Takshasila again

The NEP, 2020, will help academic institutions impart holistic education to students, making them not only great professionals but also transforming them as global leaders

In a world of rapid revolution in the knowledge landscape, dramatic advances in science and research technology, evolution in entrepreneurial aspirations, changing employment paradigm, growing digitisation of learning process and rising needs of innovation to address spiralling global challenges, the National Education Policy (NEP), 2020, is a pioneering initiative. It will help transform India’s educational system into a holistic, multi-disciplinary, flexible, synergistic, equitable, pluralistic, responsible and innovative learning ecosystem.

NEP 2020 is like a déjà vu of the paradigm ingrained in the ancient Indian educational system, one that entrenched the highest standards of multi-disciplinary teaching and research in world-class universities such as Takshashila, Nalanda, Vikramshila and Vallabhi. These universities nurtured thousands of students from India and abroad, focussing on multi-disciplinary research and innovation to build well-rounded and innovative individuals, who had the capability to lead and emancipate society through their knowledge and wisdom. Famous intellectuals of India such as Chanakya, Panini, Charaka, Vishnu Sharma and Jivaka, who were the students of the Takshashila University, left an indelible mark in world history for possessing deeper knowledge in their respective fields of study.

Now, the time is opportune to initiate a complete overhaul of the Indian educational system by infusing the past glory and at the same time, keeping in mind the contemporary context as the key driver of the mission. The 21st century world demands a holistic and multi-disciplinary educational system that can deliver integrated skills and capacities to the students, making them not only great professionals but also transforming them as global leaders who can lead the Government, enterprise, politics, economy, society and human progress with greater efficacy.

The key differentiator of NEP 2020 is the synergy in curriculum across all levels of education — from early childhood care to primary education to school education and higher education. This will help the students learn and grow in an ecosystem where learning is not just limited to examinations and certificates, but goes beyond that, helping them develop critical thinking, ethical values, the spirit of service and inculcate life skills such as communication, cooperation, teamwork and resilience. The cornerstone of NEP 2020 is the inclusion of students from all social strata across the educational system through various supportive policies. This will help the students — irrespective of their gender, caste, religion, language, socio-economic conditions and region — avail high-quality education for their overall growth and contribute towards nation-building.

Pivoted on multi-disciplinary learning in higher education, NEP 2020 will empower students to adapt the demands of the 21st century in a more effective way. For example, a student learning AI as a major with economics as a minor can build a better AI system for economic development than a student whose focus is only on AI. As the world is changing, it’s imperative for a country like India to adapt to the multi-disciplinary form of learning so as to address the global challenges in energy, healthcare, water, food and sanitation among others. For instance, the challenges thrown by the COVID-19 pandemic can only be addressed through a multi-disciplinary approach.

NEP 2020 has articulated a paradigm shift from NEP 1986 by urging higher educational institutes to have a greater focus on research and innovation by establishing centres for start-up incubation, technological development, in frontier areas of research, greater industry-academia collaboration and inter-disciplinary research, including humanities, social sciences, science and technological research. This approach will strengthen translatory research, innovation, IP creation and entrepreneurship in the country. The students passing through such educational system will be tomorrow’s job creators, innovators, leaders and institution builders. Globally, it’s an established fact that a multi-disciplinary approach to education is good for the economic progress of a country.

Global higher educational institutes such as MIT, Stanford, Harvard, Caltech, Oxford, Cambridge and Princeton have significantly contributed to research, innovation, IP creation and economic progress. Countries like the US and the UK have leveraged such multi-disciplinary educational systems to become industrially and technologically developed nations.

One of the most laudable features of NEP 2020 is the extensive use of technology in the teaching and learning process. Technology can reduce the barriers, enhance access, increase affordability and ensure inclusion. As India is a global leader in IT and emerging technology domains, NEP 2020 can leverage the robust digital infrastructure established by the Government and the industry.

Online and digital education will also help divyang students access the learning ecosystem in a seamless manner. The formation of the National Educational Technology Forum (NETF), as proposed by the new NEP, is a pioneering idea to promote the free exchange of ideas across higher learning institutes to foster innovation across the board.

India is now at the cusp of digital transformation and its impact is benefitting the society at large. Further, a strong foundation of the IT industry has paved the way for tech start-ups to leverage emerging technologies such as AI, machine learning, IoT, big data, blockchain and robotics. Such dynamism in the ecosystem has also resulted in building a start-up culture in the country. To further strengthen this start-up culture and enable it to become an enormous mass movement across industry verticals, NEP, 2020, will play a colossal role by supplying professionals, who are inherently driven by the spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship.

The new education policy also envisions a comprehensive approach to transform the quality and quantity of research in India in an integrated manner. A significant shift in school education system to encourage a more play and discovery-based style of learning, with an emphasis on scientific method and critical thinking, will further foster innovation early in the life of students. In extension, the establishment of a National Research Foundation (NRF), as envisioned by NEP, 2020, will promote a culture of research and innovation of higher order across all disciplines.

NRF will also play a catalytic role in propelling the growth of IPRs and patents in various domains. Research and innovation will further promote startup culture in the country to develop path-breaking products and solutions to address  local and global challenges.

NEP 2020 also proposes a significant rise in the allocation of funding for education from the current 4.43 per cent of the GDP to six per cent. As funding is critical for any national mission, public-private-partnership will play a transformative role in developing a modern, advanced educational ecosystem to achieve a high-quality and equitable education system, one that can steer India’s future economic, social, cultural, intellectual and technological progress and growth.

NEP 2020 is a pioneering step towards building the bedrock for a self-reliant India. The principles, objectives, visions, missions and directives will enable us to have a knowledge-driven economy. A knowledge-based educational ecosystem will promote innovation-led entrepreneurship, encourage youth of the nation to become job creators, bolster industrial productivity and rev up inclusive development. This will eventually accelerate the growth of the economy, increase per capita income and transform India into a global technology leader in the times to come.

(The writer is Director General, STPI, Govt of India)

Source: The Pioneer