TheNFAPost Podcast
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S Srikanth

Bengaluru, NFAPost: The National Education Policy 2020 (NEP 2020) will align and transform India’s education system with the needs of the 21st century while remaining rooted to the country’s value system as it is set to offer a comprehensive framework for elementary education to higher education.

Explaining how the policy could transform the education system at the Bengaluru Tech Summit 2020, Dr K Kasturirangan, chairman of the Committee for Draft National Education Policy said it includes introduction of vocational education training at younger levels and the need for furthering a cultural innovation besides a skilled workforce.

In his keynote address, the eminent scientist outlined the elements of the NEP 2020 encompassing school education and higher education including professional and vocational education.

“India, over the next decade, will have the highest young population in the world, with more than 50% of the population below the age of 35 aspiring for high quality education. The demographic dividend has to be taken advantage of. To do so, it calls for a need to enable them to acquire new skills, one that will help them to learn how to learn,” he said.

Transformative changes

Dr Kasturirangan said the policy has recommended transformative changes in the way school education needs to be reconfigured, which includes the shift from the 10+2 design to 5+3+3+4 structure.

“The new structure is based on our better understanding of the scientific insights on the learning trajectory. Within the age of 3-14, children gradually transition from perceptual learning to conceptual learning, then moving on to prescriptive learning and abstraction. This aligns with the children’s learning abilities. The education is holistic and there is no distinction between curricular, co-curricular or extra-curricular,” he said. 

The eminent scientisit explained that the four-year learning stage, which is the higher secondary education from the age of 15 to 18 is designed to enable students explore their interests and strengths.

He noted the changes in the knowledge landscape, especially in science and technology like Big Data, Analytics, Machine Learning, Data Science, Artificial Intelligence, all demand skilled workforce with multi-disciplinary abilities across science and technology, social sciences and humanities.

“The education of the future needs to be reconfigured in order to meet the goals of the global education development agenda – the fourth goal of the United Nations’ sustainable development goals that seek to ensure inclusion and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunity for all,” he said.

Flexible approach

NEP 2020 offers an integrated and flexible approach to education and provides an end-to-end educational roadmap for the country, Dr. Kasturirangan said.He highlighted that NEP lays special emphasis on kindling the innovative potential of each individual, and gives them enough flexibility for students to make choices.

Dr Kasturirangan said the policy recognises teachers as torch-bearers of change. “While we are all aware of the importance of child-centric education, we cannot achieve it without having teachers at the centre. The policy takes a comprehensive view to restore teachers to their rightful high stature in society.

”The policy calls for a complete overhaul of the teacher education system and recommends making school teacher education a part of higher education.

“This can provide school teachers with a knowledge base broad and deep enough to strengthen the schooling system and places the profession at par with other professions,” he added.

Interdisciplinary programmes

The NEP’s focus on interdisciplinary graduate programmes could be a game-changer for India, he said while drawing attention to the importance of knowledge related to arts, crafts, architecture, and aesthetics as an important part of science and engineering education.

About the four-year undergraduate programme, he said: “The four-year programme will provide students with opportunities to fully experience the impact of a holistic and multidisciplinary aspect of undergraduate education, thereby enabling them to develop aesthetic, social, physical, emotional and moral capacities and go just beyond intellectual development.

”The policy takes a firm view that vocational education must be integrated into the curriculum at the under-graduate as this opens the door to the real world of work, he said.

He also pointed to the relevance of promoting a strong research and development (R&D) ecosystem as India continues to grow to become a vibrant economy.

Industry demand

“The present inadequacy in this area is very evident in the low number of researchers in India. That’s why the policy highlights the importance to better manage research at all levels – right from applied research, translational research, and research to address specific needs of the industry, social problems, strategic demands and other requirements,” he said.

The NEP 2020 policy also aims to develop universities into full-fledged research centres of excellence and has thus recommended the creation of National Research Foundation (NRF) to provide adequate funding, mentoring, and careful monitoring for both public and private funded education institutions sans distinction, he said.

Dr Kasturirangan said NRF will promote research in the area of arts, social sciences,engineering and technology including educational technology among others. He said that research in educational technology could not only play a vital role in furthering the goals of NEP but also improve the resilience to disruptions such as the one we are facing today due to the pandemic.

Education technology

He said the National Education Technology Forum, a new autonomous entity that the policy recommends, could play a key role in facilitating dialogue between the educators and education technology entrepreneurs.

Dr Kasturirangan said India has lost 220 languages over the last 50 years since they didn’t receive due attention and care. And that’s why the NEP emphasises the promotion of local languages, and learning and teaching of Indian languages in schools and higher educational institutes.

“The three-language formula outlined in the NEP promotes multi-linguism and recommends more experiential language learning and hiring of local artists.”

The policy supports the creation of strong programmes and departments in Indian languages such as creative writing, arts, philosophy etc. “The policy encourages more programmes in higher education to use the mother tongue or the local language as a medium of instruction.” 

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