A bridge over River Saraswati:
Education in India under the NEP

Shailesh Haribhakti & Ram Kapadia

In 1700, India was the most prosperous nation on earth. Even before that, India held the distinction of being one of the best seats of learning worldwide, when Nalanda and Takshashila were at their peak. Scholars globally travelled long distances to get admission to these institutions. And today, there is not a single educational institution in India that is in the list of the top 100 universities of the world.

Can we bring back our pole position as a centre of learning? In our view, the answer to this question is a resounding YES.

There are 20 ideas which, we think, will shape the present and future of India’s education system:

1. Each of the 1MM+ schools/colleges/centres of learning in the country, will offer learning through multiple channels/mediums concurrently: 100 per cent online, 100 per cent in-person, and/or some hybrid of the two; in the language of choice of the students and their parents.

2. Parents and alumni will play a very active role in forming and managing institutions. Nalanda’s greatness was a result of alumni-led governance and administration. There is a need for more openness, lighter regulation, and freedom to adopt relevant syllabi and new ways of learning.

3. Every learner will have access to a device and the internet. Bringing 4G/5G to education will be a priority. Widespread Wi-Fi availability, cloud storage, and access to content from anywhere in the world will become key.

4. As online learning becomes ubiquitous, the best teachers of the world shall be invited to institutions anywhere in India, and students will significantly enhance learning options. This will rapidly expand beyond just any one country and go global. First Global and Socratic learning platforms like Alt and Acton have shown the way!

5. VR-AR will enable groups of innovating students to bring any historical event to life: imagine a ten-year-old replicating Churchill’s speech at the same location in London where he first made it! Every place on earth worth visiting will be available virtually to all teachers and learners. Imaginations will be fired like never before. Physical proximity to a location will become irrelevant as all investments in virtual reality take off and the devices to bring them alive become readily available.

6. Learning will become completely personalised. Emphasis on a standard curriculum and examinations/scores as a metric of how smart someone is will go away. Self-learning and cross-grading among peers will be emphasised. A strong focus on honing individual skills/ capabilities will emerge in both teachers and students. The innate potential of every learner will be realised.

7. Life, in general, will become more and more about continuous learning. We will become obsolete much sooner than ever before as change accelerates. The industrial revolution gave way to the automation revolution, which is giving way to a “machine-learned”, artificially intelligent world where physical work and routine will be completely left to the machines. The “study first, work after” approach will change. Learning->applying/working- >learning->applying/working will become a continual, lifelong cycle.

8. The option to start specialising will be available much earlier. Perhaps even as early as primary/elementary school. Every learner will have the option to “launch” into a specific, self-chosen journey. Technology solutions like UDACITY will completely alter the learning available in any human activity. The learning and development goals of everyone will be unique and fully sustainable by the tidal wave of content created continually. The role of teachers will change as they become guides, mentors, and collaborators helping the students go down their chosen journey.

9. Fundamental and applied research will become more widespread and accessible globally.
Search + collate + crowdsource + share will become a common practice. The importance of sharing newly acquired insights will rise as the world moves more and more toward discovered learning. The incentive to share will be high, as giving begets receiving.

10. Sports and group activities will flourish as space, community resources, and taxes get allocated to education in the broadest sense.

11. Value-based education focused on curiosity, integrity, equality, care, sharing, sustainable growth, and respect for the environment will give rise to a cleaner, crime-free world. This will be a true unleashing of the soft power that resides in India. Our timeless spirituality, untarnished by religious bigotry, will deliver true happiness. Intentionally acquired adaptability will drive the desire to meet every challenge and every opportunity that the swiftly evolving world offers.

12. Teaching and learning will blend into one another seamlessly. Either of these roles will be donned by anyone, depending on the setting and group or team dynamics.

13. Books and publications will be fully online. This will give rise to an interactive, adaptive, ever-changing,digitally self-enhancing data-stream. As blockchains transmit this data- stream, organisations will develop data lakes from which they will draw the energy required for transformational change. In turn, they will disrupt their obsolete models to rise to a Planet+People+Profit paradigm of their definition.

14. The focus of education will move away from being event-focused to being driven by a thought, a system, and/or a protocol. Interactions, discussions, debates, and problem- solving with anyone and anywhere globally will enrich learning. Debates, experiential learning, and challenging the status quo will become part of the new normal.

15. All content, globally and locally, will become available to everyone, everywhere. The emphasis of IPs will diminish.

16. No child and no adult will be left out of the continuous cycle of learning-unlearning- relearning. Complex subjects will be broken down into smaller, more understandable practical applications that will be simply replicated and adopted widely.

17. Co-creating and co-elevating one and all will become one of the purposes of education.Scholars, professors, economists, and professionals will work hand-in-hand with implementers. A new virtuous cycle will develop!

18. Education will be democratised such that its ubiquity becomes a natural law and its access universal. A 79 per cent literacy rate after 73 years of Independence will be raised to 100 per cent in five years.
19. Teachers will feel the competitive spur from every student and every other teacher in the world. Self and continuous improvement will become the mantra for every teacher.

20. No punishment of any kind will be tolerated, even in the case of persistent misdeeds. A new model of “punishments” will evolve. The existing set of teachers and learners will collaboratively set norms, and the outliers will be respectfully tolerated. Only those who break the law will be respectfully separated. Forgiveness will come from the community only after much chastening! Peer group feedback will become a much bigger input than it is today.

The goal of all of the above is to ensure that every child is in school and every Indian, irrespective of age, gender, religion, etc. is either engaged in learning or has the option to do so. This has to become a priority for all of us. Until this happens, we as Indians will find it very difficult to realise our true potential.

Shailesh Haribhakti is a corporate leader based in Mumbai. He is a chartered and cost accountant and writes regularly on the Indian economy and public policy. Ram Kapadia is a thought leader and entrepreneur based in Mumbai.

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