”Imagine a world where everyone’s livelihood depends on success in some sport. Everyone can learn and train till they are 18. Then they have to choose to play some sport. But 99% do not get to play the sport they choose, they play a sport that is willing to accept them.”
Here is the all-important question: What will you train for in those first 18 years? To state the obvious: you have no clue what you will play, for how long, and what after that. And this is about your livelihood, the highest possible stakes.
We have something almost identical in our real world. There is enormous uncertainty about jobs and livelihoods.
Growth in itself is not leading to expansion of livelihood opportunities. Occupations and trades are changing.
The nature of work itself is changing. Land use changes, globalization, technology and capital intensity are driving structural changes in the economy and for the labour force.
Artificial intelligence, machine learning and robots will have substantial effects.
School education is the societal, institutional mechanism which helps our young develop.
The aims of education are not limited to preparing people for jobs and livelihood, it has much wider and deeper social and human aims, and is the foundation of a democratic society.
Most effective approach will be for school education to focus on developing the basic and fundamental capacities of students.
These capacities include thinking critically, reasoning, analysing, problem-solving and synthesis. Language and communication will be equally important.
As would be working with others, human sensitivity and related social capacities.
Knowledge of the basics of “subjects”, such as math, physical sciences and social sciences, and their relevance would be critical.
As would be development of a work ethic, being constructive, and a sound moral sense. This is a sufficient, but not a complete, list.
High-capacity teachers, an empowering school culture and an enabling curriculum will be needed to make this happen.
We need to move away from content-heavy to content-rich curriculum, carefully chosen for depth and its wider implications. And the content should be used to develop these capacities rather than focusing on the memorization of content. There must be a deliberate connection of all learning to life.
Since textbooks dominate the reality of the practice of the curriculum, these need to be changed and improved.
Skilling programmes and vocational training cannot substitute for this basic developmental effect of sound school education. To fulfil India’s economic potential and enable economic well-being for individuals, our schools must do this.