For national development, you have to focus on education development.
Sustainable development cannot be achieved unless there is a substantial investment in human capital. A cursory glance at how education interacts with the economy reveals why certain economies flourish while others falter.
The recently released New National Education Policy seems to have internalized this factor. It has brought about some stellar reforms to an aging education system that has been handed over from generation to generation as an inheritance from the days of the first Industrial Revolution.
India’s education policy has received a much-needed revamp after three long decades. This is a welcome change, especially since the world has changed enormously over the past few years. Technology, something that is driving the world, hasn’t been a part of any school syllabus. Even it has been in the form of computer studies, it has been rudimentary, to say the least.
Now, when the pace of technological progress has accelerated and technology becomes the center of every industry, it becomes imperative not only to make it a part of the education system but also to leverage it to drive the system.
What I liked about the new policy was that it took an honest look at what needs fixing in our education system. Having school-going kids myself, I was thrilled to see that the policy focuses on ‘education’ and places equal importance on fun and play in learning. These concepts have been a part of the coveted education systems of the western world typically. The policy takes the challenges presented in the curricular and pedagogical structure of our current education system head-on and promises to usher it into modern times.
The policy surely is posed to be a game-changer, especially since it takes into account the most pressing issues of an ailing education system.
Inclusiveness, accessibility, language barriers – these are very real challenges that impede many, especially the low economic and marginalized communities to move along the path of learning. The policy, in its clear and transparent manner, identifies these gaps and promises to build the bridge.
Driving ‘learning agility’
This is perhaps the most relevant and the most important change that has been introduced by the policy. The basic tenets of the policy are designed around the principles that children not only need to learn but also need to learn ‘how to learn. The rapid changes in the knowledge landscape have been the key motivator for this goal.
I find this approach visionary since the Indian education system so far has looked away from its aging methodology. While the factory-like education system (a system introduced during the time of the first industrial revolution) worked for a long time, the purpose behind that education system was to create a more employable workforce to work in factories.
Today we need to develop a more ‘thinking’ workforce since everything else is getting replaced by automation. We constantly seek people who can be on the path to continuous learning. This bent of mind can be achieved if children are taught not only what to learn but also how to learn.
Technology finally gets its due
When software is driving every possible business, it is a surprise that it has not been used to drive education until now.
The 2020 education policy thankfully addresses this big black hole and promises to integrate technology into all levels of Indian schools.
It is not only going to be used to enable learning for students, drive inclusive learning for specially-abled children, and foster multi-lingual capacity but will also be used to help teachers to estimate their needs and aid their professional development. Technology will now streamline education planning, administration, and management in schools and colleges going forward.
‘Technology as a subject’ to get future-ready
The new Education Policy aims to drastically revamp the education system to drive the innovation capacity of future generations. India has been the intellectual capital of the world. With the changes and advancements brought about by the policy, I am sure that we shall be positioned as the innovation superpower as well.
The use of school complexes to drive adult education after school hours, the focus on vocational studies, employment of quality modules to teach sign language, and more signal the coming of progressive times in a dating education structure.
The policy places great emphasis on building a digital infrastructure and digital content to drive alternative modes of education and increase access to quality education. The policy also proposes a dedicated unit for digital and online learning that will enable all this and develop applications, online courses, modules, and satellite-based TV channels to drive better learning outcomes.
The focus on experiential learning and making all institutions multidisciplinary comes as a welcome step, especially since all aspects of society and business today lean in on being multidisciplinary as well. The blurring lines between liberal arts and sciences will facilitate new-age skills that go beyond silos created by a ‘tech only’ or an ‘arts only’ approach.
Focus on 21st-century skills
Coding has been called out as a 21st-century skill and will be a part of curriculums from grade 6. It will make the future generation ready with relevant skills to increase employability in the future. It will also bridge the huge gap between affordability and coding literacy.
The focus of this policy on key concepts, ideas, and its applications and developing problem-solving skills promise a bright future. New-age technologies such as AI and analytics are built on the premise of logical thinking, problem-solving, and critical thinking. The inclusion of these programs will consequently lead to a more employable future generation since these skills will be essential for professional success in the coming decades.
The focus on digital literacy, coding, and computational thinking via subjects such as Artificial Intelligence, Big Data Analysis, and Machine Learning will boost the cognitive abilities of the students giving them the tools they need to succeed in the age of the AI economy.
The new Education Policy recognizes the need and importance of skill-based learning and the need to educate the coming generations in technologies that are driving the economy, business, and industries. Not only schools but also colleges and universities are introducing courses to meet the growing demand for these technologies.
I am positive that these courses, especially at the college and university level, will now be more pragmatic and contextual and will focus on skill generation.
For that to happen, programs on futuristic technologies will have to have a robust curriculum complemented with the right tools to help students learn better. Access to the right tools, allowing students to work on real-world cases, providing access to a robust network of mentors and professionals, and a place to prototype projects and build MVP will create an employable workforce and also contribute to the innovation index of the country.
The repositioning of vocational education
The policy also does a whole lot more justice to vocational education than pay it mere lip service. It bridges the chasm where vocational education stands lower in the importance and relevance ladder when compared to mainstream education. Encouraging short-term courses in different skills, including power skills, will take students from merely ‘knowing’ to ‘application’ and will change the perception that a degree trumps knowledge.
While this policy is modern and forward-thinking, it also holds on to our Indian roots, where once we placed teachers as the most valuable and revered members of our society.
The emphasis on continuous teacher training and new performance management methods will have a force multiplier effect on the education system as well. The policy will also increase the availability and inflow of skilled and knowledgeable resources as teachers into the education system by making it mandatory for Ph.D. students to teach.
While the changes might take time in implementing given the sheer size of our country and the multiple dynamics at play, I am sure that this policy will be a game-changer, nonetheless.