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‘NEP ignores Transition to Education 4.0’ (Book Review)

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By Vishnu Makhijani

New Delhi, Jan 21 (IANS) The New Education Policy (NEP), whose avowed aim is an India-centric education system that directly contributes to sustainably transforming the nation into an equitable and vibrant knowledge society by providing high-quality education to all, is however, silent on two crucial areas — the Transition to Education 4.0 and including those still excluded from the system, for instance out-of-school children, says economist, educationist, academic and Rajya Sabha MP Narendra Yadav, in a seminal work on the measure.

“The NEP 2020 talks about ‘introduction of cotemporary subjects such as Artificial Intelligence, Design Thinking, Holistic Health, Organic Living, Environmental Education, Global Citizenship Education (et al). This good but not good enough,” Yadav writes in “Future Of The Indian Education System” (Konark). However, it “hardly makes any conscious efforts towards the much need transition to Education 4.0”, he adds.

“I am convinced that conscious efforts are needed for making a transition towards Education 4.0, corresponding to the Industrial Revolution 4.0. This can be done by introducing at the High School level, the entire range of the so-called New-Age Technology which includes Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Data Analytics, Robotics, Blockchain Technology, Additive Manufacturing, Internet of Things,” Jadhav told IANS in an interview, without going into the mechanics of effecting these revolutionary changes.

Addressing the issue of out of school children (OoSC) “is a very serious challenge”, he writes in “Future Of The Indian Education System” (Konark).

“Addressing this critical problem must begin with recognition of the enormity of this problem. Contrary to the indication in the Draft NEP 2019, the actual problem is much worse.”

“In the 6-18 age group, in 2011, there were 80 million out-of-school children, of which 44 million have never been enrolled in schools at all (and the remaining 36 million were dropouts). Of these 44 million ‘never enrolled in primary school’ children, there were around 10 million in the age group of 15-18. What is imperatively needed is a detailed strategic action plan based on details available in the Registrar General’s Handbook of Census information. An all-out effort is needed to address this all-important challenge. There is no short-cut available,” Jadhav maintained.

He also noted that while the vision of NEP 2020 rightly underscores the need to “develop among the students a deep sense of respect towards the Fundamental Duties and Constitutional values”, it “doesn’t offer any guidance so as to operationalise this laudable action point”.

Therefore, ‘Constitution and Civics’ should be introduced in the curricula as a compulsory subject at the Higher Secondary Level. “This will go a long way in creating socially conscientious proud Indians and truly global citizens,” Jadhav said.

The NEP received cabinet approval in July, 2020 at the height of the country-wide lockdown forced by the coronavirus pandemic when schools were shut. Now that they are reopening after a 10-month hiatus what are the lessons from the epidemic that the education sector needs to draw?

“To my mind, the most important lesson from Covid-19 epidemic is that the earlier overwhelming emphasis on the class-room teaching would have to be abandoned. This of course, doesn’t mean going to the other extreme of distance or online education. An appropriate combination of the two would be a desirable middle path that needs to be devised and operationalised,” Jadav said.

The pandemic has severely disrupted the tasks laid down for the various stakeholders in the NEP stretching from 2020 to 2035. These include the establishment and interface with the state departments of education of the Rashtriya Shiksha Aayog (RSA) by the Ministry of Education (as the HRD Ministry has been renamed, and various tasks by the Ministry of Education, the National Council for Education, Research and Training (NCERT), the National Testing Agency, the National Higher Education Regulatory Authority, the State School Regulatory Authorities (SSRAs), state departments of education, among others, in a time-bound manner in the years 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023, 2025, 2030, 2032 and 2035. Given the disruption caused by the pandemic, how can these be brought back on track?

“The National Education Policy, 2020 can and should be seen as a 15-year perspective plan. Normally, for a 15-year plan, disruption in one year should not warrant a great deal of adjustment. However, given the severity of the pandemic and the fact that some changes are long-lasting – even permanent, the NEP 2020 would have to be recalibrated according to the evolving ‘new normal’.

“I think, all the important (and desirable) takeaways can be salvaged in spite of the pandemic. None of the takeaways would have to be given up because of the pandemic. This involves the challenge of re-orientation and re-calibration” Jadhav concluded.

(Vishnu Makhijani can be reached at vishnu.makhijani)

–IANS

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