Otago Polytechnic

Looking back at how an education system developed can inform its future.

In India secondary school education continues to be delivered in a very traditional way. Rote learning is expected, assessment is primarily by way of examination, physical punishment of children can still occur despite being illegal now and English fluency is promoted as the only hallmark of quality education. What are the consequences and challenges of each of these practices?

Lydia Harrell, an Applied Management lecturer at our Auckland International Campus, has undertaken a critical exploration of school education practices in India for her PhD. She has used Foucault's genealogical analysis and post-colonial studies to critique, question or dismantle the dominant discourses of the Indian secondary school education practices. How did this current reality come about? Why are things the way they are? She explains how in the three historical periods (Pre-Colonial Era, British rule and Post Independent India) the powerful institutions of each era have regulated and ratified the production and dissemination of knowledge that have governed the way students are seen.

Lydia suggests that current educational practices in India perpetuate or increase inequality, disadvantaging marginalised learners. The practices also encourage students to be docile and compliant. This contradicts with India’s aspiration for high skilled, creative and knowledge workers with critical thinking, problem solving and other 21st century skills. One of the major future challenges for India's public and private schools is to provide the kind of highly skilled, creative and adaptable workers with the complex skills needed for the contemporary work environment.

Lydia hopes to have provided an insightful basis for potential action for those planning to move to a more student-centred approach, equipping them to challenge existing practices and policies based on inappropriate concepts.


Image credit: Twin Work Volunteer, used under Creative Commons licence CC BY NC ND 2.0
June 2020