“We believe that every being is divine, is God. Every soul is a sun covered over with clouds of ignorance; the difference between soul and soul is owing to the difference in density of these layers of clouds. We believe that this is the conscious or unconscious basis of all religions and that this is the explanation of the whole history of human progress either in the material, intellectual, or spiritual plane — the same Spirit is manifesting through different planes…. Education is the manifestation of the perfection already in man.”
—Swami Vivekananda, What We Believe In,
The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, Writings: Prose, Volume 4
With the beginning of the new season for college admissions, confusion about the course and career options is also grappling the minds of students and parents alike. Implementing the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 this academic year has added apprehensions for all the stakeholders, including the institutions and teachers. Even though the present young generation is well-informed about their career choices and has greater exposure to the information than earlier, some pressure is natural while getting into the decisive stage of life of choosing a career path. Understanding the logic and thinking behind NEP 2020 would make it easier for the stakeholders to adapt to the new course of action.
The colonial structure of education continued for many years. Despite recommendations from various committees and commissions, the ‘national’ part was missing in our education system. As per the British requirement, the centrality of the English language, job – that also preferably government – as the sole objective of education, undermining of our cultural traditions, scientific wisdom and historical glory mainly through the distorted representation of secularism became the salient features of the curriculum. Some individuals and institutions tried to overcome these limitations to impart quality national content and values, but systemic thinking discouraged such efforts. The recent manufactured controversy over the rationalisation of the NCERT curriculum or National Curriculum Framework introduced by UGC is just a symptom of the deeper rot or stagnation we have created about ourselves through education. As Swami Vivekananda argued, “Look back, therefore, as far as you can, drink deep of the eternal fountains that are behind, and after that, look forward, march forward and make India brighter, greater, much higher than she ever was.” NEP 2020 is the first systemic attempt to blend Bharatiya knowledge System with global standards and contemporary societal requirements.
Besides the structural changes such as four years of graduation with a mandatory internship programme and multiple entry and exit points, the flexibility of courses and the option to opt for higher education in the mother tongue are distinctive features of the new policy. Every individual is different and has varied strengths and weaknesses. Straightjacket streams like arts, science and commerce have traditionally reduced the options for students or forced them to study the subject they like in a foreign language. Now Mathematics and Music can go together, and a student can acquire Mechanical engineering skills in a Bharatiya language.
The option of credit transfer for value-added or any other add-on courses is another flexibility offered with the new policy. So a Sanskrit student can learn computers or do a data science course outside their parent institution and claim the credits in the final scorecard. The new structure offers more freedom to students to innovate and pursue entrepreneurship. When career options and wealth-creating opportunities are changing quickly, making future generations adapt to this transformative world is critical. While doing so, the youth should maintain sight of his inner potential and larger life objectives.
Again in the words of Swami ji, “Out of this decay is coming the Bharat of the future; it is sprouting, its first leaves are already out; and a mighty, gigantic tree, the Urdhvamula, is here, already beginning to appear”. The new education model is meant for the resurgent Bharat of Swamiji’s dream. Therefore, instead of taking pressure or getting confused, be informed, learn adaptation and enjoy the flexible course options for a bright future.