28 Dec 2020 20:51 IST

Transformation of India’s education system is crucial for future jobs

Contemporary teaching and learning methodologies will prepare our youth for tomorrow’s workplace

The fourth industrial revolution places us in the midst of continuous disruption, which is expected to transform economies, jobs, and society itself through new technologies and processes. With education being the key component in shaping the future workforce, transforming the current education system through adoption of innovative and contemporary teaching and learning methodologies is the need of the hour.

The National Education Policy 2020 will facilitate aligning the Indian education system with contemporary practices followed globally, for its youth to meet the requirements of future jobs.

15-year cycle

The policy suggests a transformational change in the structure of the school system — from the current 10 + 2 system to a 15-year cycle with the formal inclusion of early childhood care and education. In the new structure, the focus at pre-school and preparatory levels would be on building foundation-level literacy and numeracy skills through age-appropriate conceptual learning methodologies.

In this context, the National Council of Educational Research and Training has been given the mandate of developing a national curricular and pedagogical framework for early childhood care and education for pre-school and a new national curricular framework for school education.

Vocational training

The policy also proposes introducing vocational training from grade six with internship, to integrate vocational education within the formal schooling system. This measure may help in removing societal reservations on vocational education and allow students to make an informed choice on their education and career path based on their aptitude and competency and help prepare them to meet the needs of the future workplace.

In higher education, the policy advocates making undergraduate education broad-based through multi-disciplinary offerings with flexible curricula, integration of vocational education, and giving students the option to choose a creative combination of subjects. This measure gives students the flexibility to study subjects based on their interest, which may differ from the typical combination we are familiar with. Such choice and flexibility will help match youth aspirations and enable innovations expected in the workplace of the future.

Academic credit bank database

A student’s option to make choices and flexibility in enrolling for higher education programmes has been addressed in the policy through multiple points of entry and exit. A student can enrol in a four-year undergraduate programme with the option to exit with a certificate at the end of the first year, a diploma at the end of the second year, or a degree at the end of the third year. Even on exiting before completion of the full programme, students will have the option to re-enter the programme where they had left, at the same or a different institution.

A system of credits will enable tracking the student’s higher education journey, for which an academic credit bank database is proposed to be set up. This flexibility gives students adequate options in planning their careers, while taking care of life events that may require them to discontinue their studies temporarily at any juncture. The policy also promotes internationalisation of education through both institution-to-institution collaborations and student and faculty mobility. These measures are likely to improve the quality of education and align with the needs for India’s economic development.

Hurdles in the way

Education institutions in India will need to address several challenges while implementing the policy. These include: (i) significant investments will be required in infrastructure, technology and teachers’ training. For example, the shift in school education to the new format will require teachers to be trained in the new pedagogy as learning methodology transitions from rote to conceptual learning. In case of higher education, the move to offer multi-disciplinary courses will require investments to expand infrastructure and facilities as well as recruit teaching staff for new subjects to be introduced. (ii) Active collaboration is required with industry so that courses designed are aligned with the skill sets and expertise needed by industry as they implement new technologies as part of the fourth industrial revolution. (iii) The policy envisages that the Centre and State governments work together to increase public investment in the education sector to reach 6 per cent in line with other developed countries.

However, with competing needs across sectors for budgetary allocation, such quantum of public investments in the education sector has not been achieved in the past.

Implementation is key

Covid-19 caused widespread disruption in people’s lives and in order to stop the spread of the virus, the government had to impose a lockdown. This resulted in closure of all education institutions across India. Education institutions started online classes to keep their students engaged and complete their courses. The lockdown fast-tracked investments in digital infrastructure and virtual platforms by education institutions as envisaged in the policy. Teachers had to be trained in digital modes of delivering lessons while students too quickly adapted. Post the passing of the pandemic it is expected that a blended model of virtual classes along with physical classes will continue, providing institutions the requisite flexibility in designing the delivery of courses and optimising physical infrastructure.

Effective implementation of the new policy, including adopting contemporary teaching and learning methodologies, is likely to play a critical role in helping India achieve its economic and development aspirations.

(The writer is Partner, Deloitte India)