New Delhi: As India
moves ahead on the path of globalisation, it also needs to
overhaul its education system to meet the demands of the coming
age, says Harvard Graduate School of Education professor David
Perkins who believes that "schools of tomorrow" should move
towards teaching "knowledge that matters".
"I am broadly familiar with educational practices in several parts
of the world. To my way of thinking, one of the greatest
challenges of education today is fashioning a system that truly
speaks to the people live and gives the skills and insights people
need in our complex globalised era," Perkins told IANS in an
Perkins said education in India needs to move away from mere rote
learning and embrace an application-based approach through
"schools of tomorrow".
So what exactly are "schools of tomorrow"?
"My personal sense of the schools of tomorrow is that they will
teach knowledge that matters, that connects meaningfully with the
lives learners are likely to live," he said.
With a population of over one billion, reach is still the biggest
challenge for Indian education, say experts. Though the percentage
of children going to school reached 83 percent in 2007, according
to some sample surveys, quality remains a problem, with rampant
teacher absenteeism and under-qualification of teachers being
Perkins -- the author of several books, the latest being "Making
Learning Whole" -- emphasised on a comprehensive approach towards
"We need to be aware of the tendency in education to break ideas
and skills into small elements and teach them, hoping that it all
comes together later. I like to call this the disease of 'elementitis'
in education," said Perkins.
"For instance, we need to teach ordinary arithmetic as a form of
mathematical modelling, which it is, not just as a bundle of
skills. We need to teach history, even in the early years, as an
interpretive process that involves consideration of evidence and
alternatives," he said.
There has been debate in India and other parts of the world on
changes needed in the education system. The Indian education
system, based on the British system, is one of the largest in the
After the enforcement of the Right to Education Act, the
government is in the process of standardising the system.
However, Perkins said the present system was not enough to meet
the needs of the students.
"Does what we teach and the way we teach it enlighten learners
about major themes such as ecological problems and economic
complexities? Does it empower learners as workers, citizens, and
family members? Does it cultivate responsibility?" he asked.
"All too often, no! A great deal of what is typically taught
beyond basic literacy and numeracy will never play a significant
role again in learners' lives. It's just there for the test, not
usable knowledge," he said.
Perkins is co-founder of Project Zero, a research programme
inquiring about the psychology and philosophy of education at
Discussing Project Zero, the academician said it was a mission to
conduct basic inquiry into ideas important for learning and
connect them to practical agendas "in education, formal and
informal, including adult learning".
"Project Zero ideas have been applied in many settings around the
world, including some settings with large numbers of relatively
uneducated children. For instance, one widely used framework from
Project Zero is Teaching for Understanding, an approach to
teaching the disciplines in a way that fosters deep understanding.
Another is Visible Thinking, a very practical model for
integrating thinking skills and dispositions into the teaching of
"How does this apply to the Indian context? In general, Project
Zero focusses on big universals of learning and their translation
into practice, and our ideas apply to almost any setting where
there is a concern with deep and thoughtful learning," he said.
(Anjali Ojha can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)