Key to India’s quest to becoming a superpower is a robust education system
supported by quality education at affordable cost (Pic credit: IndianEra.com)
The Union Cabinet, under Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi’s leadership, approved the National Education Policy-2020 (NEP) on July 29. This is an epoch-making policy, suggesting path-breaking changes in the current education system. Provisions in this policy will lead to complete de-Macaulay-ization of Indian education. The NEP is rooted in Indian ethos, and aims to transform the nation into ‘an equitable and vibrant knowledge society’. At the same time, it has the strength to create a generation of bright young men and women, who can truly represent new India.
NEP was one of the promises in Bhartiya Janata Party’s manifesto for 2014 General Elections. This policy was a result of years of sustained deliberations, which started with the formation of Subramaniam Committee in 2015. Based on this committee’s report submitted in 2017, another committee, headed by former ISRO chief Shri Kasturirangan, prepared a draft NEP in 2019. This draft was then circulated nationwide and suggestions were invited from various stakeholders. In fact, advice from a number of experts in the field of education, as well as around two lakh suggestions gathered from Gram Panchayats and urban local bodies across India, are reflected in the policy, which has come out as a comprehensive document.
NEP has brought about some radical changes in the Indian educational system. Firstly, the current structure of 10+2 in school education will be changed to 5+3+3+4, whereby children between the age group of 3 to 5 will also be included in the formal education. NEP suggests that the first 5 years of education, the foundational phase, should be in the mother tongue. Secondly, under this policy, the graduation course will be extended to four years, with multiple exit options. NEP maintains that the research environment has to be cultivated right from graduation, and gives necessary provisions in that direction. It provides for the setting up of the National Research Foundation to promote research in various fields.
One of the key features of the NEP is its emphasis on interdisciplinary education, which will put an end to the unnatural classification of arts and science in Indian universities. Students can choose any subjects according to their interest. Along with this, NEP talks about promoting Indian languages, culture, traditions and thought, and makes provisions for the children to get acquainted with all this in school life. It stresses on the study of Indian languages and literature, with special emphasis on Sanskrit.
NEP clearly defines the fundamental principles which will act as a guide for the educational institutions. It aims at achieving foundational literacy and numeracy by all students by the third grade. It emphasizes on conceptual understanding rather than rote learning and exam-centric learning. It also talks about cultivating life skills like communication, cooperation and teamwork. Most importantly, it seeks to instill among students a ‘deep-rooted pride in being Indian, not only in thought, but also in spirit, intellect and deeds’.
In the 21st century, India is continuously marching towards becoming a superpower. In recent years, India has become a major player on the world stage due to its vibrant economy, membership in key international organizations, and improved relations with many countries. It has strengthened its engagements in the Indian subcontinent, as well as in Africa, Central Asia, the Gulf, and SouthEast Asia. India has built cooperation with many countries in the fields of information technology, education, skills development, health, yoga, pharmacy, tourism and entertainment. And this role is going to enhance in the coming years.
At this backdrop, creating a vibrant young generation that can represent this emergent India is one of the major challenges before our country. Education and knowledge play an important role in the overall progress of any nation. On one hand, the inter-disciplinary, professional and vocational training envisaged in the NEP will play a significant role in achieving the 'Self-Reliant India' that the Prime Minister talks about. On the other hand, quality education at affordable cost will promote India as a global study destination, restoring its role as a Vishwa Guru.
NEP states, “Providing universal access to quality education is the key to India’s continued ascent, and leadership on the global stage in terms of economic growth, social justice and equality, scientific advancement, national integration, and cultural preservation”. In the coming decade, India will have the highest young population in the world, which further underscores the importance of education in general and NEP in particular. The current young generation is ambitious and has a global outlook, and their aspirations are perfectly reflected in the NEP.
The new policy has included the issue of internationalization of education at length. Various provisions are made to make India a global hub of higher education by attracting a high number of foreign students. To this direction, the government gives scholarships to students from many small countries to encourage them to study in India. According to NEP provisions, courses on Indian language, Yoga, Ayurveda, Indian art, music, history, culture, etc will be designed keeping international standards in mind. At the same time internationally relevant curricula will be developed in science and technology. Moreover, 100 top rated foreign universities will now be allowed to open branches in India.
The NEP is indicative of India's strengthening international role. On one hand, it aims at preparing our youth for changing the global environment through modern sciences and technology. On the other hand, it envisions a vibrant generation that is rooted in Indian culture and philosophy
Foreign students who return home after studying in India take a positive view of India. Also, Indian students who go and study abroad take Indian culture with them. In fact, over the last 3-4 decades, Indian students who have gone to western countries for higher studies, have played an important role in building the country's international image. In a sense, these young students act as informal ambassadors of India. While they are already going places on the basis of their knowledge of science and IT, it is also important to teach them about Indian history, culture and philosophy at an early stage. Against this backdrop, provision for inter-disciplinary education sounds vital and timely.
In the nutshell, the NEP is indicative of India's strengthening international role. On one hand, it aims at preparing our youth for changing the global environment through modern sciences and technology. On the other hand, it envisions a vibrant generation that is rooted in Indian culture and philosophy. Therefore, one can confidently say that the NEP will be a key in India’s Quest for the Superpower Status in coming years.
(Author is Assistant Professor, Centre for Russian and Central Asian Studies, School of International Studies, JNU)