Higher education In India: Passing through a transformational stage

October 04, 2021 1:09 PM

Historically, the Indian education system has unapologetically favoured traditional approaches and has been lethargic to adopt even organic changes as demanded with the turn of the century.

education sectorThe front runners in the due course of the implementation process will be the institutes which have been quietly bringing transformation to higher education in their own way in the last couple of decades.

By Dr Sanjay Govind Patil

The announcement of NEP 2020 has created exciting times in the field of education in India. Never since our independence, have we witnessed the roll-out of such a massive ‘AtoZ’ transformation in the sector. The pandemic, of course, has added severe turbulence to this mix. But, where one would have expected a staggering chaos with this pandemic-induced turmoil, in reality, this very turmoil has become a catalyst, a successful enabler in pushing the educationists to adopt transformation at a greater speed.

Historically, the Indian education system has unapologetically favoured traditional approaches and has been lethargic to adopt even organic changes as demanded with the turn of the century. The combination of a visionary new educational policy and covid-induced quick digital adoptions has nudged the Indian education system to take a high jump over its mental hurdles. Education in India, especially higher education truly is in a transformational state. Why especially in higher education?

The New Education Policy 2020: In a nutshell, the NEP2020 envisions ‘more’ in the field of higher education – more flexibility, more inclusivity, more options and giving the Indian students the globally used system of having a ‘credit bank’. With the implementation of this policy, students will be rewarded for each completed year of college education. Removing or lowering barriers to multiple entry and exit options is set to make higher education more attractive for a wider spectrum of population as the stigma of ‘drop-out’ will be removed. In addition, giving students option to manage their education as per their own choice and freeing them from pre-defined subject boundaries will give rise to skill enhancements in unique combinations which will help Indian students leverage their unique potentials they have been missing out on especially in the global playfield.

Intent & Implementation: The shift in the executive intent and the state of readiness of forward-looking higher education institutes to adopt visionary changes will make the implementation of the new education policy easier, thereby increasing the pace of transformation of higher education. On the executive level too, the government’s focus is to bring the implementation of NEP at higher study levels as early as 2021. 181 tasks were identified to be completed prior to the policy implementation. Task forces to enable implementation have already been constituted in states like Karnataka, UP and Maharashtra. Karnataka, in fact, has already announced policy implementation in higher studies from the 2021-22 session itself.

The front runners in the due course of the implementation process will be the institutes which have been quietly bringing transformation to higher education in their own way in the last couple of decades. Some processes like creating curricula in sync with the industry demands, skilling students to make them industry ready and technological integrations in their pedagogy have already been adopted by institutes which are driven by a vision for the future. The policy implementation will allow them greater flexibility in student offerings.

Covid-induced transformations in higher education: The pandemic in general has negatively impacted our economy. Yet, the same pandemic forced people to open their minds to look at the possibilities of doing things in different ways. The covid-effect on quickening the pace of transformation in the way Indian students learn is immeasurable and non-reversible. Digital learning, an idea which was to be considered in some hazy near to distant future, was brought to fruition almost overnight. The stakeholders in the education sector finally realized the benefits that digital adoptions can bring to the sector and how they can be leveraged for heightened knowledge take-aways.

Covid-transformed mindsets: The pandemic has also brought to fore the necessity of continuous teacher training and development, keeping in sync with the time. It is especially relevant in the backdrop of the impending implementation of the new education policy.

The success of the new policy depends on the transformation of not only the system and processes but also a transformed mindset of all its human constituents; and teachers are a big and significant part of the ecosystem. The need to develop is no longer a system-driven ‘outward-in’ approach, rather it is an educator-driven ‘inward-out need’. The pandemic-induced limitations have already brought a change in how teachers think and interact with their students. They themselves are devising out-of-the box solutions to best impart knowledge. With more than a year-long training in ‘unknowns’ for the entire educator community, any challenges the NEP implementation is likely to throw in their path will likely be scaled easily and willingly. A mindset transformation that no academic revolution could have achieved!

(The author is Associate Dean & Director – RICS SBE Mumbai. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of the Financial Express Online.)

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