Very Good Question. The issue is not only about doing away with evaluation on the basis of bookish knowledge and memory but what to do in its place?To my mind, the word "bookish" actually implies impractial and therefore we should cover all aspects(big picture) of what maybe deemed practical education instead of just discussing the curriculum.
Even mystics like Osho and Krishnamurthy have said that through Education alone, social transformation is possible and both also stressed the need for education to fulfill its real purpose- help the child find his vocation in life. I could not trace the link of the origninal article "As a Parent" by Wipro Chairman Azim Premji but his words are worth repeating :-
"The primary purpose of a school is to guide the child’s discovery of herself and her world and to identify and mature the child’s talents. Just as each seed contains the future tree, each child is born with infinite potential. In the article he suggests that many teachers and parents try to be potters instead of Gardners in moulding their children’s future.” Imagine a school in which sees children as seeds to be nurtured-here the teacher is a gardner who tries to bring out the potential already present in the child. This is very different from the current view which sees the child as clay to be moulded where the teachers and parents are potters deciding what shape the clay should take. There is an old Chinese saying ,” Give a seed to a potter and you shall have a bonsai." In a nutshell, as a teacher and parent, be a gardner, not a potter..
The great Phislosopher Socrrates had said "Education is not the filling of a vessel but the kindling of a flame". The word Education itself comes from the word "Educere" which means to bring out what is already in and not blindly stuff in. The purpose of Education is to detect talent proactively. For this, it is essential that education has to be based on application and intelligence( with open book exams wherever necessary) instead of trying to test memory of knowledge. This is especially so in the era of internet where everybody can have the knowledge but it is only one's intelligence with which one can distinguish or differentiate oneself. Memory does not have that much significance since everything is there on the net- its application that should matter and be tested. Since people tend to remember more of what they happen to be interested in, memory can be a tool to know vocation instead of an end in iteself. Children can be made aware of main memory techniques.
Einstein had said that Imagaination is more important than knowledge. Each person's imagaination is diffferent and therefore he has to be guided correctly to chose his occupation in life where he is going to spend a majority of waking hours. Not doing so would be disastrous as pointed out by so many of our spiritual stalwarts on this blog- http://mypyp.wordpress.com/2005/10/10/quotes-suitable-career Swami Vivekanand said "Education is the manifestation of perfection already present in man"- Unless there is perfection in education, that perfection cannot be drawn out.Real education should enable you to find out what is uniquely you. That is what matters in practical life, not bookish knowledge.
Natural talent often manifests well without any formal coaching. I played lawn Tennis for several years but was not satisfied with the backhand(bane of many racquet games). My younger brother got it right in the first week itself without any coaching in such a brilliant manner that many players complimented him. My wife is qualified in English hons but it is me, an MBA who has written articles and poems for magazines and newspapers. Similarly, she does certain business work much better than I do. My father does much better trading in shares than me despite not having any formal training in Technical analysis(graphs) which I have. I once worked in a company where the rise of one person was much faster than four others though all of them were from the same batch from the same institute. Talent is more important than the tool(knowledge).
There was an article recently that corporate india was willing to take only 20% of the total pool because people coming out of institutes were not practically talented. This is because functional,operative, practical talent in the corporate world is different from analysis taught in MBA schools. Also, MBA is about analysis but real life is about synthesis which is completely different. Even in the engineering context, John Adair, in his book, effective innovation while giving the example of a trained artist who excelled as an inventor concluded that “Engineering is just a state of mind. You do not need a vaste amount of knowledge” All this clearly shows that process(imagination & thinking) is more important than input(knowledge) especially memorized bookish knowledge. We should give equal if not more importance to humotech in addition to looking for biotech and infotech.
Since not too much knowlege is required for talented people, short term courses should be availalable for those who may have made a wrong choice of occupation.
Even in our Shastras it is given that the Sukshma(subjective-person) is more important than the sthula(objective-knowledge ). What a person does with a particular knowledge is more important than knolwedge per se and to detect that, personal attention has to be given- the kind of personal attention that is given by a Tennis coach when he feeds 60 balls to his pupil one after another and monitors close progress. Then it is possible to discvoer that person's Svadharma(purpose in life according to Shastras). Each of the Pandavas being unique in their own way, one of the teachings of the Mahabharat is to develop your unique quality. Even generally "Teaching the student teaches the teacher"- more so if the teacher tries to study the student.
It would not be out of place to mention here that the initiator of Lateral thinking, Edward de Bono had stated that thinking should be taught in schools because many intellectuals/knowledgeble people were poor thinkers. Thinking also helps in detecting potential. In India's context, not making lateral thinking a part of formal education is absurd because the greatest post independent rags to riches story ( Dhirubhai Ambani) was because of lateral thinking:-
Other kinds of thinking can also be taught.
It should be mentioned here that countries like Russia have made chess compulsory to force students to think logically. Sites like braingle.com insist that mind games also form a part of conginitive reserve and should be a part of formal education. This is in the context of Ralph Waldo Emerson's "Concentration is the secret of success in politics, in war - in all management of human affairs". Concentration can be because of interest or one could say mental strength -both should be monitored.
Education must also impart good vocational and physical training and inculcate values to respect all vocations/professions- that is something we have to learn from the United States where a janitor can talk to a professor on one to one basis on the same table as an equal. The caste system which determines occupations by birth is fundamentally incorrect. All that also causes inter-personal problems in practical management.
In books like "Karma, Destiny and Career", it is given what can happen if you try to pursue an exalted occupation(lawyer, doctor) when in reality your real vocation maybe relatively humble(carpenter, plumber). In New york, a child psychologist became a taxi driver because driving was his passion.(This may seem absurd but normally people seeking artistic satisfaction have such problems) Therefore, formal education should give equal respect to all occupations and people should be respected for what they are instead of snobishness of degrees and qualifications associated with certain exalted professions.
It would not be out of place to mention here that some people who have won nobel prixes(DNA, Microchip) have admitted that not being too formally qualified was an advantage because they could get creative ideas. This is in the context of "Knowledge is food for the ego". If you feel you already know too much, you can't get creative ideas. Students should be aware of all this.(does not imply that one should not be well qualified)
In the Unnited States, one of the ways of dealing with work-misfits is to ask them "What interest did you have as a child?"Why not nip the problem in the bud- when the person is a child? I have come across around 30 Americans who have written books on this subject. This American site summarises best what the education system should be doing:-
J.krishnamurthy has even advocated small schools for the purpose of detecting the child's potential . It is very important that each teacher should also be trained as a vocational psychologist and talent scout so that the student does not choose the wrong profession and suffer for life- "The person who has found his vocation is life is a blessed human being. Let him ask for no other blessedness"- Thomas Carlyle.
All this covers management of self(knowing oneself). Children should also be taught practical management of money(people suffer because of lack of accounting knowledge) and practical psychology( management of people). Nobody in practical life can escape management of money and people.
There still seems to be some hesitation on teachers part where computers are concerned- computers have made possible what Shri Aurobindo said "The teacher should be a guide(not a sage on stage but a guide on the side) and not an instructor and encourage the student to discover the answer for himself". Children should know all main microsoft products thoroughlly word, excel, power point , access(programming insught).. Online education maybe convenient but some personal attention from teacher is a must.
Another good thing krishnamurthy suggested was that children must be taught to appreciate nature as a part of formal education from early childhood so that when they grow up, they have some reservations in detroying mother earth if they happen to be in conflict.
In India, empahsis should also be given to team work and group dyanmics because Indians have a poor reputation of working in teams. India has a competitive advantage vis-a-vis China (English has been made compulsory there)currently but many Indians cannot speak and write English fluently despite studying in English medium schools. Efforts should be made to ensure that Indians know colloquial English since India cannot afford to lose that advantage.
There is a difference between being wise, being knowledgeable, being well informed and being intelligent- such disctinction should be clearly made to the students so that some of their false and baseless fears subside and there is a reduction in the number of board exam suicides which have gone up considerably in the past five years. Students should also be trained to be wary of "Information pollution" since they confuse being knowledgeable with intelligence which is why this is such a relevant question.
Last but not the least, people keep talking of instilling "values". Citing real life examples, it should be explained that everything that is good(Actor Naseerudin Shah) is not commercially successful(Actor Govinda) and vice-versa. There are other examples of the goddess of wealth(laxmi) and the goddess of knowledge(Saraswati) not being directly proportional.(Jab Taqdeer maherbaan, tab gadha pahelwaan) So judging success by money alone and blindly pursuing can be silly and counterproductive at times-better to teach that through practical examples rather than give theoretical lecture on "values"
Practical knowledge is best-Osho specified that there is a difference between knowledge(Bookish) and knowing(expereience). With role plays and group dynamics, the latter can be imparted in some disciplines and not lleft to the vagaries of practical experience.
The twenty first century is expected to be stressful and therefore yoga and meditation should also be taught properly in schools. Physical fitness was stressed by Swami Vivekanand and we have a lot to learn from the western world just the way they learn yoga from us.
Unfourtnately, Education has become a business and nobody is bothered about the real purpose of education and one ends up paying more in donation and not getting any real education. Its a loss both ways like "Heads I win, Tails you lose". Whether it is education or anything else, unless there is a continous and consistent monitering mechanism, nobody shall be accountable and nothing shall have lasting success.
This may seem an exaggerated answer but I am trying to answer the word "bookish" and trying to give a practical alternative in totality both from readings and practical experience(without that one cannot relate with what one reads) from diverse perspectives. Many examples(my own family disbelived without them) are given to substantiate views with conviction since I am not an expert on education.