Bharat will be celebrating its 100 years of Independence in 2047. The world will be witnessing and admiring Bharat for its leadership in socio-economic development over the next 25 years. The hard work of our Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his team in the past few years as well as in the next 5-10 years are likely to pave the way for transformation of Bharat as a leading nation of the world. We will emerge as one of the top 2-3 economies of the world. The current GDP growth rate of about 8 per cent, especially at the times of COVID-19 recovery and other international developments, shows Bharat’s strong economic fundamentals. National programmes such as Make in India, AatmaNirbhar Bharat, Startup India, etc. have served as engines of growth to achieve the goals of current leadership.
Require Fundamental Changes in Education
According to estimates about 180 million people in the working age group years between 20 and 50, Bharat is set to have the advantage of the demographic dividend as compared to any other country in the world. This will lead to an aspirational India where our brothers and sisters have to live a modern India as an equitable society. However, as more and more youth move into the working age group, it is imperative to create job opportunities and job-creating opportunities. If we fail to create such opportunities, the so-called economic dividend shall become a burden to the nation. Therefore, Bharat needs fundamental changes in the education system at the school and higher education levels for achieving the vision 2047.
Transformative Role of NEP 2020
The New Education Policy 2020 (NEP 2020) is one of the most significant and overarching initiatives of our Government to completely revamp the education system and to make the nation future-ready by creating new avenues for accentuating growth in all areas. Although NEP 2020 addresses solving some of the lacunas in our existing education system, it primarily focuses on preparing our youth to become competent and committed individuals who will be in the forefront of nation building. Earlier education policies only aimed incremental improvements but failed to see the potential of India to be a global leader. Policy makers in the yester years lived with the colonial mindset and had no vision and commitment for the country unlike our present leaders who are guided by the nation first mindset.
Skill Development Will Be Gamechanger
The NEP 2020 broadly focuses on many aspects like skill development, flexibility, multidisciplinary, equity and inclusivity, holistic education, value education, etc. Of these, the focus on skill development will be the gamechanger for the envisaged socio-economic leadership of the nation. The higher education (HE) of our country, particularly after Independence, was not necessarily aligned with its expected outcomes. There has been a misalignment of what was required for the economy and society, and what the HE system attempted to deliver. Lack of skill focus in HE in a way ruined the nation due to inappropriate policies and initiatives. To this end, NEP 2020 specially focuses on this very important aspect of skill development, keeping the current and future needs of socio-economic development of our nation.
Hard Skills Versus Soft Skills
Traditionally, while knowledge focused on knowing about concepts and theories, seldom our higher education focused on skill which builds the ability to apply the knowledge for jobs, research and innovation. For example, until recently the employability of graduates was a major problem, especially in the most important engineering disciplines such as Computer Science, Electronics, etc. While more and more job opportunities were created through industrial development, we continued to see the situation that a sizable percentage of graduates are not employable. Such a paradoxical outcome of higher education is undesirable and is likely to create tension among youth. With NEP 2020, the time has come to focus significantly on skill development through fundamental changes in the way academic programmes are designed and delivered in Higher Education Institutions. The modern day youth requires job skills, life skills and social skills for a successful career and a meaningful life. These skills are discussed in the following sections.
Increasingly jobs are linked to skills rather than qualifications, hence systematic approach to developing job skills have to be an integral part of the curriculum design and delivery. Job skills are divided into hard skills and soft skills. Hard skills focus on the core technical skills in the chosen area of study. Further, hard skills are also of two types-basic skills and advanced skills. For example, in a BTech CSE programme, coding skills form part of the basic skills. Whereas, any specialised skills for a unique job category falls under advanced skills. In IIIT Sri City, a track of practical-oriented three courses is being offered on ‘Full Stack Development’ to produce industry-ready graduates.
According to NEP 2020, the National Skills Qualifications Framework will be detailed further for each discipline, vocation and profession. These advanced skills will become comprehensive with practical training in the industrial context through semester-long internships. The ‘Skill India’ programme will find its renewed relevance under NEP2020 and Sector Skill Councils (SSCs) are likely to support the skills requirements in many sectors.
Soft skills are complementary and supplementary to hard skills for performing jobs effectively. It typically transforms a technically skilled individual into a professional. Soft skills are an essential part of improving the ability to work with others and positively influence career acceleration of individuals. Soft skills are broadly classified as communication and interpersonal skills but include specific skills such as presentation, negotiation, teamwork, networking and conflict resolution. Some of these skills are far more important for individuals who choose entrepreneurship as their career choice. For example, IIIT Sri City has introduced 4 courses on communication skills in the first two years of the 4 year- BTech programme and a focused course on ‘Soft skills for employability’. These courses help students to acquire necessary soft skills thus enabling high-end jobs in large corporations and successful niche Startups. Recognizing the importance of soft skills, NEP 2020 advocates that HEIs will also be conducting short-term certificate courses in various skills including soft skills. Seamless integration of classroom learning with co-curricular activities effectively enables development of Job skills.
Life skills: Mental well being
According to Swami Vivekananda, education is the manifestation of the perfection already in man. Such perfection is achieved through development of inner self. The WHO defines life skills as the abilities for adaptive and positive behaviour that enable the individuals to deal effectively with the demands and challenges of everyday life. These skills are required to deal positively with any condition to get the desired outcome. As per NEP 2020, the aim of education will not only be cognitive development, but also building character and creating holistic and well-rounded individuals equipped with the key 21st century skills. Bharat-centric education had the focus on these aspects until a few centuries ago. Integration of yoga and meditation as part of higher education will go a long way in developing individuals with inner strength. IIIT Sri City is offering a credit-earning course on ‘Foundation in Human Values’ to all students in collaboration with ‘The Art of Living’ with primary focus on yoga and meditation.
Everyone wants to excel in their career, and thereby enhance the quality of life. In NEP 2020, there is also an emphasis on personality development as part of the curriculum. It gives strength to handle any kind of situation and gives courage to face struggle to achieve any target. IIIT Sri City students undergo an experience-based course of Personal Growth Programme, which helps them to understand their personality through a set of key traits and take up systematic approaches for building life skills.
Social Skills: Towards Global Citizenship
According to NEP 2020, the world is becoming increasingly interconnected. Global Citizenship Education is a response to contemporary global challenges. We need to empower learners to become aware of and understand global issues and to become active promoters of more inclusive, tolerant, secure, and sustainable societies. Such a global citizenship is nurtured as an integral part of a holistic education, and is achieved in multiple forms. Firstly, the ability to understand and appreciate the requirements of fellow students exhibited through an inclusive learning environment. At IIIT Sri City, a voluntary mentorship programme, called ‘Favourite 25’ through which student teams help slow learners in academic activities. Secondly, ability to recognize the challenges faced by the socio-economically disadvantaged communities. IIIT Sri City has adopted 5 neighbouring villages under Unnat Bharat Abhiyan and students actively engage themselves in a variety of activities for the benefit of children, youth and elderly. Recently, under the ‘UBA-project’, students are encouraged to find technology-based solutions for problems identified in these villages and earn 4 academic credits.
Thirdly, Bharat is a land of diversity which is characterised by different languages, cultures, climatic conditions, etc., yet we are united as one nation. The next generation has the responsibility to transcend our past glories to the future and that requires the ability to understand the uniqueness of each of our communities and how they are interconnected as Bharatiya culture. ‘Ek Bharat Shreshtha Bharat (EBSB)’ programme aims to promote a sustained and structured cultural connection in the areas of language learning, culture, traditions, music, tourism etc. Students of IIIT Sri City actively carry out events under EBSB that promote brotherhood. Fourthly, programmes such as the ‘Study in India’ programme will pave the way bringing back the glorious days of Takshashila, Nalanda, Vikramshila, Vallabhi, etc. India is expected to emerge as a centre of knowledge and our youth are required to develop the mindset of the world as a one single family.
In conclusion, there is no dearth of talent among youth in India and it is imperative to identify it and impart the required skills to them. NEP 2020 with the support of other national programmes and organisations on skill development will enable building a strong and vibrant Bharat in the next couple of decades.