Getting National Education Policy right

January 16, 2021 5:00 AM

New approach must focus on pedagogy, technology, health and private sector

As NEP 2020 takes-off, amid high expectations, we need to future proof education.As NEP 2020 takes-off, amid high expectations, we need to future proof education.

By Ashok Pandey and Amit Kumar

Sir Ken Robinson (1950-2020), in his famous Ted talk “Do Schools Kill Creativity?” shook the conscience of educators worldwide. “Explorer’s Academy,” he answered to school children, who wanted to know what he would like to call his dream school. As NEP 2020 takes-off, amid high expectations, we need to future proof education.

Everything revolves around teaching and learning. Pedagogy must evolve to make education more experiential, holistic, inquiry-driven, discussion-based, flexible and enjoyable. Linking curriculum with industry and real-life will engage the learners. The pedagogy must also shun predictable pattern. The stimulus-response-learning model should give way to meeting challenges, experiencing the excitement and owning of knowledge.

Health and well-being is important. The Lancet report on Child and Adolescent Health, 2019 concludes that addressing the challenge of malnutrition and overweight is essential to ensure optimal cognitive growth, overall health and productivity. In India, successive Governments have launched many schemes to improve food and nutrition for children. However, there is a need to integrate physical well-being, nutrition efficiency, and emotional health linking with quality education. NEP 2020 acknowledges that undernourished and unwell children cannot learn optimally and proposes that well trained social workers, counsellors, and community will support the schooling system.

Access to technology is access to education. COVID-19 exposed schools’ unpreparedness to move online and digital inequalities. It also reinforced the need to accelerate efforts to embed technology in education. The universal learning design must encompass digital literacy, digital pedagogy, technology embedded-lesson plans, AI-fostered flexible assessments, differential group-work and assignments. Online teaching is not about watching videos or listening to podcasts passively. Asynchronous engagements must inspire curiosity to learn more.

Active learning and engagement are crucial to a joyful learning experience. Gamification of content eliciting decision making, problem-solving and collaboration are at the heart of remote learning. In-service teacher training must focus on digital capacity building. Alternate interventions through television, radio, community broadcast may continue, but efforts must speed-up to cover every village in the country within the ambit of broadband availability.

Unlike anywhere else globally, the Indian education system has accommodated both government and the private sector. Both are contributing to generate human capital. When it comes to private schools, determining fee structure and annual hike raise concerns, disputes and litigations. Covid-19 has further revealed the fault lines. We must tackle it urgently keeping in mind constitutionally guaranteed autonomy, expenditure standards derived from per capita investment in the government schools, affordability, and the importance of quality education. NEP 2020 is conscious of these dilemmas. The question is, how best to harness the private sector’s full potential.

Pandey is director, Ahlcon Schools & Kumar is founder-director, Shabda. Views are personal

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