WHAT IS WRONG WITH OUR EDUCATION AND HOW ‘OPENCLASSes’ IS TRYING TO FIX IT

By Tanoy Bhattacharjee

September 5, 2023

On the occasion of Teachers’ Day, let’s envision the future of education. Traditional teaching models, rigid curricula, and a lack of focus on practical skills have long been concerns. However, in this evolving educational landscape, it is our firm believe, OpenClasses will shine as a beacon of hope. It will be like “Airbnb of Education,” and will empower experts to become educators, sharing their knowledge and skills in a personalized, engaging way. As we celebrate the invaluable contributions of teachers, let’s imagine how OpenClasses will reshape education, offering a flexible and dynamic approach to learning that holds the promise of a brighter future.

There are many problems with our education system. The few of them, which we are trying to address at OpenClasses are:

1.THE “IF REQUIRED” MODEL: Things are taught in schools and colleges with the assumption that students may need this knowledge in the future during the course of their lives.

Now this model was effective when school/colleges where the only places where one could learn. Slowly with the invention of the printing press, knowledge began to be democratized and now with the internet and the AI we can surely move from a knowledge “if required” model to knowledge “as and when required” model. Already with the explosion of online education one can learn almost anything as and when he/she feels the need to.

2. THE BANKING MODEL OF EDUCATION: Coined by Paulo Freire in his seminal book the “Pedagogy of the Oppressed”, the Banking model of education refers to the system wherein Education is seen as a process of depositing knowledge into passive students.

It is assumed that students are this empty jar to be filled by knowledge by the teachers.

3. THE FIXED CURRICULA & HIERARCHY: In schools and colleges, students are disseminated “knowledge” from a fixed curricula and with a fixed hierarchy for promotion to the next class. Those who fail to cram up facts and throw up in an exam are failed and might have to stay back a year in the same class.

In this fixed curriculum weightage is given to subjects, which many a times are not those in which a student is interested in. Thus she/he ends up doing poorly in the exams consequently jeopardizing her future job prospects.

In the present system many a times students are not allowed to pursue their interests and curiosities because those are not in line with the curriculum and are often deemed as not having much earning potential.

Also, a student pursuing the humanities cannot pursue Theorical Physics.

4. FOCUS ON KNOWLEDE SHARING RATHER THAN SKILL SHARING: Today’s education system, which hasn’t changed much for the last 200 years, does not teach skills which are required for today’s work place. The present system which was devised by the British to produce clerks to do the administrative work of the Empire is totally redundant in the present day starting with the medium of teaching. It only imparts theoretical “knowledge” without bothering teach real life/work place skills like communications skills, behavioural skills, money management skills, above all the skill to know how to learn.

5. RECRUITMENT OF TEACHERS: Thousands of posts for teachers across primary, secondary, HS and even at College, University level are lying vacant in the country.  Recruitment in the government sector is a lengthy process and often a guided by political compulsions, thus ending up with massive backlogs.

One is the problem of quantity, the other is the problem of quality. Teachers in India are poorly paid and thus the sector attracts poor talent. The good ones remain for their passion of the job

HOW ARE WE FIXING THE PROBLEMS?

Disclaimer: At the outset we would like to say that we don’t have fixed solutions to the above-mentioned problems. Rather believe that what we are doing at OpenClasses will have out comes that not only solves the above problems but may go on to change the education system as a whole.

So, what is OpenClasses?

Openclasses is an online platform for offline classes. It is the Airbnb of Education. A person, say he is an expert motor cycle mechanic. He can start an offline class at his garage, list it at openclasses.app and find willing learners. A person good in calculus can start a class on calculus and find eager learners needing help on the topic.

There are no fixed curricula. Anyone can teach anything and everyone can learn.

But there are many online classes? Why do we need this?

It is our experience that online classes, while do provide value, they lack 1. The personal touch of the teacher 2. The learning that happens due to result of peer-to-peer discussions.

It is our belief that if you wanted to learn, say, coding, you will prefer to spend two hours per week learning it from someone in person rather than staring at a screen for the same two hours.

We are not against online learning, rather we thoroughly support it. Our belief is that online and offline are complimentary to each other and both are subservient to the eventual goal of learning.

How does OpenClasses solve the problems mentioned earlier?

For one, OpenClasses follows the, well, open model. Anyone can start a class about any topic, he/she has expertise on. Learners can learn when they feel the need to.

There is no fixed curriculum. There can be a class on metal wielding, Baking, History of the Ming Dynasty, 3 D geometry. Anything that one can share, one can learn.  

At OpenClasses, there will be a rating as well as testimonial system just as in online classes. This will result in the best teachers and best teaching practices will be rewarded. We also work with students and teachers to develop new best practices, ensuring the learner is kept first.

Our aim is to take the quality of our classes so high that they start challenging established schools and colleges.

OpenClasses is certainly not the only answer to all the ills that ails education at the moment. But we are certainly hoping it will encourage others to come up with alternatives to better our education system, which is the foundation for the development of the nation

Tanoy Bhattacharjee is a Creative Consultant at openclasses.app

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