Moving Education Forward

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The vision of India’s new education system has accordingly been crafted to ensure that it touches the life of each and every citizen, consistent with their ability to contribute to many growing developmental imperatives of this country on the one hand, and towards creating a just and equitable society on the other.  The Report argued that education throughout life was based on four pillars: i) Learning to know – acquiring a body of knowledge and learning how to learn, so as to benefit from the opportunities education provides throughout life; Such an articulation of a broad view of education encompassing the holistic development of students with special emphasis on the development of the creative potential of each individual, in all its richness and complexity, has grown increasingly popular in recent years, and many recent reports from UNESCO, the OECD, the World Bank, the World Economic Forum, and the Brookings Institution have highlighted the broad consensus that has developed.

Drawing from India’s heritage

The aim of education in ancient India was not just the acquisition of knowledge, as preparation for life in this world or for life beyond schooling, but for complete realisation and liberation of the self.

Culturally, India has been, and continues to be, a cradle of great diversity in all walks of life, with its myriad languages and dialects, with as many as seven classical dance forms and two classical music forms, many well-developed traditions of folk arts and music, pottery, sculptures and bronzes, exquisite architecture, incredible cuisines, fabulous textiles of all kinds, and so much more.

As Einstein said to a group of children “Bear in mind that the wonderful things you learn in your schools is the work of many generations. All this is put into your hands as your inheritance in order that you may receive it, honor it, add to it, and one day faithfully hand it on to your children. Thus do we mortals achieve immortality in the permanent things that we create in common”. 

Taking forward the agenda of previous education policies

The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 (RTE Act) which came into force in April 2010, entitles every child of the age of six to fourteen years to the right to free and compulsory education in a neighbourhood school till the completion of elementary education. The narrow time lag between the generation of new knowledge and its application, especially in the fields of science and technology, necessitate the periodic renewal of school and higher education curricula to maintain their relevance to the changing societal and personal needs of learners, and the emerging national development goals.

Alignment with the global sustainable development goals

The direction of the global education development agenda is reflected in the sustainable development goal 4 (SDG4) of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  Another dimension of the future of education is the need to deal with the connected dimensions of education. An overarching aspect of SDG4 is that of inclusion and fostering quality education, and in order to be a practitioner in the field of education, one needs to have some orientation to this mode of thinking.

An integrated yet flexible approach to education

The present Policy begins with viewing early childhood care and education (ECCE) as a part of the Foundational stage of school education (three years of pre-primary education and Grades 1 and 2), a single curricular and pedagogical phase of play- and discovery-based learning for very young children, between the ages of 3-8 years.  In conceptualising and drafting an overarching Policy for education development, the Committee has kept the interconnectedness of the various phases of education in mind and how the same will enable continuity, coherence and processes to ultimately realise an end-to-end educational roadmap for the country. The concept of interconnectedness also provides for preparation of the students for further studies at higher levels through proper orientation, coming from early efforts at broad-based liberal education that will be introduced at the Secondary stage of education.

Liberal arts approach in higher education

In this context, several institutions of higher studies across the world have implemented what we today characterise as Liberal Education through an array of different disciplines that include the Arts, Humanities, Mathematics and Sciences suitably integrated with a deeper study of a special area of interest. The available assessments on such an approach that integrate the humanities and arts with Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) have showed positive learning outcomes. More explicitly, the outcomes here include, among other things, increased critical thinking abilities, higher order thinking and deeper learning, mastery of content, problem solving, team work and communication skills besides general engagement and enjoyment of learning.

Focus on high quality research

The Masters and Doctoral levels are being strengthened with provision of at least three routes into the Masters’ degree – a one-year degree, a two-year degree, and the integrated five-year degree. The NRF will catalyse research in universities and colleges, institutions that have hitherto not been big players in the research scene of the country, and help build the capacity to do research through an institutionalised mentoring mechanism, involving expert researchers from premier institutions in the country. 

Facilitating transformation of the education system

None of this will be possible without passionate and committed school teachers and faculty in higher education institutions who will take charge of transforming the education system as envisioned in this Policy. It is expected that in the years to come, universities will provide opportunities for higher education and research, in a multidisciplinary environment and suitably integrate professional education, such as agriculture, medicine, law, etc., thus making education a truly holistic exercise, with flexibility for students to make their own choices, thereby bringing in the best of creativity and originality. With regard to regulation, we have made our recommendations based on a key principle namely, that regulation, provision of education, accreditation, funding, and standard setting, will all be done by separate entities, and that regulation will be kept to a minimum. The approach should be to ensure that both political initiatives and administrative systems serve the goal of transforming the education system, and eliminating the power of vested interests, improving the transparency and efficiency of regulation, and investing public resources in areas that build the capital for effecting change. The RSA will bring in a new approach to governance that will draw considerable expertise through educationists, researchers and professionals, and provide oversight of the educational system that is consistent with the objectives of a 21st century education system. 

Facilitating national development

India aspires to take its place beside the United States and China as the third largest economy by 2030-2032, the same period during which this Policy will bring about the biggest transformation.  Even at the risk of repetition, it would be appropriate to recognise that becoming a ten trillion dollar economy will give us the money we need, but if we don’t spend now then it will not be easy to achieve and sustain such a large economy. 

Ensuring implementation in spirit and intent

Within the broad framework of the Policy objectives and initiatives, States and Union Territories will be encouraged to (i) prioritise and adapt the broader Policy objectives and targets to their contexts;(ii) formulate state-specific targets and education sector development programmes/plans within the broader scope of the national Policy objectives; Considering the extraordinary influence that an educational endeavour has on society and vice versa, it is important not to overlook societal response to the different aspects of building of a knowledge society for which this Policy is expected to play a central role. The National Education Policy 2019 provides a framework for the transformation and reinvigoration of the education system in order to respond to the requirements of fast-changing, knowledge-based societies while taking into account the diversity of the Indian people, their traditions, cultures, and languages. Highest priority is accorded to the task of ensuring universal access to an education of high quality and breadth that would support India’s continued ascent, progress, and leadership on the global stage – in terms of economic development, social justice and equality, environmental stewardship, scientific advancement and cultural preservation, and help develop and maximise our country’s rich talents and resources for the good of the individual, the country, and the world.

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