Learning is an essential skill used by any sentient life-form to survive changes in the environment and for the progression of their species. Human beings, as a species, have taken this form of learning to another level that has enabled us to manipulate our surroundings to suit us. This evolution of learning through our own actions has now reached a pace that seems difficult to catch up to, if we continue to stand by and practice the old (didactic) learning practices.
As we look at the progress of learning through the ages – from an informal environment of Socratic dialogue, to institutionalized learning in formal schools and colleges, to information and knowledge now being available at our fingertips (literally!) through our palm-sized electronic devices, it seems to me that we’ve come a full circle – that education and learning cannot be confined physically and can now happen within the comfort of the student’s own home.
The rapidly changing ways of dissemination of information demands flexibility and high adaptability of educators and other stakeholders of formal school environment. Failure to do so, in my opinion, will lead such institutions to lose relevance and become relics of a bygone era. I wholly agree with the idea that educators must learn not only about learning, but also about their subject of choice, psychology, sociology, political science and law. This kind of diverse knowledge will allow teachers and educational administrators to be adaptable and flexible to ‘new learning’
* * *
The buzz created by the creation of the National Education Policy (NEP) in India was rightfully a positive one. In its structure and language, it has taken care of the concerns of all stakeholders of education, i.e. students, their parents, teachers, administration and management of educational institutions. By regulating education from the ages of 3 -21/22, the policy takes the responsibility of not just academic education, but also the social education of the student, i.e. morals, ethics, and to raise citizens of India (Bharat). It has also touched upon the nutritional concerns of the younger students, and thereby take care of the students’ physical education as well. The intentional diversity of subject choices for higher education is a welcome move for students of a society that largely pushes the younger generation towards STEM or Medical field, irrespective of the student’s choice. This decision, in the long run, will encourage youngsters to learn more about the subject of their choice, and to me, seems to be a push towards authentic pedagogy.
My concerns, despite all the positive points mentioned above, is that in the implementation of the policy, many directives will lean towards didactic pedagogy. I agree with the lesson that didactic pedagogy is essential, however, the NEP looks to enrich that pedagogy by introducing authentic pedagogy and ‘new learning’. My hope is that with a new generation of stakeholders, the implementation is successful in ushering a new era of public education in a vast and diverse country like India.
In my opinion, the NEP as a public policy is effective in addressing several concerns of the stakeholders in the education sector. It gives one the impression that the government and its associate bodies are deeply concerned of the overall well-being of the student, irrespective of the political and socio-economic differences that will arise due to the nature and range of diversity of the Indian population across the country. It directly tackles several practices that are rooted in didactic pedagogy and transforms them into authentic pedagogy, and recognizes the need to adapt to reflexive pedagogy in order to make the graduates from the Indian education system competitors on a global platform.
However, the points put forth in any op-ed that critically evaluates the NEP for secularism and democratic values do make me stop and think. Upon a second reading of the policy, the criticism that is awarded to the NEP is well-founded, wherein those of historically oppressed tribes and cases will be at a disadvantage due to the financial aspects of the policy. The change of administration and leadership of universities to a seemingly non-democratic appointment does bring in the threat of monotony and need to ‘know the right people’ to achieve merits in university. These aspects remind me of the point that even progressivist learning can contribute to inequality, which seems to go against the notion of creating global-minded citizens of Bharat.
Overall, I believe that implementation of this policy can change its weaknesses to strengths. I strongly believe that the policy paves the way for reflexive pedagogy at all levels of learning and education, and we as teachers in this transformative time, can be the ones to bring it to the fore.