07 Aug 2020 18:07 IST

NEP 2020, a big push to make India a knowledge superpower

It will help develop industry-ready professionals equipped with ‘21st century skills’

India’s education landscape is changing at a phenomenal pace. As per the India Skills report 2019-20, about 53 per cent of students were found to be unemployable for modern-day jobs. The need of the hour is to revamp existing educational models and align learning outcomes with the demands of a changing business environment.

With a focus on holistic development, innovation and technology, the recently unveiled National Education Policy 2020 (NEP) is a much-awaited intervention that will invigorate India’s higher education system.

The policy carries tremendous potential to make India a knowledge superpower by equipping its students with the necessary skills through improved school and higher-education programmes. From blurring the lines between academic streams to opening up higher education institutions (HEI) to the world, NEP 2020 envisions widespread inclusion of students, with the addition of 3.5 crore new seats.

The slew of reforms will not only increase the quality of education in India but also strengthen the country’s position on the global map as a preferred choice for education and training. This has been provided with a fresh impetus with 6 per cent public investment of the GDP in the education sector.

Bridging the digital divide

The closure of educational institutions in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of online learning to ensure learning never stops. This, in turn, has also brought to fore the need to bridge the digital divide so that the benefits of online learning can reach all.

The creation of the National Education Technology Forum (NETF) to coordinate digital infrastructure, content and capacity-building will be a milestone in making education accessible even in remote areas. With e-courses that will be developed in eight regional languages, the push towards digital will not only personalise learning but also help strengthen creative thinking and problem-solving skills, which are imperative for the future workforce. Improvements in accessibility due to an extended focus on digital learning will also provide momentum to the Government’s Right to Education Act.

The new policy will encourage educators to use technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML), which will aid educators to tailor personalised learning styles according to a student’s capacity, thereby improving learning outcomes and strengthening skill development. This will consequently promote skills central to the prevailing conditions, such as creativity, problem-solving, critical thinking and analysis.

Further highlighting the need for e-learning, NEP 2020 aims to introduce an Academic Bank of Credit (ABC). Students who have taken a break from their undergraduate courses and wish to return can earn their degrees without missing the credits earned in the previous session. While easing the re-entry of students, this provision will go a long way in pushing digital learning in tier-II and tier-III cities. Students from these cities can acquire credits by simply adapting online courses and pacing their learning journey with ease, to fulfil their ambition.

Bringing teachers to the forefront, NEP 2020 endeavours to enhance the professional standards among teachers. Under the policy, a National Education Technology Forum will be created to provide a platform for the exchange of ideas on the use of technology for enhanced learning. This will help bridge the digital divide by providing online teaching platforms, which will facilitate a healthy exchange of ideas on the integration of technology for learning, development and assessment.

Improved accountability

Another highlight of NEP 2020 is the creation of a single regulatory body — the Higher Education Commission of India (HECI) — to strengthen administrative norms and the academic standard. A single overarching body for higher education will create a holistic learning curriculum that does not lead to silos between streams while propagating a collaborative atmosphere for research and innovation.

As a result, public and private institutions will be governed by the same set of regulations. This will lead to the standardisation of administrative processes across disciplines. This will make it easier to cultivate a multi-disciplinary approach, which has become a fundamental tenet of today’s workforce.

The policy also envisages the phasing out of affiliations to develop autonomous degree-granting colleges. Through a suitable system of graded accreditation, all HEIs will become self-governing bodies that focus on research, collaboration and learning outcomes. With a future-forward outlook, NEP will revamp the existing structure of educational administration with a regulatory framework that ensures transparency and accountability while helping HEIs to transform into centres of excellence and innovation.

A multi-disciplinary approach

A multi-disciplinary approach that eases the divide between arts, science and technical colleges is a welcome move to prepare students for jobs in the future. In the longer run, the NEP aims to make education flexible and broad-based to develop equivalence of vocational and academic streams. The purpose is to create useful capabilities while offering specialisations across disciplines. The focus of the framework is to allow flexibility to students to select their field of study that aligns with their area of interest. For example, a student pursuing music will be able to learn coding and science together. The result will be a creative combination as well as a flexible curriculum for students.

More importantly, NEP signals the end of rote learning. The comprehensive framework brings in assessments based on the application of core concepts to inculcate a problem-solving mindset. The focus will be on revamping the curricula in tandem with global standards. Integrating vocational and academic courses will help develop industry-ready professionals, equipped with ‘21st century skills’.

The way ahead

I welcome this policy with open arms as the challenges of the last few months have highlighted the need for an equitable path to the learning process. The Prime Minister has rightly articulated that NEP 2020 will create more job creators than seekers. It will herald a new era of education in India — one that focuses on research, technology as well as blended and experiential learning. It will strengthen the fundamentals of education while taking into account global perspectives. Students will be able to exercise choice in what they want to learn instead of what is typically prescribed by the education system. This, in turn, will lead to the development of analytical skills and a self-aware Indian consciousness that propels the country to a bright and prosperous future.

(The writer is Vice-President, Sales & Marketing, Pearson India.)