Sunday, August 25, 2019

Key highlights from the Hon'ble Prime Minister's keynote address during the celebration of International Youth Day 2019

Photo of Hon'ble Prime Minister delivering his keynote address in DYS auditorium on International Youth Day 2019. Image courtesy: PMO's Facebook page

During the observation of International Youth Day on 12th August 2019, the Hon’ble Prime Minister, Dr. Lotay Tshering made his vision for education loud and clear. Since the theme for the event was “Transforming Education”, the main focus of the day was on how to make our current education system more relevant to the emerging needs of the 21st century. He called on all the relevant agencies to come together and work towards making education more appropriate and relevant for young people so that they would have the knowledge and skills necessary for survival in the globalized world. His keynote address basically revolved around the following issues:

If we have to transform education, we need to first transform our thoughts. Unless we accept the flaws that we have in the education system, we can’t make effort to address them. Our education system doesn’t seem to be preparing our youth to face the emerging challenges of the 21st century. The subject knowledge taught in the school is found to be hardly applicable in real life and the skills required in the job market are not found in the prescribed textbooks. It is this mismatch that has been forcing so many young people to remain jobless. The government should now focus more on skills development through experiential learning so that young people will have the skills to survive on their own when they come out of the education system.

Another major issue young people commonly share is that the school curriculum is too rigid. It focuses too much on academic excellence as a result of which most of the children are found to be learning without understanding. The students are simply expected to memorize what is given in the textbooks and write their exams. It does not provide enough space for students to think out of the box and be creative. Our education system is designed in such a way that if we can solve the question papers of the past five years, we can easily manage to get passed in the exams. The Prime Minister said that he wants the education system that enables children to solve the questions of the coming five years and beyond, not that of the past five years.

The limited choice of courses and streams after class 10 is another major challenge in our education system today. The students have the choice to only opt for either Arts, Commerce or Science. Those students who do not qualify for these three streams but have other special skills/talents are left with no other options. The Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) is coming up in a big way but the courses are going to be not so different from what the Technical Training Institutes are already providing. There is a need to review the course contents and make them more relevant to the current economy. More importantly, the TVET program should be integrated as a separate stream in the Higher Secondary Schools with clearly defined academic path for students to pursue it further and make a career out of it. Otherwise, the program may not be able to attract enthusiastic youth. Moreover, the students should be trained on the latest technology so that the skills they get become relevant to the current job market. The automobile technicians who are trained on old cars cannot be expected to fix the latest cars that come to the market every year. They should be trained on brand new cars and equipment. Otherwise, the training becomes obsolete.

The prime Minister’s concerns for education call for major reforms in the education sector. It is time for policymakers and educators to rethink how to make our current education system more inclusive, accessible and relevant for children and youth so that it can prepare them well to deal with the challenges of the modern times. If we don’t invest wisely on our children and youth today, we can’t guarantee a strong future for our nation. He said that while the government continues to invest heavily on youth development, the youth also have the responsibility of making good use of the opportunities and services that are available for them, and be good human beings by not indulging in undesirable social ills. His talk was very inspirational and insightful.

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