[i started this post about 3 days ago, finally got around to finishing it]
Niket talks about the need to bring about the need to move away from an exam-centric system, which seems to focus attention on training children to beat the exam system rather than giving them an education that will train them to "think" and give an opportunity to explore their potential. i have tried to give some thought to what might help change this - somehow i end up thinking more with a college student in mind rather than one in primary or high school. but take college education for instance - colleges are forced to stick to a single examination system administered by the university to which they are affiliated. the sheer scale (# of students, for example) at which this is done almost forces it to be a system wherein a student tries to beat the "exam". would things have been any different had the college been administering its own examinations? perhaps, if there was a manageable number of students (like say in an engineering college, where each discipline - EE, ME etc, have a limited number of students, say 60-70). this is the system prevalent in most universities in the US. given a particular syllabus, the teacher would be forced to make sure that most of it is actually taught in class, and the students would be assured that they would be graded on a relative scale with respect to their peers, in a manner that would be fair - atleast in the ideal world - where one would expect that the teacher-student connection would take on a more important role. it could allow the teachers to challenge the students to think - and force teachers to think as well (perhaps that was missing too/?).
giving colleges more autonomy certainly has its merits. but in a country like india, the advantages disappear quickly because of abuse of the privilege. one would have private colleges controlled by the political establishment, and thereby churning out a series of graduates, who might have gone through an incompetent education system (represented by their autonomous colleges) instead of a better (albeit incompetent nevertheless) system currently prevailing, where atleast the varsity wide exams force some semblance of order in the system.
The Seattle chapter of ASHA has been conducting a review of the syllabus of 5th and 6th grades schools in gujarat - trying to help fix it. The bottom line of the study was that content and quality wise the books that we have reviewed are extremely poor. A significant observation is the promotion of stereotypes in social studies textbooks. Check the summary to get an idea. Hopefully the recommendations of the report will be implemented. The ASHA chapter is sending a signed petition to the Education Dept. and Chief Minister of Gujarat trying to demand a revamp of the syllabus. One might think - what good is this petition going to do/? They will just trash it - so they very will might. But only after it goes on record that such a petition was submitted. Its the democratic process in action. please do spare a minute or two to sign it. eventually, the government will actually act on it.
[on reading this post, i find tht its absolutely out of whack, ideas drifting like crazy - that is what happens when you do not complete the post when you have a clear train of thought. its almost impossible to regain the thread]