– Shishir Jaipuria, Chairman, Seth Anandram Jaipuria Group of Educational Institutions; Chairman FICCI Arise (Alliance For Reimagining School Education)
A tectonic shift is underway in the world of education. The cumulative forces of modern technology, new-age pedagogy, and emergence of future learning systems are persistently nudging the 21st century education towards a new paradigm.
Educators, learners, academics, and policy-makers have to be active change-agents and thought leaders in ushering the new era. They have to think beyond old conventions and systemic rigidities to envision the new ecosystem where education is redefined as a holistic empowerment of learners at the cognitive, emotional, physical, and spiritual levels of being.
True change is always hard to bring about, but circumstances have never been more favourable for the sweeping transformation in education across the globe. The digitalization of education, which was always around the corner before 2020, has now become entrenched in the form of blended learning. At the same time, new pedagogical practices are perpetually changing the teaching and learning experiences for better outcomes.
What’s needed is the vision and right intention to make the successful transition to the new paradigm. This paradigm shall comprise the symbiotic fusion of new-age curriculum, assessments, hybrid learning, teachers’ competence, learners’ engagement, parental connect, community involvement and policy reforms to create a resilient and holistic education system for the new world order.
The change must be all pervasive. From early childhood care to higher education, our attitudes and approach to education have to evolve to meet the needs of the world which is witnessing rapid disruption. Learning has to be student-driven and teacher-facilitated. Education should comprise a set of new-age competencies deriving from knowledge, skills, values and attitudes in learners. Critical thinking and problem solving skills should make knowledge practical and actionable.
For this paradigmatic shift to take effect, visionary reforms are needed along with the nationwide implementation of the National Education Policy 2020 in letter and spirit. The change must manifest at the institutional level, industry level and even the policy-making level.
Changes at institutional level
Out of the 1.5 million schools in India, nearly 70% are government schools, many of which have rudimentary infrastructure, meagre facilities, high student-teacher ratio and low learning outcomes. A sizable investment is needed at the grassroots level, particularly in rural schools, to build a robust physical and digital infrastructure along with human resources for delivery of quality education. The focus shall be on promoting in learners the 21st century skills such as design thinking, critical thinking, collaboration, communication and creativity.
Simultaneously, continuous professional development of teachers must be mandatory for all institutions, from primary to higher education. Play-based learning and active learning practices shall be the norm in preschools. Schools and higher institutions shall introduce in their curriculum more skill-centred and vocational programmes. They should engender a culture of research and develop better corporate connect to align education with the realities of industry 4.0.
Skill-based assessments must be brought on par with academic assessments. Private institutions in urban areas shall incorporate a multidisciplinary approach to learning and include new-age digital tech such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, AR/VR and even metaverse to make learning hyper-experiential. Overall, the education must become immersive, purpose-driven, equity-focussed and amenable to future learning systems.
Changes At The Industry Level
Collaboration shall be the hallmark of transformation in the education sector. Institutions should no longer exist as silos, but increasingly collaborate to exchange and co-create knowledge and best pedagogical practices. Cross institutional and multi-sectoral engagement will help to build robust systems, particularly for early childhood care and school education. Small schools should be incorporated into school complexes and clusters for efficient use of resources across the board.
To ensure quality benchmarks, standard-setting and accreditation should be adopted for schools through State Schools Standard Authority (SSSA) and School Quality Assessment and Accreditation Framework (SQAAF). An eﬀective quality self-regulation or accreditation system shall comprise: firstly, self-improvement and evaluation; secondly, peer review; and thirdly, third-party review. Minimum benchmarks also need to be created for higher education where only 30% of the universities and 20% of the colleges are presently in the accreditation system. Accreditation standards may even be incentivized so that institutions strive to maximise educational outcomes and ensure good governance.
The education sector, on the whole, must align its curriculum to the exigencies of Industry 4.0 and the future of jobs. The industry must develop adaptability, ethicality and agility to make a real change for the better.
Changes At The Policy Making Level
Adequate budgetary allocation and policy reforms by the government can go a long way in introducing long-lasting changes in the education landscape. Going by the UNDP estimates, India needs the total financial requirement of $173 billion per year to reach UNSDG 4 by 2030. To achieve this target, budgetary allocation to education has to be hiked and regulatory reforms should be instituted for facilitating and incentivizing the entry of high quality private investors into the education system. The policy makers may explore the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) model to attract patient private capital. This shall help to develop growth capacity, scalability and improve the gross enrolment ratio at secondary education and higher education.
Steps may also be taken to strengthen the Central Advisory Board of Education and broaden its mandate from advocacy to developing, evaluating and realigning the vision of education. Likewise, the development of quality assurance standards in the form of National Professional Standards For Teachers (NPST) for educators in both public and private schools will be a positive move.
While the government is making notable strides to address the digital divide by creating digital infrastructure and introducing 5G tech, it shal expedite the formation of National Educational Technology Forum (NETF) to create institutional capacity in education technology. The culture of research too will get a big boost with the setting up of the National Research Foundation (NRF).
TOWARDS A NEW TOMORROW
Ultimately, the future of education shall be defined by the individual and systemic agility, adaptability and innovativeness to the triggers of the VUCA world.
Learners of today and tomorrow should possess competencies that not just meet the industry standards but also help to drive this world towards equity, stability, growth and sustainability. For this we need to inculcate in them academic rigour, digital competence, creativity, innovativeness, empathy, resilience, environmental sensitivity and a greater consciousness for humanity and its place in the universe.
That’s the vision that shall help India regain its glory as the Vishwa Guru in education!