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Education under the light of NEP and beyond

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The National Education Policy 2020 draws attention to the development of creative imagination based on the principle that education must expand cognitive aptitude including literacy and numeracy.

By Anirudh Khaitan

The only thing that separates humans from other living beings is the ability to make a “choice.” This is in essence what makes us humans. The ability to make a better choice comes from being educated. Education has always been an essential aspect of our existence as human beings.

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Every period of time needs a different approach to learning. In the past when information was not available democratically, then classrooms were meant for disseminating information. In today’s day and age when information is available at a “tap of the screen” then a different approach to education is required.

The Government of India identified the importance of universal access to quality education for the development of talents and resources for the growth on the level of an individual, society, country, and eventually the world. There is a constant need to identify and introduce policies and strategies to enable our young people progress. Though, we should be mindful that there is a fine balance between growth and the preservation of our culture.

The introduction of a new education policy was long overdue since the implementation of the previous policy in 1986, which was modified in 1992 and 2009. A new policy was required to reform the education sector and keep up with the changing trends and requisites of the modern education landscape. Adopting universal high-quality education has become vital, acknowledging the fact that India will have the highest youth population in the world over the next decade and the ability to provide quality educational prospects will ascertain the future of our country.

The Government of India addressed this concern by forming an education policy for the 21 st century known as The National Education Policy–2020 (NEP). The NEP was formed to deal with multiple necessities for the development of our country by reconsideration and improvement of all aspects of education, including regulation, governance, and building a new educational structure that is associated with the goals of education in the 21st century, including UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG4) that ensures ‘inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all’.

The National Education Policy 2020 draws attention to the development of creative imagination based on the principle that education must expand cognitive aptitude including literacy and numeracy. In other words, the focal point of NEP is promoting critical thinking and problem solving along with social, ethical, and emotional dispositions, keeping in mind the rich heritage of ancient Indian knowledge.

The principles of New Education Policy can be broadly summarized as below:

  • Facilitation of creative imagination, with strong ethics and values resulting in engaged, productive, and contributing citizens for building an inclusive society as envisioned by our Constitution
  • Identifying and nurturing the unique capabilities of each student, by educating teachers and parents to promote the holistic development of each student academically and/or otherwise
  • Basic Literacy and Numeracy of all students by the 3 rd grade of their academics
  • Educational institutions where every student is welcomed in a safe and encouraged learning environment offering a wide range of learning experiences and good infrastructure conducive to learning
  • Seamless integration and coordination across educational institutions
  • Flexibility for learners to choose their learning pace, course, and programme according to their talents and interests
  • Discernible distinction between arts and sciences, curricular and extra-curricular activities, vocational and academic courses to be reduced
  • A holistic approach to learning between sciences, social sciences, arts, humanities, and sports to ensure integrity among all types of education
  • Emphasis on fundamental understanding as opposed to learning-for-exams
  • Incorporation of different languages in teaching and learning
  • Improving life skills like communication, teamwork, and resilience
  • Adoption of technology in teaching and learning to remove language barriers and increased access for students especially given the recent COVID-19 pandemic
  • Providing quality education to all students irrespective of their location with a particular focus on historically marginalized, disadvantaged, and/or underrepresented groups
  • Continuous evaluation of progress based on constant research and regular assessment by educational experts
  • Re-establishment the status of teachers as the most respected and essential members of our society through empowerment of teachers to enable them to do their job effectively

Although, the NEP is a welcome step forward in making education available to every citizen of India, however, some major challenges hinder the effective implementation of this comprehensive policy. The cost and time of implementation is definitely a factor hampering the proper execution of this policy; another factor is the lack of policy making cooperation among educational and political stakeholders. A big Stakeholder in education which are “independently financed schools” are completely missing from the discussion in the NEP. approximately 50% of children go to independent private schools and without taking them in their stride, the effective implementation of NEP is going to be tough.

These factors affect the speedy implementation of this policy, delaying the much-required changes at least till these obstacles are addressed. On the other hand, the knowledge landscape of the world continues to change rapidly. The scientific and technological advances in machine learning and artificial intelligence are taking over many unskilled jobs, which have given rise to the need for a skilled workforce, especially in the field of mathematics, computer science, and other multidisciplinary skills.

Education needs to adopt a more holistic, integrated, experience-focused, inquisitive, discovery-driven, learner-based, flexible, and enjoyable approach to develop all aspects and capabilities of the learners. Education needs to be more well-formed, practical, functional, and constructive for the learner to help promote ethics and values like coherence, compassion, and concern while preparing them for desired employment.

This void in the existing state of learning and the required state of learning still demands major reforms in the quality and integrity into the education system from early stages and throughout higher education, regardless of the learner’s social or economic background. The Modi government has made bold reforms in Agriculture, banking, telecom and many other sectors. It is time for them to show us the way in education and make bold reforms there for their dream of “Affordable Quality Education for all”

(The author is Vice-chairman, Khaitan Public School. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of the Financial Express Online.)

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