The National Education Policy 2020 Was Long Overdue
An average Indian student is career-oriented but more focused on choosing the path that fulfils his learning appetite. This trend reflects in the number of graduates opting for a change in career paths.
The Nation often debated and quipped about the efficiency of the education system failing to keep up with current times and fill in the industry gap. The second National Education Policy was formulated in 1986, almost two decades after the first National Policy was drafted by independent India. In 1992, the same policy was adopted with few modifications. The initiative to implement structured changes to the education system governing our Nation for aeons was long overdue especially given the fact that the global landscape of education was changing rapidly. Ideally, the education policy should have come in early 2000, because that was the time India started to evolve having recently opened up to the rest of the world, marking a new beginning. The rise of a completely new generation which we call the millennials. It was time for our education policies to keep pace with the changing dynamics of the economy. Our education, its structure, objectives and expectations, were stuck in the 80s and, NEP has now come as a promising indication of revival. The new education policy, to begin with, has been an attempt to address some of the structural changes which are needed in a very complex educational environment like in our country.
The financial empowerment given by the service sector post-liberalization had increased the creative liberties of an average learner. In the past, the education system is driven by employment opportunities and fear of failure. Now the lens has changed. An average Indian student is career-oriented but more focused on choosing the path that fulfils his learning appetite. This trend reflects in the growing demand for humanities and arts. The trend also reflects in the number of graduates opting for a change in career paths. The primary motive of NEP is to instil that compassion and empathy in students towards building an inclusive and plural society. The hope is that the efforts of NEP in this regard will not be limited to window-dressing.
The NEP is a result of collective inputs from the academic world
The NEP is the result of collective inputs from many stakeholders. I was a part of the Vice-Chancellors conclave two years back. The Government had invited all of us from all over the country to deliberate upon the draft and there was this full two-day conclave organized. The process was inclusive, and inputs were taken whilst giving enough room for criticisms as well, and NEP is a result of that two-day conclave.
So, initial feedback is that it is a good policy document. It provides a broad guideline for universities to incorporate and change their curriculum accordingly. It has brought in the much needed multidisciplinary approach to education, favours liberal education, emphasizes vocational and experiential learning and also enables a lot of flexibility for students in their learning process; aligning with the sustainable development goals. But then the devil in the detail is the approach that universities adopt to prepare the draft guidelines that need to be followed. Among all the states Karnataka is the first one who has created a draft structure for colleges and universities to implement.
Offers flexibility to earn your degree
The second part is how this holds the potential to change the education system. Fundamentally, it provides a lot of flexibility in learning. Earlier we were bound by the board system and the education value was largely determined by the 10th and 12th scores obtained. At the college level, if you missed out studying for one year or so, the whole 3 odd years of learning amounted to nothing. However, now, just like in developed countries like America, the NEP initiative, emphasises on the credit-based system, wherein you earn credits and trade those credits for a diploma or a degree. This is a good thing because it allows students to take a break. This allows the students, the flexibility to experiment with their career tracks and education. It doesn’t make one bound to the traditional academic system. Take for instance a sportsperson who has got an opportunity to participate in the Olympics or an entrepreneur who wants to work on his idea or another individual who wants to work in the media, they can experiment with relevant opportunities post 12th and get in and out of the college system. Also, a lot of times, girls in our country, unfortunately, get married early and leave their studies in between. And it becomes difficult for them to become a part of the academic path after a few years. The new education policy being credit-based enables them to come back to pursue their education.
A lot of emphasis on skill-based vocational courses
Traditionally undergraduate curriculum never focused on skill, they were knowledge-based and the NEP offers a framework to balance the system into the three pillars of education; knowing, doing and being. The skill-based vocational courses allow the students to take up certain skill-oriented courses and offers stipulations for real-life projects and internships. This is the key in addressing the large skill gap of graduates of this country and provides scope for career orientation.
The NEP allow students to take up skilled courses in coding, analytics, digital among others to help them be industry-ready. This is critical in terms of creating a large percentage of the population who are employable and not pick up a degree just for the sake of having one. The students will benefit from the modularity by exploring opportunities to learn skills, pick up internships and engage with the industry and pick up vocational courses which eventually leads them to a career track. The SDG 4.4 stresses substantially increasing the number of youth and adults who have relevant skills including technical and vocational skills, for employment, decent jobs and entrepreneurship.
Universities to have a long-term roadmap on implementing NEP
The universities have to use this opportunity to completely re-think the traditional three-year structure for students and ensure that after the currently proposed 4 years, the students are not rushed to a master’s degree program. This increases the risk of creating a very bad quality master’s program resulting in a lack of prospects even in an opportunity-laden market. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to make the undergraduate program very vigorous and skill-based to link it with the industrial requirement. A recent survey by Statista Research Department reported that the share of employable talent across India is around 46 per cent in 2020. Even then, with less than half of the talent pool in the country deemed fit for employment, the country's education and job sector did not reflect a positive outlook. The youth unemployment rate has been hovering around 22% for the past decade in India. The current pool of graduates needs to be trained either by the industry themselves or enrol for specific skill-based courses. For instance, our RV skills program: a 16- year-old quasi-academic institution created by RV institutions trains engineers in design, IT, automation and others with labs, theoretical and practical components delivered by the experts. This is a six-month program where we have people waiting to get admitted/selected. Many engineers from tier-2/3 colleges after 4 years of degree do not get the placement of that nature which students after 6 months of diploma from RV skills get. This tells that the engineering colleges are not doing enough to make their graduates ready for the current requirements of the industry. The NEP allows the flexibility for institutions to go beyond the current curriculum framework and add a lot of industry-related courses, involve industries to come on board, co-create, collaborate and co-deliver courses.
The NEP will open up collaboration opportunities between industries and academia from the undergraduate level itself. This change is now coming at a school level, so that students apart from studying will pick up enough skills and gain exposure, so that after 12th they can work in a particular industry for a while and then come back to the education system. NEP provides blended learning that is critical and is meant for students to pick up various skills and courses either from India or internationally acclaimed online education courses. This makes the learning meaningful, engaging and job oriented. Therefore, the new education policy should be implemented gradually by academic institutions, policymakers, school administrators and the boards to bring an overall change in the education environment of the country.
Above all, NEP should remove the barriers between arts and sciences in terms of societal respect. The industry and employment opportunities should never decide the kind of education in the country. If we give that leeway to industry, it channelizes society towards a skewed and narrow path. It is the job of policymakers to decide the direction of the compass by carefully applying a multi-constituent approach. These constituents include constitutional values, economic growth, life skills, etc. NEP strikes a balance between the needs of society and industry. NEP is an active watchdog in this regard to prevent any potential societal collapse. To explain in much simpler terms, NEP mandated few courses to develop capacities that promote student wellness, psychosocial well-being, and ethical grounding.
Further, NEP aims to break the barriers between vocational and mainstream education. Exposure to vocational education in a phased manner helps overcome the social status hierarchy associated with it. This exposure liberates a student from choosing a path wide prevalent in society.
Students should be seen as different individuals who are trying to reach their destination via different tunnels. The objective of each student is to reach the end of their tunnel. The time they take to reach the end of the tunnel cannot be considered a measure of success because each student takes their own tunnel, and conditions of passage in the tunnel could be different for everyone. The only way to measure success is when they complete their journey through the same tunnel, which is practically impossible. Some students study with the intent to become top researchers. Some would like to contribute to corporate with their mark of enterprising DNA. Few would be concerned about social value. The other section will try to address their learning appetite. NEPs job is not to restrict the number of tunnels but to refrain from any biases above and smoothen students' passage through these tunnels. A student regretting his decision choice had no alternative in the past. The new framework had given enough leeway for smooth transitioning at intermittent points. NEP aims to enable this by encouraging all higher education institutions (HEIs) to become multidisciplinary with large student enrollments. The primary prerequisite for achieving excellence in innovation is an ecosystem that enables the reception of inputs from multiple disciplines.
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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