The education system in India has always been under people’s lens for various reasons. Whether it is foreign students’ keen interest in exploring academic options in the country or students criticizing lack of innovation and creativity in the education system, the academic processes in the country has always been discussed widely. However, over the years, many changes in the system have made educators in India and across the globe sit up and take notice. From employing more women in order to reducing the gender gap in educational institutions or giving equal opportunities to girls to continue their education, to introducing courses and focusing on skill development of students, the education system in India has witnessed a sea change in the past years. Over the years IISc, IITs and IIMs from the country have consistently been featured in various top colleges/university ranking lists and have established a firm name in the education sector. Among the several policies drafted in the past, importance on skill development through Ministry of Skill Development & Entrepreneurship, Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, University Grants Commission (UGC)’s endorsement of blended learning, Institute of Eminence, National Education Policy 2020 are among some of the most notable changes the education system in India has witnessed.
This has resulted in educators across higher education institutions in the country to be more focused on overall development of students that prepares them for the outside world. Implementation and introduction of various tools and techniques, introducing students and faculty members to newer and relevant courses are proof that educators across the board are looking at making efforts to boost their standards and provide quality education to everyone. Recently 18 Indian universities making it to the top 200 in this year’s Times Higher Education (THE) Asia University Rankings, goes on to show that more colleges and universities are competing with their international counterparts to make a mark for themselves in the field of education.
Innovation and adaptation the latest mantra for educators
In a bid to stay relevant and stay up-to-date with industry demands, educators have also broadened their horizon when it comes to teaching and offering various courses to students. Many educational institutions in the country now offer courses to students covering a wide range of industry domains that prepares them for the competitive world. Some colleges and universities even offer unconventional courses in areas such as brewing and distilling, cartography, jewellery designing, dance movement and more, which was unheard of in the past few years. This only goes on to show how educators and academic institutions are catering to the curious minds of the youth who are willing to experiment in different fields. In order to make the learning experience even more fruitful, academic institutions tie up with industry experts, who either share their knowledge through guest lectures, seminars or work closely with students through internships. Through their ties with corporate giants, educational institutions facilitate placement drives in colleges and universities, thereby providing students with an array of job opportunities and the required skill set needed to perform better at the workplace. Meanwhile, academic institutions also ensure that teachers and faculty members too are up to date with the latest innovations. Many institutions have courses, seminars, lectures and programmes that equip faculty members with the latest technology and tools that enables them to keep up with the changing times while having an interactive and engaging conversation with students. The country witnessed this recently when classes, assignments and even examinations were conducted online owing to the pandemic. Several educators feel that the pandemic was a blessing in disguise as it helped them put their plan for online learning into motion in the form of online cases, which some claim, has been a smooth transition process.
Blended, hybrid model of learning is the future, say educators
However in the midst of all this, one cannot help but acknowledge the changes the pandemic brought to the education system. Even through this, many institutions made a smooth transition to the online mode of teaching and learning and even boast of 100% placement for students in the past academic year. While offline learning played a key role in the form of classroom learning before the pandemic, educationists across the country were put to the test to ensure a seamless academic year. Several educators say that switching to online mode was a smooth process as their institution was equipped and had already implemented tools to enhance the learning process with the help of technology. However, what remains to be seen is how the pandemic will impact the learning process in the future. Given the current situation, education institutions may reopen in a phased manner or may follow a hybrid model comprising online and offline classes. like corporate giants, educators across various institutions in the country suggest that a blended or a hybrid model is the future – a model where equal importance will be given to offline and online learning. However, educators are just not ready yet to do away with offline classes. Classes that are held on campuses have their own charm and help students interact with their peers, become socially responsible and shapes their mind, hence this mode of learning is here to stay with a few tweaks, they say. The hybrid model of learning give rise to several new and innovative techniques and tools, which will further challenge and enhance the learning process and will make students experiment, question and understand better. It will enable a student to think and question within the norms of technology. However, as some challenges remain, educators across the country have called for greater internet connectivity and tech-related resources for students, especially in the rural regions of the country.
NEP gets a thumbs up from educators
Meanwhile, The National Education Policy (NEP) 2020, introduced by the Indian government, made headlines last year as it brought in several major reforms to the current education system. The policy, which aims at making the country a global knowledge superpower, received a thumbs up from educationists and academic institutions from various spheres across the country. Many educationists labelled this policy as a game-changer and welcomed the move, hoping that this will bring a paradigm shift in the field of education and will set up higher standards of quality education in the country. Among the many proposed changes, educationists believe that opening of Indian higher education to foreign universities, turning institutes like IITs into multi-disciplinary, establishment of National Research Foundation to enable a culture of research and focus on teaching and learning of Indian languages are some of the much-needed changes required in the education system today. This, they point out, will not only give rise to quality education in the country, but will shape individuals, who will receive vocational training and skill training from a young age, to be socially responsible individuals. The NEP also aims at promoting Indian culture as it will allow local artists, writers and social thinkers to interact and engage actively with students. It will also provide a push for programmes such as Translation and Interpretation, Art and Museum Administration, Archaeology and more, which will allow students to understand the country’s culture and tradition in depth.
Will NEP boost education tourism?
Currently, with 181 tasks identified to be completed under NEP 2020 and task forces set up in many states already, the implementation of the policy is set to begin this year in a phased manner. While educators remain optimistic, many await the implementation of the policy on ground and the kind of changes it will bring in. Under NEP 2020, top foreign universities will be permitted to operate in India, which could bolster more admissions from students who are abroad and those in India as well. Meanwhile, NEP has also encouraged research collaborations and student exchanges between Indian and foreign universities. As this will allow Indian students to have access to foreign varsities and education system from other countries sans travelling, it may also help boost education tourism in the country, especially if more foreign students look at India as their choice for higher education. According to NEP, ‘such universities will be given special dispensation regarding regulatory, governance, and content norms on par with other autonomous institutions of India.’ However, given the current pandemic, it may be a long wait until foreign universities establish on Indian soil. But educators are hopeful that with such universities making their presence felt in the country, many Indian universities and higher educational institutions can learn and alter or design their curriculum keeping in mind what their international counterparts are offering. Open magazine in an initiative spoke to some of the brightest and experienced minds of the country’s top education institutions, who share their thoughts on the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic on the education system, the National Education Policy and what it means for the students, teachers and higher education institutions, achievements of their institutions and how they work hard towards shaping the next bright minds of the country and more…