good questions, projects and learning tasks will go a long way towards demonstrating the kind of learning we are targeting, and catalyzing the process. Teachers and even students should be allowed to add questions and projectives to this repository with incentives for quality submissions. 

  2. Video Repository of good teaching practices- The good learning tasks repository suggested above provides teachers with engaging learning tasks that promote critical thinking and real learning. However, without specific guidance on how these should be facilitated (at least in the initial years), there is a danger that students will be taught the answers to good questions, by rote.  Providing teachers with an easily accessible collection of teaching videos will help in promoting best practices in teaching-learning. Teachers can be encouraged to submit their own videos to this repository (though these will need to be curated). Examples of such videos are shared here- (a lesson historical methods) (a lesson on getting students to think about odd and even numbers)

  3. Lateral Induction of Teachers, Facilitators and other Education Professionals- There are several people in the country with strong capabilities in different areas of education (sometimes without formal qualifications)- teaching, teacher training, assessment, e-learning and so on. There are very few avenues for these people to be recruited into the government system at the central or state level; where these people are retained, they are hired as consultants. Given the urgent need for capacity building in the country, teachers and other professionals should be inducted at all levels, irrespective of formal qualifications, as long as they can demonstrate expertise. Independent identification of good teachers and master-teachers can be done through a process of exam + demo class + interview. Some of these people may also be used to staff the community learning hubs mentioned above.


  1. Contemporary and Relevant Subject Content- The Draft NEP has already suggested new subjects/ topics like ‘Critical Issues’, ‘Current Affairs’ etc. Given the changing state of the world, some more topics should be included mandatory or optional. For example, a mandatory component should be Media Literacy and differentiating between fake news and authentic/verified news and information. Given the push for technology in education and the access that children have to the internet and other media in the NEP [P4.10.5] this should be a critical component of the learning process from an early age. Other important topics that can be offered are shared below. These could be offered as optional subjects or key ideas integrated with other subjects, or even as 2-3 days modules.

    1. The Psychology of individuals and groups

    2. Design Thinking and Hands-on Making

    3. Systems Thinking

    4. Methods of bringing social change

    5. Cognitive Science

  2. Linkages between higher education institutions and schools- To enable schools to help students understand the deeper ideas in their subjects and the latest happenings in the domain, a closer linkage between faculty of higher education institutions and schools should be created. Interes

  3. Interested faculty of higher education institutions could be released for 2-3 weeks a year to work with students, train teachers and develop learning material that can be used in schools.

Gifted Students- Identification and Programs to Nurture

It is heartening to note the proposed initiatives mentioned in 4.10 on the support of students with singular talents and interests. While the goal should be to support all students’ interests and dispositions helping them to enrich themselves and fulfil their potential, identifying and nurturing gifted students has a particular relevance in nation/ world building. As Dr. Lubinski, an expert in the psychology of gifted children from Vanderbilt University says, “When you look at the issues facing society now — whether it's health care, climate change, terrorism, energy — these are the kids who have the most potential to solve these problems. These are the kids we'd do well to bet on.” We have the following recommendations in this area.

  1. Identification of Gifted Students- Psychologists generally agree that aptitudes (or innate talent) concretize by the age of 14. This means that we are unlikely to spot new aptitudes in children after the age of 14-15. Recognizing these aptitudes early is important; if an aptitude is not recognized early enough, it will not be nurtured sufficiently. Some aptitudes may go completely unrecognized as children may have no opportunities at school or home to engage in these areas (e.g. design, playing a musical instrument).

Identification of gifted students should start by age 10 (or even earlier in some cases). Existing instruments for identification of giftedness on different dimensions (nationally and internationally) should be evaluated and a battery of quality instruments (paper-pencil tests as well as observed tasks) should be made available easily and at affordable costs (free for students of government schools). At least 10-20 master resource persons should be trained on using these instruments effectively with children. A National Gifted Talent Search Test from Grades 5-9 should be conducted annually. The test should include as many abilities that can be tested using automated scoring as possible. The existing NTSE does not test for some kinds of abilities and in any case is only available in Grade 9.

  1. Interventions to Support Gifted Students- 4.10 mentions ‘study circles’ and ‘residential summer programs’- these are welcome initiatives and will make a difference. We have also noted through media articles that a gifted school along the lines of the ‘Sirius Educational Centre’ in Russia is being considered. Additionally, other initiatives should be explored for providing gifted students the support they need. Some suggestions are shared below-

    1. Online mentoring- Both MOOCs and tutor-based programs can be used to provide challenging material and mentoring support to gifted students. Schools, School Complexes and the proposed Community Learning Hubs can provide the needed infrastructure.

    2. Acceleration- Students identified as gifted in a particular subject could attend classes in that subject with students of a higher grade. Schools have been doing this informally in rare cases. A more systematic and well-defined approach will help schools to implement this more effectively.

    3. Shorter day-scholar/ residential programs through the year- These could be 1-5 day programs during holidays, apart from longer programs in Summer. Kerala SCERT has already been conducting summer residential programs. The experience of organizations like Kerala SCERT, GenWise, NIAS etc. in India and the likes of Johns Hopkins CTY, Duke TIP and Northwestern CTD in the US would provide valuable inputs to this exercise.

    4. Training teachers on giftedness- Gifted students can have difficulty in fitting in with their peer group, impulse control and in other areas, leading them being labelled as ‘disruptive’ or in social isolation. Many teachers are not even aware of these aspects of giftedness. Training them to do a first-level intervention will be very helpful to gifted students. Teachers should also be provided with a support system whom they can rely on for such cases. In our work at GenWise, we often come across children who have been pulled out of school at a young age because schools are unable to handle them along with the rest of the children.

This article, based on a 45 year study which tracked gifted children, is a good primer on issues related to gifted education-

  1. National Level Conference on Gifted Education- An annual national level conference with experts and practitioners from around the world, will go a long way towards creating a knowledge base and awareness about gifted education. The National Association of Gifted Children (NAGC) in the US is holding its 66th convention in 2019- see NAGC is a major influencer of government policy and plays a key role in creating awareness about gifted education.