Q The NEP 2020 is being discussed everywhere. What do you think are the positives in the new NEP that are a part of this policy?
The NEP 2020 is not just about the financial investment in education; it is about the hope of development of a robust and relevant system. Not only will this new system with multidisciplinary studies help the educational institutions evolve into holistic organizations, but the autonomy would also help them in providing world-class academics and opportunities for the students. Considering the drop outs and long durations of the programmes, this novel system would act as an Academic Bank of Credit- be it providing a certificate course for first year or a diploma for second year- and this will not only encourage the students to continue their studies in future if they drop out, but will also provide them with an academic credit for whatever time they invested. Establishment of National Research Foundation will provide a major boost to research as well.
Yet another progressive thing about the NEP 2020 is the replacement of current 10+2 system by 5+3+3+4 system—which will restructure pre-school years by providing pedagogical guidelines and assistance, with no formal assessment. The innovative system has recognized the voids in the existing education system that relied comprehensively on rote learning and was criticized for restraining the creativity of the learners.
Q Any policy can be said to cater to only popular thought if there are no voices raised against some of the features. What are the features in the policy that makes the private colleges and institutions restless?
There are numerous challenges that need to be taken care of with the implementation of the NEP 2020. Currently, there’s a scarcity of over 40% of teachers in educational institutions. The first and the foremost challenge is training and developing teachers to make the system work, but also planning a strategy to achieve this. Apart from this, allowing top foreign universities to set up campuses and constituting bodies that would focus on the measurement of learning outcomes, can have a positive impact on the efforts for quality enhancement; however, the private colleges and institutions will have to raise the quality of their academic standards to getquality admissions. Further, ensuring that the remittances earned by the foreign universities are invested in India itself is going to be challenging.To me, however, the biggest challenge is the implementation of the policy in its letter and spirit.
Q How will you perceive the term ‘interdisciplinary’ when compared to the education system that exists in India today?
The NEP 2020 aims at establishing at-least multidisciplinary college in every district, which would give flexibility to choose from myriad subjects ranging from sports, arts, science, humanities, mathematics, etc. at the same time. The present-day system constrained the students to have a resourceful combination of subjects, access the cutting edge curriculum and multiple entry and exit options during the undergraduate courses. Hence, the students entering the industry will also be generalists with depth of their chosen discipline. The fresh approach will nurture intellectual inquisitiveness, a critical thought process, self-reflection, leadership and teamwork skills, professionalism and sensitivity to socio-cultural environment. If substantial investments are made by the government in training the teachers to impart world-class education and upgrading their skills, it would also inspire many quality aspirants to consider their career in academia.
Q Do you think the terms ‘future-ready’, ‘employability’, and ‘job-ready’ have been mercilessly exploited by the corporate world to hide their own inefficiencies? If yes, how must the education industry tackle this? Do corporate too need an overhaul in their attitude?
Our previous education policy was more inclined towards getting high scores and not building skills-and hence the industry didn’t find these graduates fit for employment. The NEP 2020 is based upon research and skill-oriented learning that shall include hands-on learning, experiential learning, critical thinking, regional languages and storytelling apart from the inclusion of contemporary subjects like coding, big data, AI and ML from the 6th standard itself. The emphasis on advanced technologies, from an early age, shall help young minds, to prepare for the digital future and make them ‘future-ready’. This would help the students learn skills that hold prominence in the practical world, with an option for electing various vocational courses—both online and offline—and even take admission in Indian campuses of foreign universities. According to a research by Bloomberg, India would be accounting for 18 percent of the global workforce by the year 2027; and hence, introducing vocational courses and technical knowledge like coding at younger age will upgrade the students and bring the education system at par with the rest of the world. However, educational institutions should help the student develop not only skills required for employment, but also a positive attitude and human values to develop as a successful leader and manager.
On their part, industry will need to allow its employees to innovate and experiment. They will also need to focus on processes and not merely outcomes.
Q There are mentions in NEP 2020 about private and public institutions to be treated at par. What does this really imply? The concept then goes on to add that education is to be ‘not for profit’ for ALL. How do you think this aim can be achieved, considering that there are a number of institutions and universities subsisting on just grants doled out to them?
NEP 2020 aims at increasing expenditure as a percentage of GDP on both education and research and the establishment of National Research Foundation (NRP) will provide research grants to the institutions as well. However, it is important that NRP treats private and public institutions at par. Currently, a few leading centrally funded institutions receive the majority of the funding, and more than 68 percent of private colleges do not receive any aid from the government—and are aided by student’s tuition fees. This has led to disparities among the private institutions and only a few are able to provide quality education to the students—without a fee hike. Apart from this, the educational entrepreneurship in India is limited to coaching centers, and admission to all the higher education institutes based on tests scores conducted by National Testing Authority further encourages this. However, introducing the four-year undergraduate programme with certificate after one year and diploma subsequently would help the students in private institutions as well to transfer their degrees and credits to other universities. There’s a need to also allow the institutions to create a liquid corpus fund that can be invested and saved, and one that can be used during the difficult times like COVID19. The government can encourage more flexibility for the institutes to raise and create corpus which can be used for research or allow a private-for-profit investment in education.
Q Is it time for more eminent educationists to enter politics and make their views heard when implementations are being debated?
Historically, educationists have been a part of the political system. It is time for those numbers to go up as well as discussions on Indian social and political environment to become a part of the educational discourse. We need more educationists to come into politics and we need more politicians to be educated.
Q What is your views on Doing MBA or other professional courses post lockdown has changed the preferences of the regular mode of education.
Classroom education can never be substituted with e-courses. Learning needs to be both in the classroom and outside as well. However, in the current COVID19 times, B-Schools have done everything in their power to ensure quality learning and enable smooth admission processes. While enrolling in any course currently might not be an easy decision, it may prove highly advantageous in the long run. Pursuing a degree during a difficult economy may help the participants gain new knowledge and skills during the crisis and they may benefit after the economic recovery when they graduate. The biggest challenge might not be lack of demand, but the travel restrictions at this stage. However, education can never be restricted to books and laptops since networking and practical knowledge enhances a student’s skills to prepare them for the corporate world.