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Dawn of the Champs: A new education era

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NEP is great, but its success depends on the ground-level implementation of what has been proposed

Rama Moondra: The Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved the new National Education Policy (NEP) that aims to overhaul the rotten and outdated Indian education system from the school to the university level.

Ever since the announcement, the new NEP is being discussed everywhere. While it is being praised by students and the teachers’ community, the new policy has been criticised by a few, mostly Opposition leaders.

The policy announced by the Narendra Modi-led BJP government has its demarcations clearly drawn. However, one thing that the government needs to ascertain is that the aspirational aspects of the policy need to match up with realistic and achievable targets.

While the new policy has made board exams “easier” as well as an achievable milestone, breakfast too being served under the Mid-Day Meal scheme is another welcome move. Edupreneurs are happy too at the thought of foreign universities being permitted to create big on-site campuses, whereas academicians will soon be eyeing new opportunities. All these aspects paint a very happy picture.

This apart, schools will be joining in the rally of reformed education in a way that was not perceived until now. A common joke among grown-ups and youngsters as well has been “Where do I use the Algebra and Trigonometry I had learned in the sixth standard?” While Algebra and Trigonometry are not going to go away, students will be able to choose their subjects for the board exams depending on their personal interest. It is a major change that the new policy aims to introduce.

In the future, we might see a 16-year-old CEO. The overhauled board curriculum will have a major focus on “experiential learning and critical thinking”. The best part about school education will be that the report card will also have skills and capabilities that will go beyond just marks and statements.

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The new National Education Policy also focuses on emphasising “ancient Indian knowledge” that has been included keeping in mind the scientific accuracy of such knowledge.

Under the new policy, the pedagogical structure will have the much-desired flexibility in the taught streams.
A science student need not remain stuck to his or her failed affair with the science stream. He or she can easily jump to the blissful world of the art stream, and that too, without getting jammed in the otherwise long bureaucracy of subject dominated education system.

On an average, an educated Indian can speak three languages—a wow factor for many foreigners. Language has always been a major point of debate, with southern states refusing the “imposition” of Hindi on them. The new policy takes care of that with a renewed focus on regional language.

Interestingly, the final policy approved by the Union Cabinet now has given greater flexibility to states. A pathbreaking announcement has been made that no language will be imposed on states. The three languages to be learned by children will be choices of the states, regions and individuals. The new policy also clarifies that wherever possible, the medium of instructions until grade 5 will be local/home/regional/ mother tongue.

For a commoner like me, this step might increase the already huge divide between states as Hindi or non-Hindi belts. The modern, inclusive workplaces will continue to pull jokes on migrant professionals in regional languages which at times hurt the team sentiments. Tamil Nadu has been vocal in opposing the “imposition” of Hindi.
The state ideally should be focusing on getting more inclusivity which begins with connecting the languages.

M.Phil. being discontinued is like letting go of a colleague who was on the longest leave, no one notices the absence. But now the Higher Education Commission will replace UGC and AICTE—a welcome and very bold move by the government. The current education policy is being changed after 34 years of the NEP, 1986. So, it is indeed a fresh start.

The policy has a very futuristic, need of the hour, and forward-looking agenda on the usage of technology. Teaching and learning assessments digitally are already followed by many academic institutes and virtual labs are evolving as you read this. Private philanthropic partnerships can be a game-changer for edupreneurs, who can build education technology, digital campuses, and have the likes of Ratan Tata and Anand Mahindra become a philanthropic partner.

The policy has many dimensions and it covers every aspect of the current education system. As they say, change is inevitable, but growth is optional. The NEP is growth-oriented, changing the future from today. It is about execution at the ground level that counts for the success of such policies.

(The author is a visiting faculty of IIMs and a master mentor with Centre’s Startup India Initiative)

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