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How India Is Set to Make Strides Towards Holistic Learning

How India Is Set to Make Strides Towards Holistic Learning

The pandemic-induced education divide and learning crisis have highlighted the need for a paradigm shift in the way education is structured and delivered. with the national education policy outlining fundamental changes to existing models, india is poised to make significant strides towards holistic learning.

Learning Afresh Learning Afresh

What’s wrong with Indian education? Everything. Well, barring a few pockets of excellence. Is there hope for the future? Possible, yes, if the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 is implemented in letter and spirit, with full participation of all stakeholders. Implementation of the policy began in the first half last year, and the first signs of activity are beginning to become visible. The introduction of the ambitious NIPUN Bharat programme, which aims to ensure foundational literacy and numeracy for all children by the year 2026-27, is among the initial steps. While the NEP will be implemented fully over the course of this decade starting from 2021-22, a strong focus on capacity and employability, multidisciplinary and experiential learning models, high-quality vocational education, and industry-institution collaboration can transform the face of Indian education in the long term.

The most pressing problem is, and has always been, extreme shortage of capacity. The NEP has an ambitious target of increasing the country’s gross enrolment ratio (GER) in higher education from 27.1 per cent (2019-20) to 50 per cent by 2035 and 100 per cent GER in school education by 2030. This kind of growth needs additional capacity, and that too of high quality. The task of building capacity starts with budget allocation for education. The NEP has promised to boost spending by enhancing public investment in the education sector to 6 per cent of the GDP, up from the current 2.67 per cent of GDP. Rajiv Tandon, CEO – Executive Education, BITS Pilani, Work Integrated Learning Programmes (WILP) says that today, India has about 40 million students in higher education. To meet the GER targets, the country has to reach at least about 80-90 million in the next eight years.

On the other side, pass percentages of Teacher Eligibility Tests (TETs) are abysmally low in most Indian states. In 2021, only 19.51 per cent of TET aspirants cleared the test in Karnataka, which is actually a significant improvement from 3.93 per cent in the previous year. Only about 1-7 per cent aspirants were eligible for recruitment between 2013 and 2018 in Maharashtra. Such dismal statistics point to the low numbers of quality teachers in the system, which results in low quality output from school education generally. And that has a cascading effect on the quality of graduates India is producing. According to the ‘India Skills Report (ISR) 2022’, only about 46.2 per cent of the youth are considered highly employable resources. The report further says that about 75 per cent of all companies surveyed report a skill gap in the industry, while 100 per cent of retail sector employers agree that there is a skill gap to be filled in the coming year.

“Hunger for education has grown significantly; however, it is facing a famine of options, which is making the problem bigger,” says Tandon. “On the capacity side, though, some good moves have been made in online education regulations but meeting this demand at a capacity level is a challenge.”

Multidisciplinary Move

The NEP plans to set up one large multidisciplinary college in every district by 2030. Within the same time frame, the policy aims to make all higher education institutions in the country multidisciplinary with at least 300 student enrolments. Experts feel these steps can go a long way in solving the capacity and employability problems that have been plaguing Indian education.

For instance, an engineering student can opt for a subject from humanities. It, therefore, provides an opportunity for students to build diverse perspectives from different disciplines to better understand a theme or a subject. “When they go out, a science student needs humanities and a humanities student needs science. We work with a lot of engineering organisations and it is a very common critique by employers that the Indian higher education system does not produce holistic individuals,” says Tandon.

Following the NEP recommendations, the University Grants Commission (UGC) has also recommended Vice Chancellors of all colleges and higher education institutions to implement ‘multidisciplinary and holistic education’ across disciplines. Thanks to the NEP, future models can be expected to offer imaginative and flexible curricular structures that can accommodate creative combinations of disciplines for study and multiple entry and exit points. It will allow students to focus on a major subject while exploring across the arts, humanities and sciences for minors.

Manish Mohta, Managing Director of online examination solution provider Learning Spiral, says along with such core changes, the methodology of assessment needs intervention. “If you are not measuring the skill gaps and learning outcomes, how will you ever have a plan to improve these? We need to revamp the methodology of assessing students and bring digital intervention in assessment,” he says.

Experience Matters

Experts advocate that experiential learning and conceptual understanding have to become the foundation of our education system as we transition from a conventional marks-based assessment model to one that pushes innovation and creativity to the maximum. Also, emotional quotient needs to be incorporated into the learning process. Parag Diwan, Chairman of Paradigm Consultants & Resource Management, a management consulting firm, explains that experiential learning requires the learner to act in the real world, rather than learn only from lectures. This type of learning pushes students beyond the traditional classroom walls, by focussing on inquiry, application, and authentic learning opportunities.

“Experiential learning is mandatory, otherwise education amounts to only theoretical learning,” says Diwan, who is closely associated with the education sector and was previously President and CEO of Great Lakes Education Group. “Experiential education teaches students to examine their actions and their thought processes, and even their emotional responses. This internal reflection prepares students for the workplace and helps them make major life choices, improve their personal relationships, and address their emotional needs.”

NEP’s recommendation to bring vocational education programmes into mainstream education is expected to have far-reaching positive impact on how the Indian workforce will shape up over the next decade. The policy aims to introduce at least 50 per cent of learners to vocational education courses. Teaching of vocational courses from Class VI, mostly in the form of internships and practical activities, could become transformational in many ways.

Educationists and academics call for merger of different skill and trade sectors and increased participation of industry bodies in educational experiments to create better employment opportunities. “Our ITIs, polytechnic and community colleges should be merged into one trade school, so that at least 30-40 per cent of our school leavers would be able to go to trade schools,” says Diwan. “The vocational programmes should cover new and emerging industries.”

On the other hand, Tandon of BITS Pilani says employers cannot just demand job-ready people; rather, they need to collaborate with institutions to build the next generation of talent. He urges policy interventions that encourage industry to work with institutions and also inspire institutions to go beyond their campuses to create future-ready talent. “Industry is also intensely looking for the right people to recruit. There should be a policy or a model where educational institutions can work with an employer to collaborate in educational experiments,” he says. “It can be a long-term solution beyond finishing school programmes or short courses to help people get their first job. Top employers and institutions are able to foresee 5-10 year trends; they can join hands with educational institutions and create that talent for the future.”

The pandemic, though not by design, has fast forwarded innovations. Initially, innovation was focused on learning continuity. And now, the learnings from the pandemic in terms of access and quality need to be scaled to a new level and new models of hybrid learning built to suit the hybrid-work world. With a powerful demographic edge and a potentially transformational education policy at work, India can hopefully look forward to finally evolving an education system that works for all.

@binu_t_paul

Published on: Feb 17, 2022, 6:07 PM IST
Posted by: Vivek Dubey, Feb 07, 2022, 11:40 AM IST