Webinar on “NEP-2020 –Towards Holistic Education”
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The National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 is a milestone document in the context of nation-building. VIF has thus planned to take up, in a series of webinars, issues arising out of the NEP-2020 which have a rather long-term bearing on the country’s development.

The second webinar in this series focusing on the theme NEP-2020-Towards Holistic Education was conducted on 7th October. The webinar was initiated by Dr. Arvind Gupta, Director, VIF, who, in his welcome address, explained how NEP-2020 stressed on holistic education in its policy document. He pointed out that the preamble of NEP gives at least 41 references to holistic education, thus laying enough stress on the same. He highlighted that since independence, holistic individual development and education has been our aim. He summed up holistic education in the words of our educational leaders as the holistic development of an individual in multiple disciplines. Swami Vivekananda believed man to be perfect and education as the tool to polish this self-perfection. Gandhiji also stressed on the same principle in the “Nai Talim”, where he reiterated the same fact in terms that there should be no difference between what you learn and what you do with your hands. The first education commission chaired by Dr. Radhakrishnan also stressed on maintaining the cultural unity of this country by converting information into wisdom. Our conventional Gurukul system has also stressed on the simultaneous growth of the teacher and student alike. The same thought is stressed by the NEP-2020 which suggests major revamping to implement holistic learning at all levels. The basic aim of holistic development, though challenging, can be realised through the above historical principles.

Dr. Gupta then welcomed the panellists: Prof. K. K. Aggarwal, Chairman, National Board of Accreditation (NBA), Distinguished Fellow VIF and Former Founder Vice Chancellor, GGSIP University, New Delhi; Prof. M K Sridhar, Member, Drafting Committee of National Education Policy 2020 & Former Dean, Department of Management Studies, Bangalore University, and Ms. Bindu (Gayatri) Dalmia, columnist, social commentator & Chairperson, National Committee on Financial Literacy & Inclusion for Women-NITI Aayog.

Prof. Aggarwal stated that VIF has realised that to take care of long term national goals like national security required producing the right kind of personnel. This could only be possible by focussing on education. Hence, the VIF last year published a report on STEM education, which received wide recognition and some of its concepts were even reflected in the NEP-2020. He also highlighted that how in the past, despite volumes of research the problems of the society have remained as it is due to the sheer absence of integration of knowledge. He attributed this to the shortcoming in our education system where there is strict compartmentalisation of domains with absolutely no knowledge sharing. According to Prof. Aggarwal, holistic education can be realised only when we drift away from this compartmentalisation and appreciate that now it has become possible also in India for a Physicist by education and Botanist by profession to win a Nobel Prize for his contributions in Chemistry! This style of judicious combination of subjects was what we were practicing in our ancient Gurukul system. NEP-2020 now reiterates that the student will be able to decide and pursue what he wants to do, be it music, science and any other technological/vocational subject combined with it. The policy goes beyond this by promoting a strong integration with nature. He reaffirmed that holistic knowledge was the only way to lead to complete realisation of the self and national development. The country has now formally adopted holistic education through the NEP-2020.

Prof. Sridhar stressed how this webinar was important and how our great Indian philosophers have always stressed on holism. The entire NEP-2020 whether it uses the keyword ‘holistic’ or not, has the spirit of holistic education rooted into it as the ‘policy for India’. The entire approach of Nalanda, Takshila and most of our conventional but world-renowned universities were built by unifying the dharma, artha and kama principles. He elaborated how the NEP-2020 covers the total span of holistic education by talking of education right from the first year to lifelong learning. The school education now talks of 5+3+3+4 years of education integrating the complete curricular and pedagogic framework leading to the overall holistic development of the child. The first five years shall be foundation leading to almost 80-85% of the brain development of the child. The next three years shall be preparation where the child will be introduced to formal learning. The next three years, the child will be introduced to the concept of subjects and subjects’ teaching. The last four years will start preparing the child for higher education. Hence, up to the end of school education there will be no specialization. Under-graduate courses would be designed to be semi-specialization, Masters would be specialization and Ph. D. would be super-specialization. Hence, NEP-2020 refines specialization by strengthening the different attributes leading to the same. Further, to ensure holistic development there will be no hard separation of anything. The hierarchy of importance will be completely abolished. A provision in the policy also talks about the completely new concept of progress card of the child. This is different from the conventional one as the policy advocates 360 degree appraisal of the child in this holistic progress card.

Hence, with NEP-2020 up to school, holistic education would be practiced in letter and spirit as the child will be given equal exposure to curricular, co-curricular and extra-curricular subjects and activities. The entire Higher Education is presently in complete silos, while the underlying problems of any discipline are much deep-rooted and go beyond the thinking of that particular discipline. In the current scenario, the content is generating the drift. The proposed four-year programme shall be beyond the boundaries of a discipline. The entire holistic thinking is also reflected in the fact that education has to look after both livelihood and life, as livelihood is only part of life and not the whole of it. Therefore, the entire approach of this policy is towards holistic education. Even regulation of schools and higher educational institutions will be in a holistic manner. Thus approach of education and content of education will be holistic as life would be always holistic.

Dr. Gupta invited questions from participants for Prof Sridhar. He pointed out that to bring about holistic education the regulation has to be flexible enough to allow breaking of the existing silos as well as developing current teachers to face the same. Prof. Sridhar explained that the entire NEP-2020 policy in terms of higher education relies on decentralisation, autonomy and flexibility. Hence, progressively the affiliation system will disappear and colleges will focus on their own research and teaching for evolving into multidisciplinary autonomous degree granting colleges over a period of time. Further, the policy also advocated the higher education framework with multi-entry and multi-exit criteria, academic bank of credits, etc. A ‘light but tight’ regulation has been advocated in the policy. No input-based regulation but outcome-based regulations shall be implemented. Hence, holism is reflected in the very idea of academic regulation. Gen. Ravi Sawhney asked: presently, there are far too many people in our universities for a subsidised education. Hence, the net result was bulk but subsidised quality. Could we do something about this resource wastage? Prof. Sridhar accepted that all these years, we focussed on so-called ‘education’ but we never really looked into what kind of education is required. Also, the policy states that the enrolment ratio in schools should be 100%. However, in higher education the enrolment ratio could be 50% out of which 50% could be vocational education. Further the policy also abolished specialisations at XIth and XIIth grades.

Amb. T.C. A. Rangachari asked: the implementation of the policy would be the key factor, especially by the current faculty. How will changes be brought in the thinking and work culture of the present teachers? How do we bring the teaching community on board? Prof. Sridhar highlighted that the policy lays a four-year integrated program for becoming a teacher at any level. Presently courses like B.Ed and exams like NET/SET are the norm. For present teachers also, a complete paradigm shift in the curriculum will send a strong message across. Further, all in-service teachers will have to do continuous professional development activity for at least 50 hours per year. The government is also committed to involving more and more teachers for the implementation of the policy. For UGC funding too when the institutions become autonomous they will need to produce resources for themselves and strive to do better. Further, an institutional development plan of every university/ college will be the basis for possibly all sorts of funding too. Prof. M. N. Hoda, Director, Bharati Vidyapeeth’s Institute of Computer Applications and Management (BVICAM), New Delhi, raised the concern that many managements feared that with this policy their small campuses would not be able to convert to multidisciplinary colleges without any expansion which would not be possible for various types of constraints.

Prof. Sridhar stated that opportunity lies underneath, as 40% of total colleges in India offer only a single course. This will give them an opportunity to grow into multidisciplinary centres. Through societal and affiliating university assistance, the colleges would be further strengthened. As academic bank of credits would become a reality in the years to come, soon institution-specific boundaries will get dismantled and there would be chance of more collaboration. Finally, Dr. Gupta asked at what stage in schools skills and vocation shall be introduced. Prof. Sridhar stated that grade VI onwards there would be exposure and till grade XI and XII students will be able to pursue the same. For skill enhancement in government schools in, say, the same district; the government will combine them into academic school complexes of different levels. These complexes will be empowered with all facilities like laboratories, teachers, etc and other resources.

The next panellist Smt. Bindu (Gayatri) Dalmia stressed on how the present graduates shall adopt to this multidisciplinary transformation. According to her, the future has already arrived, so we have no time to prepare but have to adapt instead. A more than three decades-old broken system with numerous maladies is being addressed, but how to bring it into implementation is challenging. As times have changed, we need to change our outlook to deliver content in a holistic manner to create a self-reliant individual. This policy would increase the Human Development Index, happiness index and thus the overall national development. Our education system should be accessible to the last man standing in the queue. Education in the near future would be an ‘on demand service’. A new India has been engraved by our honorable Prime Minister. She reiterated how her own education history was more influenced by British history rather than Sanskrit. NEP-2020 strengthens our youth by amalgamating academic streams and directing students towards cumulative and composite knowledge. She also highlighted how the 9 am to 5 pm job security was no longer available. Hence, job portability would be much easier with holistic skills. She also congratulated the NEP team to have addressed this requirement.

According to her, the future of education is lifelong learning as average lifespan of an individual has increased, so professional lifespan has also increased. Hence, people have to increase their learnability to maintain their employability. The new age learner can be anybody with the zeal to learn irrespective of age. This next new normal is a big shift in many sectors witnessing post-pandemic growth. We need to increase our digital adaptability. The NEP-2020 has adapted to this transition well. Educators will now play a more credible role in churning out holistic students.

This was followed by many questions from the attendees. Answering all queries, Smt. Dalmia stated that the cost of higher education is supposed to be the second highest in the monthly household expenditure of any Indian household. India also needs to remain at least a medium-scale economy which would not be possible without a formal education system. Non-formal option alone would not enable students to be employable for the future job scenario. However, reducing the cost of education would be a crucial factor of education. Prof. K. K. Aggarwal further reiterated that the NEP-2020 is a landmark transformational policy; however, its implementation is certainly challenging as well as time-consuming. Kum. Nivedita Bhide, All-India Vice President, Vivekananda Kendra, highlighted that the NEP-2020 is the software whose hardware implementation challenge needs to be worked on.

Event Date 
October 7, 2020

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