Nowadays we see many academicians and teachers talking about review in education policy while assessing the malaise in our education system. Even common people join the chorus.
We usually don't follow the policies already in place, and when our problems multiply, we criticize policies, not our practices. Policies in themselves don't yield anything unless followed by corresponding practices. Here, in this piece, I highlight what it takes to frame an education policy.
Policies are not framed in a casual manner, and in a vacuum; they too require a feedback system usually triggered from the grassroots, and heard at the helm. Better policy framing requires better, or what I must call, true inputs, so that better decisions could be made.
Education policies are not a matter of common sense, although some of the usual problems faced in schools and colleges are amenable to it. Whenever a question in education moves beyond the immediate reach of common sense, it must be either taken up by science or philosophy.
Education policies come from informed decisions. Common sense decisions are valid for lesser people and places, meaning thereby that their scope is limited. It changes in days, not to talk of years and decades. Needless to say that common sense is not as informed as science or philosophy.
Usually teachers and people while talking about problems in education start pronouncing solutions in a jiffy, and ultimately question policies.
True, some issues like timing of providing midday meal, plying of school buses, issues of stationary, school timings of start and closure, methods of increase in enrolment, uniform, maintaining of the schools, and many other procedural and administrative issues etc are the issues greatly pertinent to common sense.
But if some further issues are raised like what must our education aim at, or we may question the relative efficacy of the use of intrinsic or extrinsic motivation.
In all such cases our common sense breaks down as soon as these questions arise, because such questions move a good distance away from commonplace understanding, giving way to either use of philosophy or science.
Whether the question is for philosophy or science is determined by the nature of the problem. If the problem can be delimited, and contains limited number of variables which could be easily operated and separated from the context in which they occur, and rigorous control had over the 'problem in action', like when you want to see the effectiveness of your specific way of teaching in a class, you could well chose a group from amongst the children whom you would teach by your own method, and another group whom you would teach with a different method, keeping in mind that children in both groups are uniformly chosen in terms of age, gender, background etc to ensure that your control over these variables is not upset.
So, what I mean is that the issue of effectiveness of your method that you want to determine is taken up by you by separating your problem from your school context and bringing it into an experimental setting, which you were able to do, say in this case.
After experimenting on the effectiveness of your method, you may repeat the experiment to ensure confidence, and then you may encourage other teachers and researchers work on the same issue to see your work getting replicated and concluded accordingly, upholding or questioning your results.
This is how science works in education. Problems galore could be put through scientific investigation accumulating reliable data from the grassroots to be fed to policy makers for use in informed decisions. And this is the place where philosophy enters education, and this is what usually establishes relationship between them.
This data can work wonders with policy makers is all too clear by use of synthetic philosophy. This explains how science works for philosophy preparing its ground, striking connection between them.
Science and research produces data for the philosophy to synthesize it all, and relate it into a meaningful whole, a kind of a weltanschauung.
This big whole cannot be reached meaningfully unless true data is produced by way of research, otherwise we will be creating holes, than wholes of understanding. Since we know that philosophy owns no facts of its own, it process facts from sciences.
But in a situation like ours where many of our researchers conclude their research before they conduct it, then, what could be expected. We have an army of copy-paste researchers who will produce researches, and data worth nothing.
Policies don't just come from the top by use of philosophy in vacuum; they are continuously fed with reliable research and data from the bottom. What you produce at the bottom is processed at the top by way of synthetic philosophy, making them work in a dipole.
Here too we have two ways to go. One is philosophy in retrospect, or simply retrospective philosophy, where we look back to what we have already done in education, and what our research says in many areas. Mounting on such bird's eye view of the past, we are able to do prospective philosophy by looking into future, and creating a vision for our education.
I feel we are usually mounted on uncertain grounds in our retrospective philosophy in our State, thanks to many of our researchers from University and colleges. Given this situation we are in danger while doing prospective philosophy as well.
What I mean to say is that we will face tough time framing our policies if we are fed with the kind of researches we know are conducted in our colleges and universities, particularly in areas of school education and teacher education. Policies are mounted on the edifice of reliable data. Can our Universities assure us about the reliability of its research?
Going beyond synthetic philosophy in education does not come easy. And for us who have issues in synthetic philosophy, speculative level could turn out more difficult.
But they are not necessarily related. Speculative may proceed all alone without regard to synthetic, but they would do better seeking correspondence. If synthetic philosophy is wary of speculative, then it will create problems all too understandable and obvious. If synthetic philosophy requires data from research, speculative philosophy plunges into the metaphysical, invoking mostly God and theology.
This is the point where religion enters into the realms of education, connecting them, as also wedding religion with philosophy. Secular States would, as is obvious, steer clear of theology of any particular religion, but in any case, should consider universal values as enunciated by all religions of the world to be the guide in the spiritual.
And this is the place where education inspired from some particular religion shall squeeze ground for other communities, something we see happening in India this time. If the synthetic works in the direction of empirical, speculative philosophy runs on the highway of non-empirical, usually in the direction of a priori absolute truth. If knowledge and access to absolute truth was possible then there should be just one philosophy, flowing from this absolute truth, guiding us in the wilderness of life and education in clear terms.
But if we just claim to have this exclusive truth, and our counterpart group too claims the same, then this is where more tolerance than conviction to your truth is necessary, encouraging peaceful coexistence, inspite of differences. Here, values of all religions forming the part of the ethos could be taken in common to arrive at a philosophical consensus in the diversity of cultures.
Tail piece: We are gravely mistaken if we feel that education policy can be framed at the top without reliance on the data from the school, and other research areas. Better policies require quality research, which, I am afraid, we are not producing. And if this is the case, then we must stay content with policies which are not as informed as they should have been.