Governance

National Education Policy: Why education must be anchored in quality and equity

States support, corporate commitments and value addition by other stakeholders can usher in a major transformation in education

 
By Ram Krishna Sinha
Published: Wednesday 02 December 2020

The new National Education Policy (NEP 2020) unveiled by the Union government is being seen as the most ambitious reform initiated in recent times. It introduces sweeping changes in pedagogy, teaching methods, fee structures, evaluation, regulatory mechanism and openness to global universities. 

But NEP apart, the education landscape in India has lately brightened up for some other conducive factors as well. These are: 

Policy push 

Having direct linkages with skill development, employability and job creation, a vibrant education sector besides complimenting flagship schemes of the government can help meet the demands of knowledge economy, industry 4.0 or education 2.0 as well.

The government has been providing policy support through relaxed foreign direct investment norms, public-private interventions, and now the NEP 2020. 

Corporate giants in education

Corporate giants are making a beeline for big investments in education. Search giant Google recently announced plans to invest $10 billion in education in India. Silicon Valley giant Facebook is entering a partnership with Central Board of Secondary Education to launch a certified curriculum on digital safety, online well-being and augmented reality. Corporate business houses like the Mahindra Group have also forayed in the domain.  

Rise of technology 

Emerging technologies like virtual reality, augmented reality and innovative gamification techniques are creating an entirely new learning environment. This has led to blended learning, adaptive learning, three-dimensional immersive learning, etc.

We observed how the technology was leveraged through online learning platforms, webinars, video streaming, virtual hackathons, etc during the lockdown imposed to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

Market size 

India has the world’s largest population of about 500 million in the age bracket of 5-24 years. Further, be it the number of colleges and universities, or students enrolled in higher education, the numbers are just phenomenal.

Estimated at over $100 billion, the sector is poised for exponential expansion. The country is already the second-largest market for e-learning and internet in the world.  

Leveraging education in business  

Businesses are keen to leverage emerging technologies like block chain and data analytics in their business verticals. With such skill and competency endowments, corporates can foray into cutting-edge sectors like energy, communications, transportation, defense, etc. 

However, some serious challenges on quality and equity fronts remain. 

Quality 

If educational content is not right, there would be little gain from the knowledge and skills imparted to students. Teachers and academic institutions need to ensure that the content they are using is lucid, appropriate, fact-based and relevant.  

In the digital age, an intensive training of teachers at periodic intervals — in the new learning devices, approaches, and in handling evolved curriculum — is critical.

In a virtual world, a teacher’s role in building capabilities of critical thinking, reflection, life skills and cultivating the virtue of empathy in students assume more importance.

While a whole-hearted contribution with a sense of responsibility and accountability on the part of teachers is of paramount importance, we as parents, administrators and society at large, also need to give them due incentives, respect and dignity. 

Equity 

For education to be availed as social good, its easy access at an affordable cost and quality is a precondition.  

In the collective confinement, when online schools, zoom classes and digital textbooks are new normal, the sector was witness to some glaring inadequacies. Millions of children were deprived of access to connectivity or devices due to poverty or dismal infrastructure.

Apart from unfamiliarity and discomfort of the disadvantaged students with digital platforms, the sudden transition also posed challenges for teachers not equipped with information and communication technology skills. The lack of content in vernacular languages is another issue. 

Unless addressed with urgency, the digital split may disrupt learning, especially among the vulnerable and marginalised, and undo some of the hard-won gains, particularly in school enrolments / girl child education.  

Banks’ support 

Access to education loans from banks and financial institutions are great support in the cause of education, particularly higher education. However, the segment is generally not favoured by the lenders due to high delinquencies and absence of collaterals.

Non-standardisation of courses and certification, and non-employability are some other issues. The issue calls for review of the bank lending norms. 

State support: 

Education is on the concurrent list of the Constitution. All states, therefore, have an equal say on the subject. A cooperative and collaborative spirit will thus be critical to realise the goals. The Centre has a task well cut for building consensus on NEP-2020 to ensure its effective implementation.

Notwithstanding the challenges, the Centre’s policy push, states’ support, corporate commitments and value addition by other stakeholders can surely usher in a major transformation in the sector. 

The domain of education in the country has lit up. And this augers well not only for the sector, but also for the 21st century aspirational India.

Ram Krishna Sinha is a former bank executive and writes on contemporary issues. Views expressed are the author’s own and don’t necessarily reflect those of  Down To Earth

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