Although arrived coincidentally around the same time, the influx of COVID-19 pandemic and the introduction of the National Education Policy have changed in their own ways, the dynamics of India’s entire education sector. The Universities and institutions have now adapted to the naturally imposed pandemic and the elaborately planned NEP by redefining their academic strategies.
Like many other sectors, COVID-19 has hit the education sector in a big way. Student admissions, Research projects and securing government grants, Classroom teaching, Laboratory experiments, Examinations and assessments, Conferences and Seminars, Education Tours, Rural Immersion programs, Sports and Cultural activities have all been affected due to lockdowns and economic slowdown. All such factors have a direct effect on the strategic academic plans envisioned for academic and infrastructural improvements. However, COVID-19 proved to be the biggest disruption in the human history viewed in the backdrop of the world being forced to adopt online education. There was no choice for anyone. What would otherwise have taken a few decades to move to adopt online education, especially in the third world countries due to lack of resources or infrastructure, COVID-19 helped to swiftly shift to online. Therefore, although COVID-19 has hit the education sector, it also acted as an agent that gave an opportunity to the world to adopt technology instantaneously. It provided the much needed acceleration to the education sector to embrace the blended learning model driven by technology. The words Web, Virtual and Online have now become the most commonly used terminologies in the education world. Barring a few exceptions like sports and laboratory experimentation, almost all activities can now be done on an online platform. We, at MIT-WPU, always advocate that a teacher is the most important stakeholder of an institution. It is noteworthy that our strong team of teachers have been doing excellent job in imparting online education with the same dedication and quality of teaching as in classroom teaching.
At the same time, online education is no more limited to mere Zoom calls and Google meets. It is altogether a different way of approaching the new normal, which is completely in line with the NEP focusing more on practical knowledge.
The thrust of the NEP with regards to School Education is proposed to move from ‘what to learn’ to ‘how to learn’ which, when sincerely implemented, will see a total transformation of education in India. If we were to pick up only two majorly significant highlights from a student’s perspective for the Higher Education, the first of them would be the freedom of `exit’ which entails the student to get a certificate after the completion of first year, a diploma after second year and a degree award after three years. This will be a game changer and help the students to exit or drop out with some meaningful takeaway rather than going out empty handed. The second major gain for the student will be the credit banks where they can take the credits with them while moving or transferring from one institution to the other. These two were hitherto not possible in independent India’s 70-year-old education system.
The Teacher Education guidelines in the NEP bring forth the importance of the education of a teacher. The recommendation that every PhD aspirant must undergo teacher training no matter what domain he or she is pursuing research will boost the quality of teaching and will immensely contribute to enhanced levels of teaching-learning. Further, the NEP will ensure and encourage those universities, which are multidisciplinary, and transdisciplinary in the true sense, instead of stand-alone institutions proclaiming themselves as deemed universities. Education for transformation is another important initiative taken up and highlighted by NEP. It is worth mentioning here that education for life transformation as envisaged in NEP makes the foundation of MIT-WPU and its drive for imparting value based education, which involves peace courses as an important and essential part of all its professional programs.
Employability is a bigger challenge than Unemployment. There is a huge cry that graduating students are not industry ready. Indian education sector really needs to redesign the curriculum in such a way that industry must look forward to the research outcomes from academia. We must work towards honing the special skills for creating students who are capable of making practical implementation of their learning and thereby enhancing their employability.
Overseas Education demand seems to be reducing in the coming times due to increase in online engagement and the safety measures in situations like this pandemic. Project based learning and experiential learning will still be significant however, the context may change due to the involvement of technology.
Blended Learning is going to be the future even without the pandemic. It is not just about the mode of delivery. Participation from all stakeholders in teaching learning makes the model truly blended. As we know, every idea and/or visionary thought passes through three stages: Ridicule à Oppose à Accept. Similarly, the blended learning model will also traverse the same path ultimately emerging as a winner. Apart from a careful assessment of the quality of course content, tackling technical failures is a major challenge especially in rural areas. Live sessions may be interrupted due to technical glitches (especially in rural areas) hence, the recorded video of the sessions/classes have to be made available to ensure that nobody misses the content. Due to more emphasis on technology, we cannot just forget print media. Universities and institutions can still produce the study material and deliver it to the students. Going forward, MIT-WPU is planning to redesign the curriculum by adopting to 40:30:30 academic delivery model i.e. 40% classroom learning, 30% experiential learning and 30% online learning. Blended model accelerates the chances of internationally reputed universities to come closer and develop a collaborative educational framework. These measures are very much in-sync with the NEP and its guidelines. Therefore, the visionary NEP will in a way get the much needed momentum which in turn is provided by the `next normal’ strategies adopted by the academic institutions. As such, the pandemic and policy will for some time go hand in hand and pave way ahead for a brighter outcome in the days to come. Although the COVID-19 threw the challenges in the form of adversaries, it has also provided a blessing of opportunities in disguise for education sector if seen from an optimist’s spectacles. There is a saying, “Why do we fall? So that we can learn to pick ourselves up!” We at MIT WPU, followed very much the same…. we fell victim to the pandemic but we learnt and we progressed with even greater acceleration than before..!!!