From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Not much.
Mains level : Paper 2- Aligning national curriculum with the needs of the market and society.
The gap between jobs, needs and knowledge, and the absence of role models, could be turning India’s demographic dividend into a nightmare.
National curriculum and problems with it
- What is in our national curriculum? It is a fixed set of topics prescribed in all subjects — from physics to geography, and engineering to planning.
- And it is taught in English at our elite MHRD institutions.
- Designed by professionals: It has not been designed by politicians but by our elite professors and bureaucrats: It is what they believe the nation really needs to know.
- Issue of imposition: It is imposed on ordinary students and parents through competitive exams and on colleges and universities through various central regulatory agencies, most egregiously, through the UGC-NET, an objective-type multiple-choice (!) exam that decides who is fit to be a college teacher.
Issues with the engineering curriculum
- Doesn’t address the regional needs: We already know that the national engineering curriculum fails miserably in meeting regional needs.
- No regional variation accounted for: Engineering for Himachal Pradesh needs to be different from that in Maharashtra or Kerala.
- Not in sync with the demands of the industry: It must address the needs of core industries, local enterprises, the provisioning of basic amenities such as water and energy.
- None of this is in our national curricula or practised at the IITs.
- Moreover, there is no mechanism for engineering colleges to work with their communities.
Issue with the social science curriculum
- No interdisciplinary courses: Let us look at the UGC-NET curricula, which is largely what is taught in our elite institutions.
- At the BA level, it is divided into several disciplines — for instance, political science, sociology and economics.
- This is unfortunate since much of life in India is interdisciplinary.
- As a result, many activities such as preparing the balance sheet for a farmer, or analysing public transport needs, and development concerns such as drinking water or even city governance, are given a miss.
- Example of economics curriculum: The UGC-NET curricula in economics has 10 units, the very last unit is Indian Economics. Unit 8 is on Growth and Development Economics, where the student must know Keynes, Marx, Kaldor, and others.
- There are various mathematical models, for example, the IS-LM macroeconomic model, whose validity in the Indian scenario is questionable.
- Absence of important sectors: The study of sectors such as small enterprises or basic economic services such as transportation is absent. The District Economic Survey, an important document prepared regularly by every state for each district, is not even mentioned.
Sociology curriculum and issues involved
- Absence of certain important items: There is no preamble nor a list of textbooks or case studies.
- Under “Social Institutions”, we have a list of timeless words such as culture, marriage, family and kinship.
- Peasant occurs two times, but there is no farmer. Here is a sample question: “Who uses the phrase ‘fetishism of commodities’ while analysing social conditions?” followed by four names.
- No mention of important data: There is also no mention of important data sets such as the census or developmental programmes including MGNREGA in either curriculum.
- National curricula divorced from the community: The training at our elite institutions, and consequently, in the national curricula, is not to empower ordinary students to probe their lived reality. Or to contribute professionally and constructively to the development problems around us. Rather, it is to perpetuate a peculiar intellectualism which is divorced from the community in which these institutions are embedded.
- Need to rethink the one-nation-one curriculum: One-nation-one-curriculum certainly has some advantages in enabling mobility of some jobs, especially in the national bureaucracy and a multinational economy.
- Cost to the developmental needs: But one-nation-one-curriculum comes at the cost of the developmental needs of the states and the emergence of good jobs there.
- Turning demographic dividend into a nightmare: The above-stated asymmetry is behind the aspirational dysfunction in higher education. It is this disconnect between jobs, needs and knowledge and the absence of role models, which is slowly turning our demographic dividend into a nightmare on the streets.