This is a world of ‘disruption’, but not in the way dictionaries define the term. ‘Disruption’ is looked up as a beacon of change – much like what are seeing in Indian education for three decades in a row. Radical policies and programmes have been introduced that have sought to strengthen the education system and improve learning outcomes. The Right to Education (RTE) Act in 2009, National Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) Policy in 2013, and more recently, National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 were introduced as enablers of change with a single goal to educate and empower children – our future.
Today’s classroom is tomorrow’s boardroom
In the words of Abraham Lincoln, “The philosophy of the school room in one generation will be the philosophy of the government in the next”.
This puts into perspective the need for policies in the field of education because they directly impact nation and the world, at large – a set of well-research and strategic guidelines that have the power to make our children think like leaders. The Right to Education Act, introduced in 2009, mandated ‘free and compulsory’ education for children between ages six to 14. This radical Act made it obligatory for governments and institutions to ensure every step is taken to achieve this goal. An impact report released by Observer Research Foundation (ORF), 10 years after its implementation, noted a 19.4% rise in enrolment in the upper primary level (Classes 6-8), nationally, by 2016.
How a local model became a global phenomenon
Worldwide, there have been localised initiatives that have snowballed into global trends, the most remarkable being the K-12 model. The first K-12 schools started in the US in the 19th century, which pushed for public-backed primary and secondary education. It has now shaped into a holistic education system adopted by several nations including the UK, Australia, Canada and China. Conceptually, it has evolved into a system that shatters the traditional conventions of education by erasing the lines between blackboard and benches. Increased teacher-student interactions, encouraging students to ask think and ingraining the merits of self-learning are all thanks to the K-12 model.
India adopted the modern K-12 education model in the late 1980s to provide Government-backed school education, universally. Today, it is broadly accepted by Government and public schools, with all boards including ICSE, CBSE, state boards, IB and IGCSE affiliated to it. The overarching quality of this model makes it adapt with times to address specific needs of students, provide teachers with adequate training and ownership among stakeholders. The buzzwords such as holistic education, self-learning, creative imagination, open communication, physical fitness can largely be credited to the K-12 model.
The latest ‘disruption’ can be India’s key to success
Indian education’s watershed moment came in the form of the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020. Introduced to bring about drastic reforms in K-12 education, the policy aims at realising India’s dream of becoming a global knowledge superpower. The key highlight of this policy is leveraging technology to make learning more accessible and effective. As the world shrinks in size with each passing day, creating a mandate for hybrid mode of education is imperative. This can also be viewed as a positive step to changing children’s connection with gadgets – seeing them as tools for education rather than means of entertainment. Also, one of NEP 2020’s targets include boosting the Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) in higher education to 50% by 2035. Online learning and assessment will go a long way in meeting this target.
Another far-reaching aspect of policy is the focus on providing vocational and technical education to students so that they are better equipped to enter the workforce. It also seeks to provide greater autonomy to higher education institutions and promote academic mobility. As a result, the public and private universities will both be governed by the same regulations, making the system less rigid. The policy also states learning should be holistic, joyful, stress-free, and a lifelong process and therefore focuses on critical thinking, discovery, inquiry, discussion, and teaching based on analysis and holistic learning methods.
Strategies, Systems and Sanctity – the need of the hour
Now that the policy is put into place, the onus now lies on the stakeholders to unite and make the best of it. Those at the helm of educational institutions must ensure systematic implementation of the policy, and most importantly, assess its effectiveness periodically through digitisation. Another noteworthy aspect is observing restraint. In a statement released by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) on the implementation of NEP 2020, Prime Minister Narendra Modi rightly highlighted that a hybrid system of online and offline learning should be developed to avoid overexposure of technology among school-going children. While the implementers have several tools to their disposal, maintaining a balance will be critical. Certain aspects such as the one raised by our Honourable Prime Minister need to be sacrosanct. After all, it is our future we are taking about.
Quoting Sudha Murthy , “Vision without action is merely a dream; action without vision is merely passing time; but vision and action together can change the world.” Going forward, every action in the field of education needs to be driven by a clear vision because the collective goal is to change the world.
Views expressed above are the author’s own.