Education In 21st Century
The notion of education has been changing since its inception. From a more philosophical origin rooted in the writings of Plato and Aristotle focusing on the development of the self, education has come a long way now constantly calling for changes in its original style and form.
In fact, history of education theory is replete with opposing and contested ideas about the main purpose of education. Central to this debate is the question of the larger goal of education. Should it be instruction or facilitation; didactic or inferential; traditional or progressive?
Furthermore, scholars like John Dewey have been vocal about a more learner-centric approach to teaching thereby limiting the role of the teacher to facilitation and popularising the belief that individuals must be instigators of their own learning. This school of thought often referred to as progressive education had profound impact on the 20th century although it wasn’t free from criticism.
Coming to the 21st century, education discourse is unabated with the emergence of multiple theories and concepts. Interestingly, even the need of a formal education system is being debated. ‘Deschooling’- a theory that calls for ending the schools and other learning institutions as they are incapable of providing the best possible education for some or most individuals is also gaining momentum as an alternative education approach.
With the popular assumption that most people learn better independently, outside of an institutional environment at their own convenience, this school of thought challenges the value of a formal education system that intends to produce workforce for readymade industries.
Shaping the 21st century education has involved many national and international deliberations and policy dialogues. Perhaps a landmark document that emanated during this discourse is the World Declaration on Higher Education for the Twenty-First Century: Vision and Action adopted by the World Conference on Higher Education in 1998. Clearly outlining the mission and function of Higher Education, Article 1 of this declaration states that educating highly qualified graduates offering them relevant qualifications and professional training lie at the heart of higher education. Creating, advancing and disseminating knowledge through research has been duly incorporated.
Furthermore, ethical and moral responsibility along with equity of access to higher education is a defining feature of this document. Thus, the document has comprehensively expanded the education thinking beyond the conventional wisdom. Blending a pragmatic and philosophical approach has been its hallmark.
While the global 21st century education is increasingly becoming interdisciplinary, research-driven and project-based, Nepalese education system seems to be lagging behind. With the conventional method of lecture delivery still in practice, the trend towards a pragmatic education is not strongly visible although a few institutional initiations have started of late in this direction. Particularly with the introduction of the semester based education system at the undergraduate and graduate levels, project-based education has gradually started to grow. As such, preparing our graduates with the necessary knowledge, attitude and skills required for the contemporary global world is becoming a stiff challenge.
One of the significant elements within this practice is the idea of confining teaching-learning within the classroom. In other words, the practice of exam-centric education focusing on rote learning has resulted in a severe crisis posing a question mark over the relevancy of formal education.
Even the curriculum that is being imparted lacks constant revision and updating inconsistent to the changing world of the 21st century. Living in a world of global interconnectedness and an emerging networked society, offering pragmatic courses that can also arouse self-employment confidence among the students has become vital.
Resistance to change has become a defining feature of Nepalese society which is also reflected in the education sector. Particularly experienced faculties at academic institutions don’t feel comfortable to adjust their pedagogy with the changing need of time. The approach of teaching the grand theories again and again often repetitive and boring to students hasn’t significantly changed even in the contemporary education scene of Nepal.
In this way, Nepalese education system has been unable to produce competent graduate and responsible citizens who can be change agents for the nation. Although the wave of globalisation has been rapid even in the developing countries like Nepal, tapping benefits from it hasn’t been pretty much successful in all sectors of development including education.
Boosting confidence of graduates for a dignified and prosperous life through a quality education has become urgent. In tandem with the spirits of the need of the 21st century, Nepalese education system should be reinvented focusing on reforming the curriculum and lecture delivery mechanism. Equally prominent will be the need to transform the mindset of students from a job-centric mentality to that of an entrepreneurial one as per the need of the innovative modern day society.