There are broadly two sorts of helmets, particularly, one which protects your head and the opposite which protects your pockets. These two sorts seize the distinction between two artefacts which look the identical and go by the identical identify, however can’t be extra dissimilar. So what then is the distinction between the 2? Probably the most vital is that of design intentions. One is designed maintaining security in thoughts, product of sturdy, impact-absorbing materials that has been totally examined to be so. The opposite, however, is designed to get by and is product of quality-compromising, low-cost materials.
What we have now here’s a dilution in our conception of a helmet from its unique that means from being a gear to guard us within the case of an unlucky accident to being a gear to guard us from being fined. Intriguingly, the act of fining riders with out helmets has translated one thing worthwhile (an end-in-itself, within the service of security) into the merely practical or instrumental (a means-to-an finish, within the service of trickery).
This captures the conundrum dealing with the modern: all that’s of worth is diluting into the practical, and there appears to be no vocabulary to seize this dilution of that means. Our conception of worth itself has been diluted to imply simply trade ‘worth’. Right here, I’ll relate this to the that means of schooling.
The UGC scheme
Just lately, within the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the College Grants Fee had issued a round to universities encouraging them to undertake huge open on-line programs (MOOCs) provided on its SWAYAM platform for credit score transfers within the coming semesters. This appears like a benevolent act through the nationwide lockdown. Nonetheless, it poses nice hazard since additionally it is being seen as an instrument to attain the nation’s goal Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) in greater schooling (envisioned to be 30% by 2021; it was 25.eight% in 2017–18).
Right here is one more occasion of a conspicuous dilution of that means and subsequent flattening of the educational curve. As a substitute of increasing the community of upper instructional establishments throughout the nation and rising seats, the federal government plans to make on-line diploma programmes out there for college kids to enrol and graduate from and add to GER. ‘Schooling’ is now being peddled as a mixture of content material and consumption, and this diluted that means is being put to the service of reaching elevated GER.
MOOC-based e-learning platforms have a tendency to bolster a top-down teacher-to-student directionality of studying whereby the instructor ‘creates’ and the coed ‘consumes’. This misses the purpose that educating and studying are expertise which are at all times within the making. The instructor is in spite of everything “an mental midwife” who facilitates within the start of scholars’ concepts and insights by means of partaking in crucial dialogue. In a conducive classroom surroundings, this function is commonly switched and the coed performs mental midwife to the instructor’s concepts. Shifting to a MOOC-based diploma system would rob younger lecturers and college students of those important classes in educating and studying from one another.
Taking greater schooling on-line is very like taking over a sport similar to cricket, soccer or boxing on-line. One has not truly learnt the game until one has engaged with it in a single’s gully, stadium, discipline, or ring. In schooling, the classroom acts as an area the place expertise similar to dialogue, debate, disagreement, and friendship are learnt and practised. It’s intriguing to see that the policymakers behind the SWAYAM platform have ignored programs in engineering, medication, dental, pharmacy, nursing, structure, agriculture, and physiotherapy on the grounds that they contain laboratory and sensible work. Though this transfer is smart, it appears to counsel that the pure sciences, the humanities, the social sciences, and humanities curricula are largely lecture- and theory-based, and, subsequently, readily adaptable to the net platform. Nothing may be farther from such a false impression.
Implicit in each curriculum is the tacit assumption that the classroom is a laboratory for hands-on testing of concepts, opinions, interpretations, and counterarguments. A various and inclusive classroom is the very best litmus check for any principle or perception. Multidisciplinarity occurs extra by means of serendipity — when learners throughout disciplines stumble upon one another and have interaction in conversations. Classroom and campus areas provide the potential for solidarity within the face of discrimination, social nervousness, and stage worry, paving the best way for a proliferation of voluntary associations that lie outdoors the realm of household, economic system, and state. Within the absence of this bodily area, educating and studying would give solution to mere content material and its consumption.
And not using a shared area to debate and contest concepts, studying dilutes to only gathering extra data. This might additionally dilute norms of analysis, whereby a “good lecture” would possibly imply merely a lecture which “streams seamlessly, with out buffering”. This isn’t an argument from custom. One may consider higher value-sensitive and socially simply architectures and applied sciences that additional foster classroom engagement and make it accessible for college kids of varied disabilities and challenges, thereby including extra worth to the present that means of schooling. However public schooling modelled on social distancing is a practical discount and dilution of the that means of schooling. It may add worth solely as an addendum to the classroom.
Such platforms should be seen solely as stop-gap variants that assist us get by below lockdown conditions and complement classroom lectures. They may assist us get by with the pandemic simply as a “helmet” would assist us get by with site visitors police waving penalty slips. Our vocabulary has many phrases for the lack of operate — failure, malfunction, dysfunction, breakdown, and many others. — however hardly any for the lack of worth. ‘Malpractice’ is the closest that involves thoughts. This malpractice of the dilution of schooling should be resisted, else we’re asking for a number of concussions.
Ashwin Jayanti is an Assistant Professor at IIIT-Hyderabad. The views expressed are private