NEP is a game-changer: preparing for a knowledge economy
When the PradhanMantriUjjwalaYojana (PMUY) was launched in 2016 under the leadership of Prime Minister NarendraModi, our biggest challenge then was to reach the last woman queuing in the remotest corners of the country with LPG cylinders. With a dedicated workforce and tremendous political will, the success of PMUY and the significant impact it has had on the lives of the most vulnerable has given me confidence that we will be able to undertake the difficult task. to implement the new National Education Policy 2020 which envisions sweeping changes in the sector making our students more equipped to face the challenges of the knowledge economy of the 21st century.
India is one of the youngest countries with more than 50% of inhabitants under the age of 30. The benefit of a potential demographic dividend is obvious. But that potential won’t stay with us forever. And the translation into a dividend is not an automatic process either. This requires concerted efforts and political interventions. In fact, some experts suggest that India will be an aging society by 2050, with almost 20% of the population over the age of 60. Assuming this to be true, a simple calculation indicates that we have roughly just over two decades to fully harness the potential of youth, or what Prime Minister Modi calls the AmritKaal, the 25 years to 100 years. of independence. We cannot therefore have an incremental approach but an overhaul of the system to meet the needs and aspirations of the different categories of our young people.
NEP 2020 is one such transformation in our nation’s journey. In the words of Prime Minister Modi, NEP 2020 will serve as the foundation for an AtmaNirbhar Bharat, a self-reliant India. NEP is restructuring our educational ecosystem at all levels, from pre-primary to higher education, also reconfiguring it with an ecosystem of skills and research. It is based on the four principles of access, quality, equity and affordability. The NEP aims to increase the gross enrollment ratio in tertiary education to 50% by 2035 from the current level of 27.1% by establishing the Higher Education Commission of India (HECI) – a single regulatory body in place of the University Grants Commission (UGC). It will ensure that university regulation, accreditation, funding and standard setting are carried out by independent and empowered bodies. Among the many progressive recommendations made by the NEP are experiential learning at all stages, innovative and activity-based pedagogies, multiple entry/exit options in higher education, multidisciplinary education, and the creation of a university credit bank. Emphasis is also placed on the internationalization of education and curricula in India with corresponding policy reforms to accommodate these drastic changes.
While the NEP represents an ambitious 21st century education system, it also recognizes immediate challenges. It calls for urgent action to ensure that every student achieves the basics of literacy and numeracy by Grade 3. The National Basic Literacy and Numeracy Mission called NIPUN Bharat has been launched to ensure that every child in the country achieves basic literacy and numeracy in Grade 3 by 2026-2027. .
It calls on governments at all levels to ensure that the language of instruction up to at least grade 5 is in the mother tongue/local language to facilitate the learning process of children. Our government is also focusing on local languages in higher education. Indeed, the Union government considers all languages to be national languages. More than 200 technical books in local languages at the undergraduate level and for diploma courses have recently been launched. The government is consciously trying to promote textbooks, including in the disciplines of engineering, medicine and law, in local and official languages. Efforts are being made to make entrance exams available in all major languages as well. Currently, entrance exams for engineering and medicine are held in 13 languages to ensure that English does not become a barrier to accessing quality education.
Teachers shape the future of our country. We must restore respect and status to the profession to inspire and motivate our teachers. Our government is focused on providing opportunities for self-improvement and continuous professional development. Not only in school education, but the faculty of our colleges and universities will learn the latest technologies and innovations and different forms of pedagogy. We are building world-class teacher training centers across the country. The current budget has also made provisions for digital teachers to allocate Rs 6 crore for this purpose.
The past two years have been unprecedented times due to a pandemic entering its third year, consequently disrupting social life as well as unexpected geopolitical events. However, the only good thing is that such moments give birth to innovations. If we look around us, the innovative spirit of our young people has only grown. There are a number of innovative models that have emerged at the height of the consequences of COVID-19 in our educational institutions. Based on the premise that global standard technology is a great equalizer and enabler, the Union gas budget has earmarked 200 new TV channels for education broadcasting allocating around Rs 930 crores in five years.
The world is on the cusp of a fourth industrial revolution. Although we missed the first two and tried to catch the third, we have to make sure we are ahead in the fourth. Emerging technologies such as AI, robotics and automation offer many opportunities as well as challenges, especially because dozens of traditional jobs may disappear. But it will also bring roles more suited to a new division of labor between humans, machines and algorithms. Consequently, the window of opportunity to reskill and upskill workers has become shorter, and action is needed here and now, also ensuring that such initiatives are taken on a large scale to train a large part of the youth.
The 21st century is a century of knowledge. India is one of the oldest civilizations and a knowledge society has a natural advantage to become a ‘captain’ in navigating emerging economies to a prosperous future. I believe that after the Constitution, the NEP 2020 is a document that has been shaped after many levels of deliberations, discussions and participatory dialogues across the country. Similar to the Constitution, the NEP 2020 will lift us out of decades of dilemmas and doubts and instill a deep rooted pride in being Indian in thought, spirit, intellect and deed. It integrates students, teachers, parents and society for holistic development and the realization of their full human potential.
Our young people aspire to work not only as job seekers, but also as job creators. If we can provide them with today’s quality knowledge and skills, we can bring an India as the Vishwa Guru that our freedom fighters dreamed of. NEP 2020 is designed to do just that. This will be our contribution to nation building as we celebrate 75 years of our independence.
The author is the Union Minister for Education and Skills Development and Entrepreneurship