For decades, people have questioned why education doesn't ever catch up with the changing times.
Why do we keep teaching science as history? Are we producing a burnout generation of kids who are in the rat race for marks? Where will all this lead to?
The National Education Policy 2020 addresses all of this holistically.
The NEP is the outcome of a mammoth exercise and a firm commitment from the top leadership for drafting an education policy that will change the outlook towards students and consider everyone in the system as a knowledge-seeker.
The policy attempts a significant overhaul of the education system - right from terminologies and institutional frameworks to functionality - when it comes to transforming governance, delivery and financing of education.
De-siloing education and fusing it with skill development
One of the most significant shifts in terms of impact, I see, is in the way we have addressed "siloed" education from the perspective of vocational, co-curricular and curricular streams. The combination of choices in terms of arts, social sciences/humanities and sciences has been broadened and multiple entries and exit options have been given along with credit transfer.
Technology is the new mantra: coding as a language in middle school will go a long way in unleashing creative potential. Using AI in education is taking education to a whole new level, and once the students are immersed in technology, it will be a major contributor to India becoming a technology superpower.
NEP has addressed the issue of creative thinking, design thinking, logical decision-making and innovation. This was long overdue.
Flexibility without compromise
More leeway has been given to institutes and academicians in terms of curriculum design and delivery. Affiliated college systems will be a thing of the past. Teachers have the freedom to define the way they teach. A discovery-based approach, experience-based learning and blended learning tools will make education more participative and ensure knowledge transfer as opposed to the tradition of sifting through pages and memorizing content. A holistic 360-degree report card with self-assessment will lead to deeper introspection and a lasting change for students. Inspiring videos from luminaries will be a good way to reduce the curricular burden while inspiring students by showcasing role models from all walks of life.
Moving from marks-oriented, examination-based assessment to assessment of skills and competence will change the culture, practices and the objective of 'education'. Students will acquire a vocation in middle school, which means we are bringing relevance to education in terms of skills enhancement and capacity-building for various sectors. In the future, this might converge into "earn while you learn" once you have a skill.
The problem of dropouts because of the existing theoretical education design has been addressed. An innovative new system includes a two-year diploma, a longer degree course and an academic credit bank and MOOS (Massive Open Online Courses) with credit score.
By using the same yardstick for assessment of private and public institutions, we can look forward to better outcomes, on a level playing field. Changes in the process of hiring teachers, tenure track and administrative positions for teachers are radical changes that are expected to attract talented people to the field of education.
From an infrastructure standpoint, Higher Education Institutions in every district and a cluster approach, coupled with digital education, will fill the much-needed gap at the district and sub-district level. Setting up science, maths and arts clubs will instil more curiosity and turn each child into a lifelong learner. The National Research foundation will take research output to a new level. The role of alumni in the governance of institutions will positively impact the education system as a whole.
I had championed within the NEP to keep the IES (Indian Education Service) out and this has been accepted. IES has been a consistent recommendation of every committee for over half a century, since 1966. It wasn't easy to kill the idea.
We will need to de-bureaucratize the implementation of this NEP even more to turn our grand vision into reality.
India's education policy is futuristic and bold, and at the same time practical, considering the needs of the time. But a lot will depend on how it is interpreted and implemented. One challenge is the availability of skilled human resource and the transition time.
I also consider NEP timely as India will participate in the PISA (Program for International Students' Assessment) from 2021 and PISA scores will be a big leveller for everyone. The NEP's goal is to transform not just India's education system, but also its future.
(Prof. Rajendra Pratap Gupta is a leading public policy expert and has played a key role in drafting the health and education policies. He served as a member of the National Education Policy Committee and is an author of the best-selling book on education: 'Your Degree is Not Enough- Education for GenNext'. He tweets @rajendragupta)
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