India is on a path of transformation towards becoming self-reliant and a world leader, with its global standing strengthened every year, courtesy its holistic, inclusive and non-partisan policies. Towards this objective, a significant change was also introduced in the education system in 2020—a change that sought to make our youth globally relevant and competitive, and India the hub of learning.
Two years later, the National Education Policy-2020 (NEP) has become the anchor of the nation in becoming a knowledge-based economy and instilling in students—from schools to higher education institutes (HEIs)—the merits of critical and evidence-based thinking, scientific temper, creative imagination, alongside the virtues of compassion, courage, and empathy, embedded with strong ethical moorings and social values.
Karnataka, which has been at the forefront of making the Indian economy the strongest in the world in new-age technology, innovation, and disruptive businesses, very early on realised the benefits of NEP, and became the first state in the country to implement it in 2021.
In August, as the state completed a year of implementing NEP and recounted its experiences, it can be confidently put forth that the new compass of the education system is truly aligning and blending pedagogy with the needs of the 21st century, whether it be in areas of technical studies, undergraduate courses, skilling, or entrepreneurship.
Keeping Indian ethos, culture, knowledge, and languages at its core and at the same time, incorporating the best international practices, NEP has changed the way the education system has worked since Independence. It has ushered in a system where education is learner-centric, holistic, multidimensional, multidisciplinary, flexible, skill and outcome-based, designed to meet industry needs, and most importantly, does not bear the ills of rote learning.
The course taken to bring NEP in Karnataka was fast, surgical, and efficient, completed in less than a year.
Well before the NEP report was accepted by the Government of India (GoI) on July 29, 2020, Karnataka had constituted a taskforce in March 2020 to suggest an implementation framework based on three crucial factors—curriculum reforms, legislative action, and structural and administrative changes. Three sub-committees deliberated, engaged stakeholders, and formed the taskforce report that was finally accepted by the Karnataka cabinet in December 2020, making way for NEP to become a reality in the state from the 2021-22 academic year.
The NEP’s state framework also retains the emphasis on social and regional inclusivity and a leading example is Karnataka’s Super 30 programme that aims to have IIT-like engineering institutes in all 30 districts of the state in the next five years, saving aspirants the expenses and stress of moving to larger cities for engineering courses. The framework also encourages private and deemed universities across the state to become autonomous by upgrading themselves to universities.
The NEP’s call for economic value of educational processes, along with skill-based learning and employability, holds a strategic place in Karnataka’s education framework, keeping in mind that the state, which leads in information technology, biotechnology, electronics, aerospace, and manufacturing across sectors, has as the prime agenda to ensure a sustained supply of quality talent to the local industry, besides meeting the national demand and the requirements of the changing global business landscape.
While colleges and institutes have been mandated to build an academia-industry relationship through mentorship, internship and apprenticeship programmes, the state, under internationalisation of education, a key feature of NEP, has introduced a dual degree twinning programme for undergraduate courses in collaboration with universities in countries advancing in the technology-driven Fourth Industrial Revolution.
Latching on to the multidisciplinary and multidimensional aspects of NEP and keeping the ever-changing requirements of the industry in mind, the state has a unique programme under which non-STEM students, with guidance from trainers from NASSCOM, are taught data analytics, artificial intelligence, information science and even the crucial aspects of cyber security.
On the other hand, STEM students are undergoing a financial literacy course, under an agreement with the National Stock Exchange Academy, to learn about financial and investment management along with the intricacies of stock markets. The state also plans to have courses in humanities, social sciences and humanities integrated in the technical education curriculum.
In the national academic spectrum, there has been a lot of talk about NEP’s multiple-exit and multiple-entry options for undergraduate (UG) programmes. Karnataka, as the first state to implement the national policy, has explored and developed a structure towards this, giving students the power of choice and flexibility to pursue courses, when they desire or deem fit.
Before going into the details, it is pertinent to highlight that this model breaks the age-old taboo of students being labelled as dropouts, and serves as a boon for those who cannot continue their studies at that point of time due to financial, social or any other reason, but have the desire to resume studies later.
Exiting a programme comes with its conditions, the foremost being a student must undergo a mandatory skill and ability enhancement course followed by an academic assessment. In addition, students exiting in the first year are “certificate” holders, those in the second year are “diploma” holders, while a degree is awarded for those completing three years. In a five-year integrated undergraduate and postgraduate programme, those exiting in the fourth year are “honours degree” holders, while those completing five years get their “Master’s degree”.
The design is such that at no stage are students left in the lurch in terms of an educational recognition, and have the freedom of again entering a programme when they feel it is favourable.
Karnataka aims to completely implement NEP in the state in the next 10 years, against the national target of 2035, contributing to the national growth story, which under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has been time and again asserted and fortified.