COVID, NEP And Changing Education Landscape
What COVID has done is to wake up the system from its slumber and disrupt the traditional process completely, forcing the education sector to embrace digital medium in a big way.
“There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen” – One sector which certainly defines Lenin’s quote more than others is the education sector. Even one can dare to replace decades with centuries here! Since the times of the Gurukul tradition, students have always assembled at a place or in a classroom along with the guru or teacher, who imparts lessons to the students.
Despite significant changes in the work environment and the need for different skills, knowledge and attributes from our students in the 21st century, our education system has remained more or less insulated and stuck in traditional ways. The last decade has seen attempts been made to make learning more widespread and make it more learner-centric using technology, thanks to the availability of affordable devices and internet connectivity becoming better and cheaper. Still, it had been a slow and limited process.
However what COVID has done is to wake up the system from its slumber and disrupt the traditional process completely, forcing the education sector to embrace digital medium in a big way to ensure that the process of teaching and learning continues despite the closure of most institutions during the pandemic. Remote education has become a necessity or rather the ‘only option’ for now. As most of the schools, colleges, teachers, and students plunge into the online medium, many things are essential to make this transition i.e. new teaching and learning approaches that use technology effectively combined with adequate support and training for teachers. Moreover, there is a huge demand for affordable solutions which can work on lower bandwidths and use basic level devices. These parameters are essential if online learning has to really penetrate and impact a vast number of students in TierII/III/IV towns.
This trend will continue even post COVID, democratizing education and making it available and affordable to masses across economic and geographic segments. Moving forward, we shall see education becoming a hybrid of offline and online medium with combination varying as per the user maturity and type of intervention.
In fact, this breakdown of the existing mindset and inertia has provided a very conducive environment for introducing path-breaking reforms envisioned in the New Education Policy (NEP) for reimagining an India of the 21st century. It proposes an education system which is learner-centric, aligned with future expectations and is for holistic development. Some of the key recommendations in this direction are:
ECCE (Early Childhood care and education) for children in the age group of 3-6 years to be regularized and be made a part of the school structure by following the 5+3+3+4 design of school curriculum. This makes the curriculum aligned with the learner’s growth stages. Focus on the primacy of foundational numeracy and literacy skills is a big step towards plugging the learning gaps shown in National Achievement Surveys.
Curriculum is to be rationalized to allow for critical thinking, discussion and analysis based learning. Students be given more options to choose subjects of study, including vocational subjects. Similarly, the board exam is restructured to bring about a more holistic assessment.
In Higher education, it aims to make Indian education at par with the best by proposing multidisciplinary curricula to integrate humanities and arts with science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The undergraduate degree will be made more flexible with multiple exit options with appropriate certification. The aim to double the Gross Enrollment Ratio (GER) to 50 % by 2035 opens up a huge opportunity for online learning providers to bridge the gap of availability of faculty and physical infrastructure to reach this goal.
On an overall basis, it outlines the critical role to be played by technology through online classes; digital repository of coursework, learning games, virtual labs and simulations; mass channels such as television, radio; coding curriculum from class 6th onwards, and revamped teacher course curriculum
The new mindset shift created by Covid combined with the progressive initiatives outlined by NEP 2020 can create a new education landscape aligned with 21st-century requirements which has the flexibility to address varying needs of learners and is more democratic across economic and social metrics. However, the key to converting this aspirational vision into the desired reality would need detailed planning, public-private partnership, technology adoption, and resource mobilization at a large scale.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house
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