LOAD OF SCHOOL BAG (YASHPAL COMMITTEE REPORT)

A curriculum proves heavy for children when (a) it is too lengthy to be completed in time by an average teacher under normal conditions; (b) there is mismatch between the difficulty level of the concepts of course content with the mental level of the pupils; (c) the language used in the textbooks is incomprehensible and the style of presentation is verbose and rhetorical rather than simple and straight forward; (d) the basic assumptions underlying curriculum development are not fulfilled.

Yash Pal Committee

A National Advisory Committee was set up by the Government in March 1992 under the chairmanship of Prof. Yash Pal, former Chairman of the UGC to suggest ways and means to reduce academic burden on school students. The Committee popularly known as Yash Pal Committee, submitted its report in July 1993 (Annexe - I). On receipt of the Committee's report, a Group was set up on 25.8.1993 under the chairmanship of Shri Y.N. Chaturvedi, Additional Secretary, Department of Education to examine the feasibility of implementing the recommendations made in the report of Yash Pal Committee. The Group submitted its report on 5.10.1993 (Annexe - II).

After studying the problem of curriculum load in detail, Yash Pal Committee identified the following as manifestation of the existence of the problem:

1. Starting Early

It has been observed during the last few years that admission age to nursery classes has been progressively lowered down to the age of 2 1/2 years at some places. It appears that the perception has taken a deep root that if a child has to succeed in life, he or she must start education early in life.

2. Size of school bag

So far as physical load of the school bag is concerned, the situation has become worse over the past few years. However, the weight of the school bag represents one dimension of the problem, another dimension can be seen in the child's daily routine which includes completion of homework and attendance at tuitions and coaching classes of different kinds.

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3. Examination system

The major, well understood defect of the examination system is that it focuses on children's ability to reproduce information to the exclusion of the ability to apply concepts and information on unfamiliar, new problems or simply to think. Both the teachers and the parents constantly reinforce the fear of examination and the need to prepare for it by memorising a whole lot of information from the textbook and guide books. This sort of perception about the examination makes things difficult for children.

4. Joyless learning

Majority of our school going children view learning at school as a boring, even unpleasant and bitter experience. The limited purpose of preparing for examination is indeed a very important factor for the unpleasantness of learning. The child centred education and activity based teaching learning method are talked about but are seldom practised in our school.

5. Syllabi and textbook

The syllabi and textbooks if not prepared properly lead to the problem of curriculum load. It has been observed that most of the textbooks have high density of concepts and the style of writing is very terse. The language used in the books in some cases is beyond the comprehension of many students.

The Committee concluded that the problem of curriculum load was not an urban phenomenon. In rural areas, where the students have not to carry heavy bags, the problem of non-comprehension makes things extremely difficult for majority of children The feeling of academic burden arising out of non-comprehension of subject matter included in the syllabus is indeed a serious problem as it is a major hurdle in the achievement of the target of universalisation of elementary education.

After discussing the indicators or manifestations of the problem of curriculum load, the committee identified the following as the roots of the problem:

1. Knowledge vs. information

The committee has questioned the assumption underlying most curriculum renewal exercises that some sort of knowledge explosion has taken place, therefore, there is a valid reason to add more and more to the existing syllabi. By equating information with knowledge, more things are added to the syllabus making it heavier for children.

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2. Experts commissioned to write textbooks for school students are isolated from classroom realities

Since they are not familiar with learning process of children, the textbooks prepared by them prove too difficult for majority of children.

3. Centralised character of curriculum

Curriculum development centrally is not relevant to the local needs of different parts of the country. There is need for increasing participation of teachers in the process of curriculum development.

4. Convention of teaching the 'text'

Majority of teachers perceive the content of the textbook as a rigid boundary or a definer of their work in the classroom. Boredom is the inevitable outcome when tersely written textbook is taught in a rigid and mechanical manner.

5. Competition based social ethos

Our social ethos, particularly in urban areas is now fully entrenched in the competitive spirit which is fast becoming our way of life. Rising aspiration of people in all sections of the society and the growing realisation that education is an important instrument to fulfil their aspirations have resulted in a craze for admission to English medium schools which start imparting formal education too early in the child's life

6. Absence of academic ethos

Adequate time, staff, accommodation and its maintenance, funds, pedagogical equipment, playgrounds are essential pre-requisites for effective curriculum transaction but unfortunately, an overwhelming majority of schools do not have even the minimum essential facilities. The method of teaching used in majority of teachers are devoid of any type of challenge for the students. Children are hardly provided ail opportunity to observe and explore natural phenomenon. The concept of library as a readily available source for learning simply does not exist in most schools. Similarly, science laboratories are not equally equipped and are not used for experimentation and discovery.

While forwarding the report of the Committee, Prof. Yash Pal, the chairman of the Committee advised that wide-ranging debates on the report are necessary. In the 49th

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meeting of the Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE) held on 15.10.1993, both the reports of Yash Pal Committee and MHRD Group were discussed and the CABE decided to generate a country-wide debate in composite groups of teachers, parents and other interest groups. In December 1993, the State/UT Governments were urged to conduct workshops on these composite groups.

In the 50th meeting of the CABE held on 2.3.1994, the Education Ministers of a number of States/UTs expressed their broad agreement with the recommendations of Yash Pal Committee read with suggestions of MHRD Group and the CABE advised effective dialogue and follow up action with the State/UT Governments in the matter.

Based on the consensus of State/UT views, 2 sets of action- points, one for states/ UTs and other for central agencies like NCERT, CBSE, KVS, NVS were circulated in Juneand July 1994 respectively. The main recommendations of the Committee which have been included in the broad framework suggested to State/UT Governments in June 1994 are,

i) Greater involvement of teachers in framing curriculum and preparation of textbooks at State/UT level.

ii) Amendment of School Education Acts or Rules of State/UTs for laying down norms for pre-school.

iii) Abolition of tests/interviews for admission in pre- schools and discontinuance of textbooks and homework at pre- school stage.

iv) Abolition of home work and project work at primary stage.

V) Extensive use of audio-visual material and enforcing teacher-pupil ratio of 1:40.

A monitoring Committee for making periodical review of the pace of the implementation process has been set up in the Ministry of Human Resource Development.

The whole question of curriculum load is a complex question and there are no simple solutions. It has to be tackled in a comprehensive way, and not through isolated steps. It may not be possible to enhance overnight the level of competence, motivation and commitment of teachers, provide the facilities required to all the schools, check the growth of commercialisation in education, channelise the parental ambitions and aspirations, and minimise the importance of annual examinations. But this should not mean that we are altogether helpless and can do nothing in this

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regard. A package of suitable measures, both short term and long term, needs to be initiated urgently to tackle the problem. The measures will naturally include attempts to reform curriculum, raise the level of teachers' competence, motivation and commitment, strengthen the system of supervision to make teachers responsible for nonperformance, provide minimum essential infrastructural facilities to schools and to regulate the system of homework assignment.

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ANNEXE - I

LEARNING WITHOUT BURDEN REPORT OF THE NATIONAL ADVISORY COMMITTEE (YASHPAL COMMITTEE)

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LEARNING WITHOUT BURDEN

Report of the National Advisory Committee

Appointed by the

Ministry of Human Resource Development

PROF. YASHPAL

Chairman

15 July 1993

To

Shri Arjun Singh

Minister for Human Resource Development

Shastri Bhawan

New Delhi 110001

Dear Arjun Singhji,

I have great pleasure in forwarding the report of the National Advisory Committee, you had set up quite a few months ago.

We have applied our mind to the fundamental question posed in our terms of reference : To advise on improving the quality of the learning while reducing the burden on school children. We have had wide-ranging consultations, all over the country. We have talked to teachers, curriculum designers, textbook writers, various School Boards, scientists and academics, book publishers, headmasters and principals- and several others. We have analysed the textbooks in different parts of the country. We have looked at the letters received from a number of people in response to our newspaper and TV requests. And after much discussion, and a fair amount of drafting, We have produced all analysis of the problem and some recommendations.

On a personal note I would like to add that this has been a difficult report to write Not because we had a great deal of trouble understanding the problem, or that we had lot of differences amongst ourselves, or even developing a conviction that something has to be done. The difficulty for me personally has come from my inability to persuade myself that the "state" of our school education is an independent variable - that it could be altered without altering lot of things in our social set-up! Indeed, it is not only the setup in the country, but also the defective interpretation of the external scenario, that finally impacts out young students, robbing them of a wholesome growth and depriving the

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country of what they could contribute. Nevertheless we have made a number of recommendations which should help.

In regard to the burden on children, the gravitational load of the school bag has been discussed widely in media, even in Parliament. After this study I and most of my colleagues on the committee convinced that the more pernicious burden is that of noncomprehension. In fact the mechanical load on many of our students in Government and Municipal schools may not be too heavy, but the load of non- comprehension is equally cruel. In fact, the suggestion has been made to us that a significant fraction of children who drop out may be those who refuse to compromise with non-comprehension- they are potentially superior to those who just memorise and do well in examination, without comprehending very much! I personally do believe that "very little, fully comprehended, is far better than a great deal, poorly comprehended".

I suggest that the analysis of this report and its general recommendations should be exposed and discussed as widely as possible. Without claiming revolutionary, new insights, or things which may not have been said before, I do believe a concerned discourse on some of the fundamental points made in this report would be good for our future. The report should certainly be published, not only in English and Hindi, but also in all the regional languages. It should be widely circulated, so that a large number of teachers. parents and students can begin to discuss these matters.

Finally, I would like to thank you for bearing with us while we struggled to draft what to us appears to be a reasonable set of recommendations.

With regards,

Yours sincerely,

YASH PAL

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I

Introduction

Concern regarding academic burden on students and unsatisfactory quality of learning has been voiced time and again in our country during the past two decades. The question has been discussed extensively by several committee and groups. The Ishwarbhai Patel Review Committee (1977), National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) Working Group (1984) and National Policy on Education (NPE) Review Committees (1990) made several recommendations to reduce the academic burden on students. The curriculum development agencies are generally in agreement with the recommendations of the committee and assure the public that these would be kept in view at the time of the forthcoming revision of curricula. But the problem, instead of being mitigated, becomes more acute when a new curriculum is introduced. This has happened in the case of new curriculum introduced in the wake of implementation of NPE (1986). With a view to have a fresh look on the problems of education, particularly with regard to the problem of academic burden on students, the Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India, set up a National Advisory Committee in March 1992 with the following terms of reference

To advise on the ways and means to reduce the load on school students at all levels particularly the young students, while improving quality of learning including capability for life- long self-learning and skill formulation.

Before starting its work, the Committee decided the parameters of its work and also the methodology for completing the task entrusted to it. With a view to keeping a national perspective in view, the Committee decided not to confine its work to the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) or NCERT syllabi and textbooks but to take into account the textbooks used in different states and union territories also. Secondly, the Committee decided to base its recommendations on the data obtained through perception surveys. wide- ranging consultations with teachers and analysis of textbooks and other instructional materials. Thirdly, the Committee decided to look at the work of agencies/organisations doing innovative programmes.

The process of consultation was initiated with a meeting with a few faculty members of NCERT followed by meeting with teachers and principals working in different states at four places in the country, namely Delhi, Thiruvananthapuram, Pune and Calcutta. The consultation meetings were also held with voluntary organisations engaged in innovative programmes, syllabus and textbook writers, private publishers, and Chairpersons of Boards

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of Secondary Education. Some members of the Committee organised meetings with parents, teachers and students at Bombay, Nasik Baroda and Calcutta. Surveys to ascertain the opinions of teachers and parents were conducted with the help of questionnaires at Bombay and Delhi.

To involve the whole country in this exercise of looking at the problems of school education from the perspective of mechanical load of studies on children, views and suggestions were invited from the students, teachers, parents and general public through advertisements in the newspapers and special announcements by All India Radio and Doordarshan. The Committee received more than 600 memoranda, letters and write-ups from students, teachers, parents and professionals interested in children's educations.

The wide-ranging consultations with knowledgeable people, analysis of the existing instructional materials and reactions of the teachers and students have enabled the Committee to understand the functioning of the present educational system which forms the basis of its recommendations.

In its work, the committee received cooperation from a large number of teachers, principals, syllabus and textbook writers, organisations, associations and departments. We gratefully acknowledge their contribution in our work. Particularly, we are grateful acknowledge their contribution in our work. Particularly, we are grateful to the State Council of Educational Research and Training (SCERT), Delhi, where the Committee's office was located, for providing all types of administrative support which tremendously facilitated our work. We are also thankful to NCERT and its Department of Social Sciences and Humanities for providing finances and other facilities for holding meetings of the Committee. The education departments of the states of Kerala, Maharashtra and West Bengal, and the NCERT Field Advisors in these states deserve appreciation for hosting the regional consultation meetings held at Thiruvananthapuram, Pune and Calcutta. Special thanks are due to voluntary organisations, Alla Rippu, Digantar and Eklavya for sharing their experiences with the members of the Committee. We express our sense of gratitude to the authorities of Doordarshan and Akashvani for making special announcement requesting the audience to send their views and suggestions to the Committee. Above all, we are extremely grateful to hundreds of parents, students and teachers who responded to our invitation and sent their views in writing, in many a times after holding meetings/workshops at their places.

       


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