A paradigm shift in the way children are taught is on the anvil. Learning and education, henceforth, will be child-centric and not exam-centric as it is now, Minister for Human Resource Development Kapil Sibal said here on Monday.

He was speaking at the inaugural ceremony of the Ramanujan 125 year celebrations held at the University Centenary Hall, the University of Madras.

Expressing his determination to do away with rote learning and the “archaic” examination-oriented system, he said: “We are endeavouring to reform this with emphasis on skill development and unlocking the creative talent within the child.” The Ministry's decision to do away with examinations at the end of the year, replacing them with a Comprehensive and Continuous Evaluation (CCE) system in a bid to de-stress children, was a step in that direction.

Speaking of “potential Ramanujans” whom the system may not recognise, Mr. Sibal said: “They may well be sitting in this hall.” The Ministry thus sought to build an education system that promotes creativity, freedom, joy and an awareness of cultural heritage. “It will help our children to retain their sense of wonder, to develop a spirit of enquiry and to nurture the joys of learning,” he said.

The Union Minister also highlighted some contemporary challenges in higher education. Pointing to the high degree of inequality in the access to higher education, Mr. Sibal said the Ministry sought to increase the current Gross Enrolment Ratio of 15 per cent among those aged 18 to 24 years to 30 per cent within the decade.

Decline in rigour

“We see a sharp stepping down of rigour and commitment towards reflection and questioning. A decline of the social sciences and humanities at both the elite and the mass sense of the system is taking place,” he said. The issue was further accentuated by basic changes taking place in the balance of power in India with the unprecedented rise of the corporate sector. Jobs in the State sector had stagnated while those in the corporate and informal sectors had grown exponentially. “One consequence of this has been a drastic alteration of priorities in higher education among the upper sections of Indian society. Prestige and financial returns acquired from participation in the global economy far outstrip most of what the Indian economy can offer. The effect has been to pull educated classes, in large numbers, into the global economy, leaving behind a vacuum whose impact we are still trying to cope with.”

Consequently, there has been a drastic reduction of the elite in areas of mathematics, social sciences and humanities, leading to shrinking or closure of these departments. “We seek to expand and create an egalitarian education system around a clear understanding of our culture, history, needs, endowments and competencies.”

He said the government, academia, business, civil society and citizens needed to work together to focus on education as the key enabler of empowerment, social change and inclusive development.

“But let us not forget that along the way, we need to give space to the unchartered journeys of those who seek to discover, to create and to conquer, much like Ramanujan's journey. That will be a befitting tribute to a genius whose task remained unfinished.”