Good practices must indeed be adopted. But we must stop blindly imitating foreign models and start thinking about developing our own Indian model of education, keeping in mind our diversity, our disparities, our particular cultural temperaments and our regional histories. Very recently, the Prime Minister’s Office sent a note to the Ministry of Human Resources Development to study the Finnish model of school education, emphasizing the flexibility of curricula, the pace of individual learning and teachers of Well paid and rigorously trained “quality”. It all sounds so eminently imitating, but can we really simulate or implement this model in our current situation and circumstances?
Most of the strategies and measures that have been introduced in Finnish schools to make its students’ performance the envy of countries around the world are tailored to the size of its population, the relatively equitable distribution of its wealth, its clean and uncluttered natural environment and the high level of health and nutrition of its children. Finnish children start school quite late in life. Indian children, however, are starting school earlier and earlier, in part because it is a practical need. With the break-up of the common family and the proliferation of nuclear families with working parents, daycare centers serve as nurseries where certain apprenticeships also take place. In addition, Indians believe that the earlier their children start formal school, the better their chances of success in a competitive world.
While Indian children are forced to read their books throughout the year, their Finnish counterparts enjoy long vacations and recreation when camping and cycling and learning about life and nature. It would be wishful thinking if we expected this to happen again in our country.
Finnish children only sit for exams in the last year of school. This model would automatically take away the stress our kids face throughout their school lives and on the eve of public exams, and instantly hit the coaching industry giant. This is certainly desirable, provided that effective teaching and learning continues within our schools. However, our children (and their parents) were fed homework, exercises, tutoring, practice tests and exams. Our teachers have also been trained to prepare students to achieve high scores on tests and exams. In fact, the very reputation of schools and teachers depends on the results of exams. I wonder how people would react if exams were suddenly taken out of the school curriculum. We also like the idea of ”succeeding” and “failing”. The no-detention policy up to grade 8 was introduced by the UPA government, and now there is talk that the current NDA government will reinstate the detention policy. The class 10 exam, which had become optional, has already made a comeback. And the annual turmoil over the review topper list continues with great fanfare.
Then we come to the issue of teacher supply in India. Statistics indicate that there is a dangerous deficit of teachers in our country. We hear of high school students being used to teach lower grades and in over 6,000 primary schools there are no teachers (District Education Information System). A 2015 Unesco report indicates that Nigeria is the only country that is worse off than India in “terms of recruiting the teachers needed to meet the demand for education”. In such a situation, I wonder how the government intends to create a new generation of well educated, well trained, well paid and respected teachers.
The B.Ed. The teacher training program lasted for one year until last year, when it was transformed into a two-year program. This year, the powers that be are considering an integrated four-year course (Finland offers a five-year course) for a teaching diploma. The stated objective is that only those who engage in school education register for a long and intensive course. The idea behind this decision may be sound, but it does nothing to solve the serious shortage of teachers. On the contrary, the four-year wait to be a qualified teacher will further exacerbate the problem. At this point, the solution should have been to have different levels of teacher eligibility criteria. Short certificate courses would at least allow individuals to teach in schools for now, and they could take advanced courses while in service.
Certainly, recruiting volunteers from different professional groups would be the practical thing to do in the current crisis. Well educated retirees could also be considered; they would appreciate an opportunity to serve society or a meaningful occupation to fill the empty mornings. The problem of the shortage of teachers must be approached on a war footing.
An American teacher, Nicole O’Donnell, sums it up very well.
Fed up with what she called the “fetishization” of Finland, she said it was “less about finding the right things to copy, and more about willfully denying the roots of the problems in America.” Ironically, this teacher was a Fulbright scholar in India, and she found more common issues between India and the United States than between Finland and the United States. She gave examples of brutal race and caste histories, the penchant for private schools, the diversity of languages (“The United States likes to think it has one language, but it has several”), the culture and religion.
Then there is poverty. Surprisingly, the United States has the highest child poverty rate in the developed world (and Finland the lowest in Europe), so Ms. O’Donnell believes that in this regard, too, the United States is closer. from India than from Finland. The lesson looks us in the face. We have to look inside and get our home so that we can provide a quality education for every child. To admire the Finnish model is one thing, to imitate him is another.