NEP 2019: Laying the foundation for stronger education and a future-ready workforce in India

Amol Arora

Vice Chairman & Managing Director, Shemford Group of Futuristic Schools

The Indian education system has been criticized time and again for being too straitjacketed in its approach and methodology to have any room for individual creativity. The true purpose of education has been lost somewhere in the battle for higher marks. The Tamil Nadu education system holds testimony to the same. Recently, the state has reported many instances of students adopting unfair means to increase their test scores, which has attracted a lot of criticism.

Largely producing inefficient students, it has brought India to a stage where graduates are driving unemployment, which has reached 13% according to a study by Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE). The case of Indian engineering students is a glaring example - currently, 80% of Indian engineering graduates are not employable due to a lack of industry-relevant skills. “Literate and unemployed” today is a new challenge for India.

Considering this scenario, one cannot help but wonder - while enrolment numbers are increasing, are Indian students really learning within the current education landscape? The truth is that the entire system requires a complete transformation wherein the focus shifts from rote learning to clearing concepts and acquiring skills.

Early childhood education as a tool to strengthen basic concepts

It is with the vision of laying the core foundation of a holistic education that the Indian government has introduced the New Education Policy (NEP). The NEP is a roadmap that has been created to prepare students to deal with the world beyond the classroom. For this, it emphasizes upon many aspects, starting with early childhood education. Taking into consideration that over 85% of cumulative brain development occurs prior to the age of six, it places special importance on creating a stress-free environment for young students to prosper by integrating play into learning. It proposes to ensure effective foundational literacy and numeracy, with distinct attention on early language and mathematics. By catching them young where they lack, it aims to fill out any possible gaps in their basic knowledge that could create a hurdle later on.

Keeping brain development central to its approach, NEP offers a curriculum and pedagogical structure, which lays equal emphasis on all subjects. Moreover, by combining vocational and academic streams, it throws an open plethora of productive skills for the students to grasp, make them more employable in the long run.

Vocational education and tech-integration for industry-relevant skills

With such a new-age approach to learning, the policy aims at making it much easier to address the gaps in higher education. Proposing to break “rigid boundaries of disciplines”, it aims to make way for more broad-based and flexible learning. Moreover, it has renewed the focus on high-quality research, which can go a long way in augmenting their competency from the industry viewpoint.

Considering the ever-changing needs of the business ecosystem, the NEP aims to dislodge the present scenario by giving vocational and industry-focused subjects equal importance. It has separate clauses for vocational education and technology integration to assimilate into students’ learning. By 2025, it aims to provide access to vocational education to at least 50% of all learners across the country.

Improving the quality of education with an updated faculty

While the old system did not look at teacher training more than a check-the-box exercise, this policy gives teacher education a new meaning. It looks at updating them rigorously with current trends as a means to further improve the quality and relevance of education being imparted.

In spite of these advantages, the NEP’s clause on school management can be a restricting factor in bringing about the desired change in the education system. Its proposal for the School Management Committee to evaluate improvements in schools and the teaching-learning process can place undue restrictions/pressure on private sector schools. It is no secret that the private sector has played an active role in supplementing the government sector’s efforts to make quality education available. However, this clause could discourage new players from entering the space and even shake the trust between the private and public sector. An education system arising from such dynamics might have problematic gaps in it.

Looking at the broader picture, the government should modify the clause, enabling a vision of partnership rather than rivalry with the private sector. By pooling public and private resources, they can together build a truly forward-looking system of education.

This can power much-needed elevation in what is taught to students and how. Keeping in mind that today’s students will play a critical role in driving growth for the economy tomorrow, the NEP takes the front seat as a subject of national importance. That said, the forthcoming generations of students, with the right balance of practical as well as theoretical elements, will be able to accelerate the country's journey towards emerging as an economic superpower.

Amol Arora

Vice Chairman & Managing Director, Shemford Group of Futuristic Schools