Raj Mruthyunjayappa, President – India, Anthology Inc.
The National Education Policy (NEP), aimed at the holistic development of Indian education system, will need constant and vital interventions from the EdTech industry to achieve its objective of ensuring high-quality and accessible education across the country. For the policy to achieve desired results, the development of digital infrastructure will be essential, especially keeping in mind the need to have a multi-disciplinary approach. Few key objectives as defined include recognizing, identifying, and strengthening the unique capabilities of each student and promoting their holistic development in both academic and non-academic spheres. Flexibility for learners to choose their learning trajectories and programs, and thereby choose their paths as per their talents and interests, life skills such as communication, teamwork, cooperation, and resilience are few other significant objectives. While these tend to be seen as process and pedagogy change, larger point of leveraging technology to enable this transformation should not be missed out.
There is tremendous scope of EdTech solutions to help schools, colleges and universities fast-track digital learning and technology adoption across various functions such as teaching, learning, assessments and overall operations. The NEP has been initiated at a critical juncture with classes being conducted virtually or phygitally, a combination of physical and digital, due to the pandemic, where teaching methodologies and techniques need to be re-imagined. One of the central principles steering the education system will be the extensive use of technology in teaching and learning, removing language barriers, educational planning and management,
Higher education institutions have been encouraged to set up start-up incubation centres along with technology development cells to cultivate a culture of research. Significantly, the policy talks about the creation of the National Education Technology Forum (NETF), to enable exchange of ideas to enhance learning methods. Increased usage of Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools is also recommended. The policy further looks to create awareness on various facets of disruptive technologies that address crucial issues like data protection.
One major challenge that higher education institutions face today is the lack of developmental and scalable infrastructure. At present, India’s higher education enrolment, calculated in terms of Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER), stands at a dismal 26%. The government is looking to revamp existing structures to meet the demand of modern higher education facilities with the help of public-private partnerships. The investments should be directed towards creating an adequate technology infrastructure for higher education institutions which will result in educational parity to students across geographies.
NEP has stated that the plan is to bring every aspect of higher education, whether it is academic, technical, or vocational, and every type of education out of silos. Attempts are also being made to keep the administrative layers to a minimum and ensure more coordination among them. However, over-centralization is leading to certain challenges. In recent decades, a form of policy discourse has developed in which the dominant opinion holds that the state cannot be expected to pay for the education of all. Correspondingly, there has been a lack of development of educational infrastructure to meet the rapidly increasing demand for higher education. In response to the widening gap between the demand and supply for education, successive governments have pushed through measures that have largely allowed for greater penetration of private capital in higher education, and its corollary, the persistent decline in the per-capita allocation of governments funds towards education. Consequently, private colleges and universities have grown in number and there has been a rapid expansion of the open and distance learning (ODL) education options. This challenge is encouraging an increase in the number of online education and pushing the universities to go online. Such universities will have to adopt and rely on EdTech solutions by digitising student enrolment, student services, career counselling, alumni etc.
Circumstances have driven us to believe virtual classrooms are acceptable for schooling for those with access to technology. Hence it is important the HEIs gear up towards digital and technology solutions to continue uninterrupted classes and meet the demands of the student community. Further, NEP encourages industry-academia collaboration to mitigate the skill gap and to ensure employability by enabling the students to be industry-ready, highlighting the importance and relevance of introducing EdTech solutions in the Indian education space. When universities and industries work together, it often leads to high-quality research and innovative solutions and also reduces costs. To facilitate all this, a common EdTech platform may need to be created to foster new relationships and forge new ties and alliances.