The New Education Policy introduced by the Union Cabinet earlier this week envisions transforming India into a ‘global knowledge superpower’.

The education policy, revised in India after 34 years, paves the way for transformational reforms in the school and higher education sector of the country.

Critical to the complete overhaul of the existing system of education, is the introduction of an element of ‘choice’, making the child the centre of the reforms.

The choice is fundamental to the dignity and self-respect of the student.

It also plays an important role in achieving student potential. The NEP offers several significant choices to the learner throughout the 5+3+3+4 structure of the curriculum.

Students in middle school are free to choose their choice of vocational activity, which will now be part of the curriculum.

According to the policy, by 2025, at least 50 per cent of learners through the school and higher education system shall have exposure to vocational education.

The policy also makes provision for a 10-day bagless period sometime during Grades 6-8 to intern with local vocational experts such as carpenters, gardeners, potters, artists, etc.

Under the NEP, a child is free to pick their preferred language in the proposed course on ‘The Languages of India’ sometime in Grade 6-8 with the option of continuing it through secondary education and university.

Choices have also been introduced in the writing of the board examination.

The NEP 2020 provides for three to four-year graduation programmes with multiple exits.

The undergraduate degree will be of either three or four-year duration, with multiple exit options.

For instance a certificate after completing one year in a discipline or field including vocational and professional areas, or a diploma after two years of study, or a Bachelor’s degree after a three-year programme.

The four-year multidisciplinary Bachelor’s programme, however, shall be the preferred option.

The four-year programme may also lead to a degree ‘with Research’ if the student completes a rigorous research project.

The other significant principle which seamlessly merges with the element of choice is the introduction of multidisciplinary studies.

The NEP has done away with the traditional division between the streams.

Students are now free to pick subjects from either stream that might interest them and pursue them as ‘major’ and ‘minor’ courses.

Multidisciplinarity is also reflected in the integration of vocational activities, life skills, physical education, and extra-curricular activities within the pedagogy for the holistic development of the student’s personality.

This is perfectly aligned with the rapid developments of the 21st century and will equip learners to effectively tackle the new age challenges of the professional world.

The merging of curricular and extra-curricular activities together with the introduction of multidisciplinary studies is a step in the right direction.

Under the provisions of the new policy, a university will mean a multidisciplinary institution that offers undergraduate and graduate programmes, with high-quality teaching, research, and community engagement.

The importance of multidisciplinarity cannot be stressed enough.

Graduates pursuing an MBA in sales and marketing would benefit from studying Behavioral Psychology to understand how the customer makes buying decisions.

Similarly, political scientists could make use of mathematical knowledge to analyze the results of their quantitative researches.

The integration of academic syllabus with extra-curricular activities and vocational education opens up several avenues for learners to choose their profession from a diverse range of options.

Multidisciplinary studies could once and for all put to rest the debate between generalists and specialists.

To keep up with the change in curriculum and pedagogy, the NEP 2020 has proposed a shift from summative assessment to regular and formative assessment, which is more competency-based, promotes learning and development, and tests higher-order skills, such as analysis, critical thinking, and conceptual clarity.

The freedom to choose their preferred options from a range of courses offered, coupled with the choice of determining the length of their courses, makes students the focal points of the revamped system of education.

The ambitious NEP, if implemented in letter and spirit, could be the much-needed change to catapult the Indian education system into the league of the best in the world.

Sampurnaa Bharadwaj is a freelancer and can be reached at sampurnaa.bharadwaj@gmail.com

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