New Education Policy laudatory, but must also focus on digital tools

Updated: July 11, 2016 9:05 AM

The New Education Policy is laudatory. But it must also inculcate digital tools in pedagogy

brexitAbout 3 lakh Indian students go abroad annually, and 33% avail property-backed loans. In order to contain this outflow, the government has been striving to bring about reforms that will improve the educational outcomes of the present academic curriculum. (Representational image: Reuters)

India, since centuries, has kept its doors open to imbibe and dispense knowledge. Today, once again, it is on its way to becoming a vibrant global educational hub. The government has been making efforts to change the face of the education sector, with the introduction of new campaigns. However, there are certain factors that are hindering the progress of this vision.

About 3 lakh Indian students go abroad annually, and 33% avail property-backed loans. In order to contain this outflow, the government has been striving to bring about reforms that will improve the educational outcomes of the present academic curriculum. In fact, each successive government has contributed to the shaping up of the current education scenario of the country.

The National Policy on Education was first framed in 1986, followed by a massive modification in 1992. The focus of the key objectives of the policies formulated was to provide elementary education to every student, universal retention of children up to 14 years, and special emphasis on improving the quality of education at every level. Other significant moves emphasised on improving and promoting vocational education, adult education, education for mentally and physically challenged students, open universities, distance learning and non-formal education.

The New Education Policy has further enhanced the vision, building up on the platform set by its predecessors, and aims to improve certain core areas.
* Teaching pedagogy and tools have undergone a fundamental transformation in the last 10 years. Modern students are digital first, and learning is a continuous process that requires rigorous fuelling of upgraded content. Modern teachers also need to be equipped appropriately. Recertification and linking performance with pay will incentivise teachers to be on the same level as their students. The government must encourage private partnership in certification, thereby setting up appropriate benchmarking across the country.
* Doubling of GDP allocation to education is critical, given India’s demographic dividend. Basic education and upskilling will go a long way in bridging the skills gap that the country is headed for. More emphasis on vocational training and allowing different students to work on different paths is important (by allowing Part-A and Part-B level exams in maths and science). Local decision-making, i.e. local autonomy to decide mother-tongue-based learning, is laudatory. In the underprivileged sector, not knowing the medium of instruction is a barrier to entry. A child should not be at a disadvantage just because of cultural distance from English or Hindi. Mother-tongue-based education has shown increased attendance and retention.
* Promoting Sanskrit is a remarkable step as it will allow a language with a rich tradition and a strong grammatical base to be spread across the country. Studies have shown that children exposed to multiple languages are better at intricate problem-solving and can be more creative in their approach.
* While the policy suggests several enhancements in the current system of board exams, like percentiles instead of percentages, and segregation of levels based on future direction, the government must explore a rolling system of examinations. A single entrance exam on a single day can play a positive or negative role in a student’s career.

Multiple attempts, online access and adaptive testing will allow students to perform to the best of their ability.

The New Education Policy aims at striking a balance between the individual aspirations of students and common educational vision for the country. Steps such as on-demand board exams and instruction in one’s mother tongue are student-oriented policies that can reduce academic pressure. The policy, however, doesn’t acknowledge the need for inculcating digital tools in the domain of education. Digitisation is a potential game-changer to spread education amongst the most underprivileged classes of society. Combining ed-tech tools with an honest and rigorous approach to holistic education will take the nation to greater heights.

By Beas Dev Ralhan

The author is CEO & co-founder, Next Education India Pvt Ltd

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