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NEP2020: Leading India into a Knowledge Revolution

By Dharmendra Pradhan

Knowledge is power. India’s rich knowledge capacity is evident in the Vedas and Upanishads, serving as vast sources of wisdom for centuries. With our ancient Indian universities such as Nalanda and Takshashila, India has been an International Knowledge hub of the past. Over time, India’s knowledge prowess and wealth attracted many, including the Mughals, Mongols, British, Dutch, and Portuguese, who invaded India in various periods of time in history resulting in a significant destruction of India’s knowledge treasures. But it is well known and accepted, that while the invaders could loot our lands and destroy our universities, they remained defeated by the Gurus and Yogis of our land.

While Britain led the world during the second Industrial Revolution, it was the United States that led in the third. Today, as India surpasses Britain to become the fifth largest economy globally, the time is ripe for it to once again become the epicenter of knowledge and lead the world into the 4th Industrial Revolution marked by exponential growth in new and emerging technologies.

Amidst these expected changes, in 2014, Hon’ble Prime Minister Narendra Modi set forth a vision to transform India’s education system into a global knowledge powerhouse of the 21st century. With over 260 million school-going children and over 40 million students in higher education, India’s education system is one of the largest globally. After extensive discussions with stakeholders, including public, the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 was launched after a gap of 34 years. As we approach July 29th, 2023, we celebrate NEP’s third anniversary with a 2-day Akhil Bhartiya Shiksha Samagam – a ‘Maha Kumbh’ on Education.

Last three years of NEP has seen significant achievements. For the first time in India’s history, Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) is integrated into the formal schooling system, recognizing the evidence that over 80% of the child’s cumulative brain development happens before the age of 8. Additionally, a play-based pedagogy is emphasized in the development of the first National Curriculum Framework for Foundational Stage (NCF-FS), catering to children aged 3-8. This framework incorporates diverse activities like conversations, stories, music, arts, crafts, games, nature field trips, and interactive play with materials and toys. An exemplar of this approach, the Jadui Pitara (Magic box), has been created for schools to adopt.

Textbooks for classes 1 and 2 based on NCF-FS are released, complementing the national NIPUN Bharat Mission to achieve foundational literacy and numeracy by 2026. Around 150 new textbooks will be made available, aligning with the upcoming National Curriculum Framework for School Education (NCF-SE). These will be the books of the Amrit Kaal and will be developed in at least 22 Indian languages, promoting the vision of multilingual education under NEP2020. Digital versions of textbooks are being made accessible through PM e-vidya, ensuring equitable and on-demand access. PM SHRI  Schools for Rising India representing the true spirit of NEP are also being set up across the country.

NEP 2020 has given special emphasis on vocational education through its integration and mainstreaming with general education. We are creating alignment between Samagra Shiksha and the Skill India Mission to introduce skilling programs at school level. 5000 Skill Hubs are being set up in schools to provide comprehensive skilling and vocational training program to students and dropouts.

Furthermore, a unique National Credit Framework (NCrF) has been introduced that credits formal and informal learning, spanning school, higher, and skill education & training. NCrF enables multiple entry and exit at various levels, allowing students to re-enter the higher education system any time in their life.  Credits will accumulate in a student’s Academic Bank of Credit (ABC) for recognition.

Technology is enabling students to pursue degree programs online, offering increased flexibility to learners and enhancing access to quality education, especially in remote areas. Credits can now also be earned through online courses on the SWAYAM portal and soon, a Digital University- one of its kind will be set up in India.

The digital ecosystem for skilling has also been further strengthened with a unified Skill India Digital platform for enabling demand-based skilling, linking with employers, including MSMEs, and facilitating access to entrepreneurship schemes. We are also working on to facilitate global mobility of skilled candidates. 30 India International Skill Centres are being set up aimed at imparting international standard skill training to the youth and enhancing overseas opportunities for the skilled workforce.  Over 330 new age courses specifically tailored to meet the needs of Industry 4.0 have been developed.

To overcome language barriers in learning, many Higher Education institutions are now offering technical programs in many Indian languages. AI translation tools are facilitating the translation of textbooks into different Indian languages. Major entrance exams like JEE, NEET, and CUET are now available in 13 languages.

In the realm of internationalizing education, India’s institutions are setting up campuses overseas. While IIT Madras is going global with its planned campus in Zanzibar-Tanzania, an MoU to set up IIT Delhi in the UAE was also signed in the presence of PM Modi himself earlier this month. Notable foreign universities are also setting up their campuses in GIFT City in Gujarat, and there are ambitious plans to further expand the presence of other Indian institutions, including a school board, overseas in the near future.

The dream of Viksit Bharat under the Amrit Kaal can only be achieved by fulfilling the aspirations of the Amrit Peedhi. With about 65% of our population in the working age group, we must create frameworks for an age in which lifelong learning and skilling are expected to become the order of the day.

Driven by the spirit of Vasudhaiv Kutumbakam, India is on its way to becoming a de-facto leader of the 21st century. And NEP plays a vital role in connecting this transformation to the present reality. By emphasizing rootedness in India’s Knowledge Systems with an outlook to make global citizens, it has the potential to be a guiding philosophy for creating a knowledge-based society anywhere globally, especially for the poor and emerging economies that are looking to break free from the shadows of colonization. As NEP enters into its fourth year, its success will mean a Viksit Bharat (Developed India) by 2047 and a global world order centered on knowledge sharing and peace.

Author Dharmendra Pradhan is Union Minister for Education & Skill Development & Entrepreneurship




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