India, over the years, has produced excellent students and working professionals across multiple fields. But having said this, educationists, for a long time now, have been actively demanding a change in the existing education system in the country for a variety of reasons. And rightly so.
One of the major criticisms of the the existing education system is that it only focuses on making the students seekers rather than job providers. Two of the other major criticisms of the education system were that they don’t focus much on providing skill-based and activity-based learning, but that they only promote the practice of ‘rote learning’ among students.
Let’s now shift the focus of this blog, the National Education Policy 2020 (NEP 2020). Based on the media reports and opinions made by the experts, it looks like all the previously mentioned criticisms have been addressed in NEP 2020 and some transformational changes have been proposed to fill several gaps in the education system. The emphasis on vocational education, focus on teaching coding for children right from a young age and stress on skill-based and activity-based learning have earned unanimously good responses.
The fact that NEP 2020 is also targeting to achieve a gross enrolment ratio (GER) of 50% in higher education by 2030 from approximately 26.3% (currently) is being lauded by many.
To get more insight on NEP 2020, the Classe365 team conducted a QnA session with its cofounder Nandan Keerthi to get an expert opinion and on what this new education policy means to India. Some of the questions the team asked the co-founder also consist of queries from Classe365 customers, who wanted his opinion on the proposed changes.
Excerpts from the QnA session:
Before the release of NEP 2020 policy, what were the major changes you expected in India’s education system?
As someone who studied both in India and abroad, I can safely say that I have seen the best of both worlds. At the same time, I have also seen the issues with different kinds of education systems. Having closely observed the education sector over the past couple of decades, I was eagerly looking forward to NEP 2020. I also have the advantage of looking at the proposed changes both as an outsider and as someone who was born and raised in India.
Before the release of NEP 2020, I was highly hoping that three major changes would be brought forward: making the curriculum flexible, promoting vocational training & skill-based learning and introducing activity-based learning. In fact, only a few weeks prior to the release of NEP 2020, I had written a couple of blogs – Moving to a skill-based economy: Activity-based learning will be the pillar of support and The Future of Work Post COVID-19: A Journey Towards Employment in the Skill-Based Economy.
And when NEP 2020 was released, I was pleasantly surprised and very satisfied to see that even the new changes had all the suggestions I had written in my blog. I wasn’t the only advocate of this. Several educationists and techpreneurs have off late been speaking about how the job-market and the economy are changing and why we need to change the approach towards teaching the future workforce.
As an expert in the education sector, how do you think this new policy will help Indian education system help students be better prepared to join the future workforce?
There are multiple proposals in the policy that would help Indian students to not only be well-equipped to join the future workforce, but also to become entrepreneurs themselves. To start with, NEP 2020 focuses on providing a flexible curriculum for students which I think is the way forward. We can’t still be rigid and make students study the things which they don’t show much interest in. There is a particular emphasis on competency-based education, digital literacy, computational thinking and mathematical thinking and problem solving. These can create a strong foundation.
As children grow, concepts like ‘practice-based curriculum’, ‘skill gap analysis’, ‘skills framework’ and ‘vocational crafts’ can help the students become highly competent individuals. One of the most heartening facts is that NEP 2020 is striving to ensure that in the next five years, at least 50% of students would have exposure to vocational learning. I think these factors can shape the students to become skilled professionals who can both be job seekers and job providers.
Why do you think skill-based and activity-based learning are important?
We’re moving from a knowledge-based economy to skill-based economy. While we were in a knowledge-based economy, the existing (old) Indian education system was alright. But as we move on to a skill-based economy, there are some glaring shortcomings with the education system which only a new policy like NEP 2020 can address. Further, I had mentioned in my previous blog that ‘no one outside the Silicon Valley knows what the trend in education is going to be in the next two years’. So again, having a rigid, mark/grade-oriented kind of education isn’t going to work. Instead, there needs to be a flexible curriculum.
Degrees are alone no longer enough for individuals. Rather, employers – including me – are looking for individuals who are very good at particular skills rather than boasting a degree with good grades. The trend of contractual jobs, freelance jobs and remote jobs are growing while the conventional jobs are slowly starting to take a backseat. During a time like this, only skill-based learning can help students.
I also very strongly advocate activity-based learning because it is the one which helps and compliments skill-based learning. Simply put, an activity-based approach can help students learn skills more effectively.
You mentioned that a flexible curriculum is essential in a skill-based economy. Why do you think so?
Take myself as an example. As an edtech founder, I’m employ people. Whenever I am recruiting a new employee, I hardly look at his/ her academic achievement/ credentials. Rather, I look at the projects they have undertaken, the skills they have demonstrated and the personality they bring along with them. This is an era where solid projects glitter more than gold medals. And to allow students/ graduates boast projects, skills and other essential traits, conventional education might not be highly useful. Rather, a flexible curriculum, which can help students focus more on THEIR interests, than what the degree/ diploma wants them to do is very important.
What are the other good aspects of NEP 2020? Do you have any concerns?
I really like how NEP 2020 is addressing the opportunity gap. It is one of the primary missions for them. Alongside this, it also focuses on value-based education and teaches and promotes inclusivity right from a very young age. I think these are very important.
I don’t have many major concerns with NEP 2020. I just hope that the implementation of the policies are as seamless and as efficient as the policies themselves.