Shri Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank‘ - Union Minister of Education
Excerpts from conversation with education minister
In the wake of India’s high unemployment rate, how will the New Education Policy help bridge the skill-gap to make Indian youth more employable?
According to the Skill India Report of 2019, significant percentage of Indian graduates were employable, and there was a vast gap between industry and academia due to the existing education system.The previous policy focussed more on rote learning instead of practical skills. With the National Education Policy, we aim to focus on bridging this gap. Instead of just building a sound report card, the emphasis on skill building will lead to an increase in thee number of employable graduates. The new policy will reduce the curriculum to core concepts, and there will be an integration of vocational education right from 6th standard. Instead of summative assessment, the focus on competency-based formative and regular evaluation will encourage students to hone their skills and confidence. Thus, the NEP will ensure that students get world-class training for required skills, as per their interest.
Further, students will also be awarded certificates of completion in each academic year during graduation. They will have multiple exit and entry points so that if they want to leave their education due to some reason, they still have the backing of a degree/certification.
How will the NEP pave the way for preparing Indian human capital for the emerging multi-disciplinary environment?
With the changing work environment globally, the future workforce will require utterly different aptitudes. The idea of mastering one stream is not feasible for the future. Students will need a diverse knowledge base and skill sets to succeed. With reference to this, NEP has focused on the ‘choice-based credit system’, a multi-disciplinary approach that allows students to choose subjects from multiple streams. This flexibility will provide the future workforce with the autonomy to explore topics of their interest, while building multi-disciplinary and relevant skill sets. Students will also be provided with mentorship and guidance to ensure that they do not get overwhelmed due to the vast options. Besides, the essential skills like digital literacy, coding, and computational thinking included in curriculums will make students more digital-ready. The NEP will also encourage institutions to develop incubator facilities that will develop new enterprises. All these changes will go a long way in transforming Indian human capital.
In terms of the restructuring of higher education institutions envisaged under the New Education Policy 2020, how will it enable India to capitalise on its human resources?
The practical and reformist approach undertaken by the NEP 2020, in regards to the employability and vocational training of undergraduates from all education courses, is undoubtedly a giant leap towards making education and employment more adapted to each other. The policy proposes internships in private and public sectors for students enrolled in undergraduate courses, to equip graduates with industry experience.
Features that stand out are the opening up of Indian higher education to foreign universities, dismantling the UGC and the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), and introducing a four-year multi-disciplinary undergraduate programme with multiple exit options, and discontinuation of the M. Phil. programme. The guidelines make an effort to systematically centralise the educational sector by moving towards collective governance.
Education has a direct impact on the development of a nation, as it is essential to improve human capital. In this light, what are the measures suggested by the New Education Policy that would make education inclusive in India?
The National Education Policy 2020 will enable India to achieve its UN SDG Goal-4, i.e., to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education. The policy brings together multiple stakeholders like the central government, state governments, the private sector, NGOs and educational institutions to realise the vision of universal education. Public expenditure on education is likely to increase to 6% of the GDP. Though the Right to Education Act has achieved great success in ensuring almost universal enrolment in primary schools, retaining students is a challenge. The Gross Enrolment Ratio decreases as students move to higher grades. This decline is more elevated for vulnerable groups like women, backward classes, low-income households, people living in remote areas, and people with disabilities. The policy talks about the set-up of special funds to assist these groups. The policy envisages doubling the Gross Enrolment Ratio in higher education institutions from 26.3% (2018) to 50% by 2035. There will be an increase in digital platforms to provide open distance learning courses that will improve accessibility.
How will NEP empower the youth?
The NEP is bringing significant changes in the current education system which will ensure the intellectual development of the youth. Students will be provided with updated resources and platforms. The existing education system has limitations that made youngsters focus on lopsided priorities, like doctor or engineer. NEP 2020 will help in changing this by mapping students’ interest, ability and demand. It will empower youngsters to be creative, committed and driven to their interests and abilities. We intend to stress on inquiry-based, discovery-based, discussion-based and analysis-based learning methods that will urge the students to constantly re-skill and up-skill themselves.
NEP does realise the fact that we have a huge working population under 35 years of age. To build "New India", we must proactively engage them. I have many hopes that students will be able to compete successfully at a global level.
Will NEP allow foreign universities to set up their campuses in India without any inhibitions in areas such as course structure and duration?
With NEP, we wish to bring a change in the global education system. The top 100 universities in the world have a possibility of coming to India; the final green signal can be given only by the Education Ministry. This will increase opportunities to enhance collaborative-learning through student exchange and twinning programmes. The NEP will also foster international collaborative research and improve research output. Also, I am confident that such measures will help Indian institutes improve their ranking at international levels.
How far is NEP inclusive of the vast diversity of India in terms of social, economic, geographical, cultural and gender aspects?
An essential idea of NEP 2020 is to respect the diversity of our country and respect the local context in all curriculum and pedagogy. We will also formulate a National Book Promotion Policy that will ensure the availability, accessibility, quality and readership of books across geographies, languages, levels and genres. NEP, hopefully, will encourage schools to teach the students in their mother tongue or home language till at least 5th standard.
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