10 years old Indian kids to learn coding at school – Reflections from India’s new National Education Policy

Even though much has changed in India, school kids learn from the same books that were used for teaching 10 years ago. The Indian education system promotes rote learning, and this promotes conformism rather than curiosity in children. Clearly,...

Even though much has changed in India, school kids learn from the same books that were used for teaching 10 years ago. The Indian education system promotes rote learning, and this promotes conformism rather than curiosity in children. Clearly, India’s educational report card shows ample room for improvement.

Ushering in an era of new educational reforms, the Indian Government released its National Education Policy 2020 (NEP 2020) to replace the old education policy which was framed in 1986. The policy is ambitious and forward looking. The vision of NEP 2020 has the potential to ensure that India churns out students of a higher quality, equipped to take on professions and start businesses almost as soon as they graduate.

Start early to reap benefits later

The National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 emphasises the importance of applied learning, multiple pathways to learning and resource sharing. In addition to this, there is an importance given to technology-enabled pedagogy from grade 6. There will be need for networked schools, vibrant communication flows and a reconsideration of the medium of instruction. Internships beginning from grade 6, continuous assessment and complete freedom to design an educational path, which can eliminate restrictive practices of choosing a stream and then having to stick with it rather than change mid-stream and risk repeating years, are other news in the new policy.

Education in the area of coding is a desirable means to future-proof kids. The pandemic has seen a need for all sectors and businesses to establish a prominent digital presence. Coders will be at the forefront of developing, managing and monitoring our future societies. The advantage of starting early in the field of coding can reap rewards for Indian students and influence talent attraction internationally.

The future of Indian Higher Education and research

The new policy’s emphasis is on enhancing quality, equity, universal access, social inclusion, flexible degrees, teacher training, research and embedding technology in all aspects of education.  Building on this vision, the NEP 2020 sets out a series of far-reaching changes to university education in the country. These include:

  • Establishing a single national regulatory body to oversee all aspects of university functioning namely the Higher Education Commission of India (HECI).
  • Setting up a National Research Foundation (NRF) to incentivise research through funding and mentoring.
  • Introducing four-year multidisciplinary degrees with multiple exit options (after one, two, three or four years).
  • Encouraging internationalisation, for example through allowing foreign universities to operate in India.
  • Developing a set of elite multidisciplinary universities geared towards achieving the standing of Ivy League institutions in the US. The National Education Policy sees India as becoming a “world teacher” (vishwa guru).
Photo Credits: Ulf Lundin/imagebank.sweden.se

NEP 2020 focuses on promoting India as a global study destination providing premium education at affordable costs. It is thus intended that high performing Indian universities will be encouraged to set up campuses in other countries and similarly select universities will be permitted to operate in India. A legislative framework shall be formulated and introduced facilitating the entry of foreign universities in India, and such universities will be given special dispensation regarding regulatory, governance and content norms on par with other autonomous institutions within India. Additionally, research collaboration and students exchange programmes between the Indian institutions and global institutions will be promoted and the credits acquired in foreign universities will also be permitted to be counted for award of degree. Other welcome developments include the move to set up an Inter University Centre for International Education (IUCIE) specifically to support internationalisation of universities.

Setting up of a National Research Foundation (NRF) is expected to bring a significant increase in funding and support for research. The overarching goal of NRF shall be to enable a culture of research to permeate through universities and higher education institutions across India. In this regard, NRF shall inter alia provide a reliable base of merit-based peer-reviewed research funding, helping to develop a culture of research in the country through suitable incentives for and recognition of outstanding research. NRF shall also competitively fund research in all disciplines across the academic landscape – science, technology, social sciences, arts, and humanities. 

The ambitious target of increasing Gross Enrolment Ration in higher education from 26.3% (2018) to 50% by 2035, demand more collaboration than ever before. While NEP aims to increase public investment in education from the current 4.3% to 6% of GDP, there is no time-frame given for its implementation. The government is also promoting the establishment of a very strong “Stay in India & Study in India” program.

What’s in it for Sweden?

From a short- and medium-term perspective, Swedish universities and higher education institutes could use NEP 2020 and its emphasis on internationalisation and flexibility as an opportunity to enhance collaboration. We believe the new policy could present exciting opportunities for Swedish universities and Higher Education Institutions to increase collaboration with India. Below we elaborate on two, in our eyes, exciting opportunities.

Student mobility and exchange programs

India’s young population is increasingly willing to pay for education if there is a clear path to more and better jobs. India will not have the capacity to meet this demand on its own. Its institutions cannot currently service the number of prospective students and quality remains patchy. As a world-class provider of education and training across secondary, university and vocational sectors, Sweden is well positioned to partner with India. Sweden and India could co-develop new courses and programs, including engage in collaborative design of open and distance learning products and facilities, such as virtual classrooms and MOOCs. Sweden could also look at the opportunity to design teaching sabbatical and exchange programmes as a mean to create stronger bonds, sharing best-practices and develop both country’s education culture and institutions.

Research exchange

NEP 2020 intends to end the fragmentation of higher education by transforming higher education institutions into large multidisciplinary universities and colleges, each of which will aim to have 3,000 or more students. The idea is to build vibrant communities of scholars and peers, break down harmful silos, enable students to become well-rounded across disciplines (including artistic, creative and analytic subjects as well as sports), develop active research communities across disciplines (including cross-disciplinary approach) and increase resource efficiency, both material and human across higher education. Swedish universities would benefit from exploring opportunities to establish joint research schools and joint supervision of PhD students. NEP 2020 could also give a strong impetus to Indian universities to form international partnerships at a university level. This could potentially facilitate efforts by Swedish universities to establish partnerships at both faculty and university level and find Indian “sister” universities to establish long-term research collaboration, across disciplines.

Does this sound interesting and do you wish to know more?

Download the policy here – https://innovateindia.mygov.in/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/NEP_Final_English_0.pdf

We look forward to following the implementation of NEP 2020!

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Prime Minister Stefan Löfven with students in Stockholm | 2018 (Image credit – MEA India Flickr account)