Special Content

Issue no 23, 04-10 September 2021

National Education Policy-2020 Re-Imagining Indian Education B S Purkayastha "The National Education Policy is a means to fight poverty and to meet the needs of the 21st century," Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in a recent address. Coming after 34 years, the NEP announced in July 2020 aims to address the many growing developmental imperatives of our country. The new policy proposes the revision and revamping of all aspects of the education structure, including its regulation and governance, to create a new system that is aligned with the aspirations of 21st century education, ensuring today's youth equip themselves with the skills that make them employable in a rapidly transitioning economy. Yes, the link between education and employability is critical, more so in a developing country such as ours. Every year, thousands of Indian students graduate from universities across the country but struggle to find employment matching their skills. Same is the case with even engineering graduates, as a vast section of them are deemed unemployable by the industry because they lack the requisite skills and require additional training to become productive. Time and again, captains of Indian industry have pointed to an industryacademia gap as the curricula students are taught in colleges and universities are out of sync with the needs of the industry. It is in this context that the NEP 2020 can be a game-changer as it aims to usher in far-sweeping changes in the Indian education system that can help India's next generation become not only jobworthy but also job creators, thus realizing the true value of the country's demographic dividend. The NEP 2020 is meant to provide an overarching vision and comprehensive framework for both school and higher education across the country. Since education is a concurrent subject, State/UT governments will play a critical role in the implementation of NEP 2020. If implemented effectively, the NEP can help reshape the future of the Indian workforce and help the next generation of job seekers to become more employable. SALIENT FEATURES OF NEP 2020 Š • Universalization of education from preschool to secondary level with 100% GER (gross enrolment ratio) in school education by 2030. Š • New 5+3+3+4 School Curriculum with 3 years of Aanganwadi/pre-Schooling and 12 years of Schooling. Š • Emphasis on foundational literacy and numeracy, no hard separation between academic streams, extracurricular, vocational streams in school, exposure to vocational education to start from Class 6 with internships. Š • Assessment reforms with 360-degree holistic progress card and tracking student progress for achieving learning outcomes. A National Assessment Centre -- PARAKH (Performance Assessment, Review, and Analysis of Knowledge for Holistic Development)-- to be set-up as a standard-setting body for transforming assessment. • Setting-up of State School Standards Authority (SSSA) to establish a minimal set of standards based on basic parameters (namely, safety, security, basic infrastructure, number of teachers across subjects and grades, financial probity, and sound processes of governance), which shall be followed by all schools. Š • Teacher education to move into a multi-disciplinary environment and four year B.ED integrated to become a minimum degree qualification for school teachers by 2030. Š • Achieving 100% youth and adult literacy. Š • The policy promotes multilingualism in both schools and higher education. Wherever possible, the medium of instruction until at least Grade 5, but preferably till Grade 8 and beyond, will be the home language/mother tongue/ local language/regional language; National Institute for Pali, Persian and Prakrit , Indian Institute of Translation and Interpretation to be set up. Š • GER in higher education to be raised to 50% by 2035. Š • Higher education curriculum to have flexibility of subjects. Š • Multiple Entry / Exit, and transfer of credit through an Academic Bank of Credits. Š National Research Foundation to be established to foster a strong research culture. Š Light but tight regulation of higher education, single regulator with four separate verticals for different functions- the Higher Education Commission of India (HECI). Š • A stage-wise mechanism for granting graded autonomy to colleges, through a transparent system of graded accreditation, will be established. Š • Increased use of technology with equity; National Educational Technology Forum to be created. Š • Setting up of Gender Inclusion Fund, Special Education Zones for disadvantaged regions and groups. BRIDGING EDUCATION-EMPLOYMENT GAP Academic Bank of Credits : Among the many elements of the NEP, a few have a direct impact on employability. One of the biggest shifts is that the NEP empowers the future workforce with more flexibility to choose their subjects/courses. Entry / exit, and transfer of credit through an Academic Bank of Credits will allow students to earn and retain credits which will enable them to continue their education from where they had left, in case they drop out midway. A college student who quits a degree course after one year gets a certificate. She can earn a diploma after two years of study and a degree after three/four years. This flexibility and autonomy will enable students to explore a variety of options and acquire skills that the market demands rather than acquiring degrees that lead them nowhere. The path-breaking thought behind this policy is to have no insurmountable walls among curricular, extracurricular or co-curricular subjects, or among arts, commerce or science streams, or between vocational or academic courses. What this means is that a student can enrol for a programme in one institution and simultaneously sign up for courses of her choice in multiple institutions for earning credits in the physical and/or online mode. Further to close the gap in achievement of learning outcomes, classroom transactions will shift towards competency-based learning and education. Thus, there will be a shift from summative assessment to regular and formative assessment, which is more competency-based that promotes learning and development, and tests higher-order skills, such as analysis, logical thinking and clarity - skills that stand the test of time and are much in demand in the fast-changing workplace. Vocational education: Taking employment-oriented education a step further, the NEP 2020 lays stress on vocational training and integrating it with the mainstream education system, unlike the current system where vocational education is a poorer cousin of academic courses, seen as a last resort for students who are unable to cope with the rigours of mainstream education. It is envisaged in the policy that vocational education will be integrated in the educational offerings of all secondary schools in a phased manner over the next decade. Towards this, secondary schools will also collaborate with ITIs, polytechnics, local industry, etc., to formulate vocational courses. All students will participate in a 10-day bagless period sometime during Classes 6-8 where they intern with local vocational experts. Students in Classes 9-12 will get similar internship opportunities to learn vocational subjects. This is extremely crucial for school dropouts who look for jobs in the unorganized sector, or opt for self-employment. The introduction of optional subjects such as financial literacy, coding data science and artificial intelligence at the secondary and higher secondary level are indications of the will to bring in subjects that have a direct impact on the employability front, preparing students for the tectonic shifts in the job market. As part of a holistic education, students at all higher education institutes will be given internship opportunities with local factories, businesses, artists, craftspersons, etc., as well as research internships with faculty and researchers at their own or other higher education institutes/research institutions, so that they can actively engage with the practical side of their learning and get hands-on learning, thereby improvingtheir chances of finding suitable employment at the end of their tenure. Focus areas for vocational education will be chosen based on skills gap analysis and mapping of local opportunities. The ministry of human resource development will constitute a National Committee for the Integration of Vocational Education (NCIVE), consisting of experts in vocational education, representatives from across different ministries, and industries, to oversee this effort. The practical and reformist approach undertaken by the NEP 2020, with regard to the employability and vocational training of undergraduates from all streams, is a giant leap towards making education and employment more aligned with each other. The policy proposes internships in private and public sectors for students enrolled in undergraduate courses, to equip graduates with industry experience. The NEP lays emphasis on experiential learning, thus helping foster 21st century skills like problem solving, lateral thinking and critical analysis along with behavioural competencies - skills essential for shopfloors and boardrooms alike. Coming to medium of instruction, a key aspect of NEP 2020 is the promotion of all Indian languages. It has recommended that schools and higher education institutes give students the option to study in their mother tongues, thus ensuring that those studying in non-English institutes do not get sidelined. Schools in some states have already made a start with textbooks in respective languages on the way. Technical education is being offered in eight regional languages in certain institutions on a pilot basis from 2021-22. The languages include Hindi, Bengali, Tamil, Telugu, Marathi, Gujarati, Kannada and Malayalam. A sad commentary on the current education system has been on the undue stress on marks achieved in examinations instead of focusing on the skills and knowledge gained during the course. Thus, the NEP 2020 aims to reduce undue focus on the Class 10 and Class 12 board exams. Consequently, board exams administered by the Central Board of Secondary Education will have a higher number of multiple-choice and analytical questions from 2021-2022 academic year. If this trend is followed by the various state boards, we could see a course correction in the school education system. As per government data, the unemployment rate of educated persons in India was at 11.4%. Given that half of India's population is under 25 and around 66% are younger than 35, this small percentage actually works out to a very large number. The United Nations suggests that by 2027, India will represent almost one-fifth of the global workforce, which will by far, be the largest in the world. The National Education Policy aims to turn India into a global knowledge superpower, making our youth future ready. It is up to us, India's citizens and particularly the youth, to seize the moment. (The writer is a Delhi-based journalist and can be contacted at ideainksreply @gmail.com) Views expressed are personal Image Courtesy: Google