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NEP 2020: True reflection of India’s conscience and ethos

Yuvraj Pokharna

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Union Education Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ hands over the final policy document of the National Education Policy 2020 to Vice President M. Venkaiah Naidu, in New Delhi on 30 July. (ANI Photo)

What is it that lags us behind? We produce CEOs who lead multimillionaire firms globally but if we can lead Google, why can’t we create one? Many of us have been ruminating about these questions. With the declaration of the New Education Policy (NEP) 2020, it is clear that successive regimes failed to address the fundamental problems in the education system of India.

We didn’t have a Central ministry for education. It fell under the Union Human Resource Development Ministry. The fact is that our education system promoted a rat race and didn’t build the unique persona of each child. With an obsolete testing methodology, pedants following the rulebook of clichés where teachers themselves were not trained and efficient, lack of flexibility in the system, medium of language of instruction, education irrelevant to job market, missing innovation and creation, we were only aping the West and the students were happy in getting a 6-digit salary job and lacked the ambition to become entrepreneurs themselves. Formulae won over concepts, rote learning won over critical analysis, marks won over knowledge, theory won over practice and there was no end to social disparity. In totality, we have been focusing on everything except research and training.

This is not meant to criticise the hitherto establishments. Obviously, not to criticise the lack of importance given to educational reforms and certainly, not to sing any paean song for the Modi government. As an educator and social activist, I am just propounding my take on the NEP 2020. To me, this represents the collective conscience and ethos of the nation. It is an inflexion point. Developed through pervasive consultations, it is a sweeping overhaul of an archaic British colonial system, inept for our needs. It brings about transformational and revolutionary changes.

As per the NEP document, it is the first education policy of the 21st century, and aims to address many growing developmental directives. In the dynamics of the global ecosystem of innovation, education must move towards less content, and more towards learning about how to think, how to be creative and multi-disciplinary, and how to innovate, adapt and absorb new material in new and changing fields. It counsels the revision and revamping of all aspects of the education structure, including its administration and governance, to create a new system that is aligned with the aspirational goals of the 21st century, while remaining consistent with India’s traditional value systems. NEP 2020 lays particular emphasis on the development of the creative potential of each individual, in all its richness and intricacy. It is based on the principle that education must develop not only cognitive skills but also foundational skills of literacy and numeracy, higher-order cognitive skills such as critical thinking and problem solving and also social and emotional skills which are also referred as soft skills including cultural awareness, empathy, perseverance, teamwork, leadership, communication, among others.

Apart from ‘Universalisation of Early Childhood Care Education’ (ECCE), major changes include a new pedagogical and curricular structure of school education (5+3+3+4 instead of 10+2); curriculum and pedagogy to be transformed by 2022 to integrate 21st century skills in teaching, learning and assessment; mathematical thinking and scientific temper, textbooks imbibing local content and flavour; medium of instruction up till grade 5, and preferably till grade 8 will be home/local/ mother language; no rigid separation between Arts & Sciences, between curricular and extracurricular activities, between vocational and academic streams; vocational integration from class 6 onwards; attainment of foundational literacy and numeracy by grade 3; 360 degree holistic progress card of child, among others.

The other features include tracking student progress for achieving learning outcomes; Gender Inclusion Fund; settingup of National Centre for Performance Assessment, review and analysis of knowledge for holistic development (PARAKH); board exams to be conducted twice a year (each board exam could have two parts — one part of an objective type with multiple-choice questions and the other of a descriptive part).

At the higher level, the National Testing Agency will offer a common entrance exam for admission to Higher Educational Institutes (HEIs); National Professional Standards for Teachers (NPST). Likewise, some of the revolutionary proposed reforms encompass holistic and multidisciplinary education with flexibility of subjects. Multiple entry/exit points with appropriate certification; academic bank of credits to be set up to enable digital storage of credits to be transferred; UG programme (3 or 4 year), PG programme (1 or 2 year), integrated 5-year course; dumping M.Phil; Model Multidisciplinary Education and Research University (MERU) in every district; single regulator for higher education including teacher education (excluding legal and medical); special education zone for disadvantaged regions are other important changes. Meanwhile, common norms for public and private HEIs, private philanthropic partnership, fee fixation within broad regulatory framework; setting up of National Research Foundation (NRF); internationalisation of education; focus on Indian knowledge system, culture, literature and scientific vocabulary of Indian languages; promoting traditional arts through Lok Vidya, etc, are also major updates.

All this, of course, will happen keeping a resonance with technology. Use of technology in education and also in planning, teaching, learning and assessment, administration and management, regulation will play a pivotal role. Self-disclosure and minimum human interface, increasing access for disadvantaged groups, divyang-friendly education software, e-content in regional languages, virtual labs, national educational technology forum (NETF) to promote use of technology, digitally equipping schools, teachers and students, etc, are areas where technology will be used.

If one considers the proposal of promoting Indian languages, obviously it would include Sanskrit too. One would realise the spirit of “Ek Bharat, Shreshtha Bharat” along with taking us back to our forgotten roots. Behind the multiple entry/exit points, one can sense the purpose of empowering students to continue their graduation, notwithstanding any difficulties or even with a sabbatical gap. Replacing 10+2 structure with 5+3+3+4 curricular seems to be in tune with the global practices for mental development of a child. The curricular and pedagogical structure of school education will be reconfigured to make them responsive and relevant to the developmental needs and interests of learners at different stages of their development, corresponding to the age ranges of 3-8 years, 8-11 years, 11-14 years, and 14-18 years, respectively.

 The Gender Inclusion Fund and Special Education Zones will focus on inclusivity and accessibility of education and so forth. The teacher and the teacher’s condition must and will be at the centre of these changes. A common guiding set of National Professional Standards for Teachers (NPST) will be developed by 2022, by the National Council for Teacher Education in consultation with NCERT. Teachers will be given constant opportunities for self-improvement and to learn the latest innovations and advances in their profession. To ensure that every teacher has the flexibility to optimise their own development as teachers, a modular approach to continuous teacher development will be adopted.

What one needs to ponder and applaud at this juncture is the vision envisaged by the Modi government in implying these radical but necessary reforms. According to PM Modi, NEP 2020 is based on the pillars of access, equity, quality, affordability and accountability. We see that the utmost importance is given towards ensuring universal access to school education. There is emphasis on better infrastructure, innovative education centres to bring back dropouts into the mainstream, facilitating multiple pathways to learning among others.

 Yuvraj Pokharna is an engineerturned-educationist and social activist from Surat who keeps a keen eye on contemporary issues including social media, politics and government policies.

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Educationally Speaking

INDIAN COAST GUARD NAVIK NOTIFICATION RELEASED

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The Indian Coast Guard, Ministry of Defence, has released an official notification regarding the recruitment process of Navik, the domestic branch (cook and steward). All the interested and eligible candidates are requested to visit the official website, i.e., joinindiancoastguard.gov.in, to read the notification, and apply, once the process starts. As per the notice, there are a total of 50 vacancies. The online application dates are 30 November to 7 December. Candidates have to pass class 10th with 50% marks in aggregate from a board of Education recognised by central/state government (5% relaxation in above minimum cut off will be given for SC / ST candidates and outstanding sportsperson of national level).

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ICAI CA 2020 EXAMS TO BE HELD FROM 21 NOVEMBER

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Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) CA exam admit cards can be downloaded from the official website icai.org using the registration numbers and other required details. The CA foundation, intermediate and final exams will be held from 21 November to 15 December. “Candidates for ICAI Exams starting from November 21, 2020, are informed that exams will be held as per schedule,” the ICAI said, adding: “They [candidates] should only concentrate on exam studies and not be misled by any false propaganda/incorrect statements made and should only refer to announcements at http://icai.org.”

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DU ADMISSIONS 2020: PG ADMISSION PROCESS BEGINS TODAY

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The University of Delhi will commence the postgraduate level entrance exam and merit-based admissions for over 54 courses offered by the university from Wednesday. “The admission to some of the courses is either based only through entrance or through both entrance and merit. All the applicants whose final year results have been declared by the University must update their marks on their dashboard. Applicants whose final year result of the qualifying examination has not been declared yet should wait to update their marks.”

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HOW COVID-19 PANDEMIC HAS CHANGED B-SCHOOLS

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Covid-19 has jolted the global economy and sent ripples across various sectors, including education. The nationwide lockdown led to the closure of schools and colleges. The B-schools too have taken a major brunt of the situation, with their admission timelines, classes, and placements getting severely impacted. Most government and private B-schools postponed classes, semester examinations, convocations, and group discussion (GD) and personal interview (PI) rounds, following the guidelines that were laid down.

CHALLENGES

Many B-schools deferred their placement process, cancelled semesters, and suspended internships as they wait for some semblance of normalcy to be restored. Apart from the pedagogical and infrastructural challenges, the management institutions are faced with the task to reinvent themselves so that they can future-proof students for tomorrow.

The ongoing crisis has mandated a shift to the digital medium for every B-school so that any future disruptions do not hamper the education system, as it happened now due to poor preparedness. Going digital has been troublesome because nobody was ready for such a turn of events. The pandemic has raised a need to adopt more innovative ways to impart education services at all levels.

However, a few challenges are in order before a smooth transition to online takes place. First, uninterrupted access to the Internet is yet to be achieved in tier-2, tier-3, and remote cities in India. Second, we lack a comprehensive policy regulation that can lead to ambiguity and vagueness with regard to the operational framework. Also, online learning needs to take cognizance of the different learning patterns and pace of students so that customised solutions can be devised for them. Additionally, the concerns around increased screen time and stress and anxiety triggered due to the continuous use of electronic devices will also have to be addressed.

ROLE OF TECHNOLOGY

Given the current circumstances, online classes have become the most pragmatic solution to ensure continuous and seamless education. Various schools and universities have developed an intranet system due to which they could adopt video broadcasting tools like Zoom and Google Hangout. Such video solutions can help educators organize live stream classroom sessions for students. Video broadcasting enables learning through recording, live video, audio, real-time Q&A chat via mobile app or website.

Asynchronous learning programs can be leveraged to allow students to complete courses without any compulsions to be present at a particular time or place such as in discussion boards. These technologies are student-friendly and student-focused. In addition, social media channels and their feature of real-time messaging can be harnessed by leading B-schools to address remote learning challenges. This can help education reach every student’s doorstep. Social Media Channels are helping colleges and other institutions provide information with a legit multiplier impact so that the ‘learning anytime, anywhere’ ideology can be embraced effectively.

Emerging technologies that will play a critical role in the enhancement of the online education model include artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, augmented reality (AR), and virtual reality (VR). AR and VR can provide smart and immersive interactive experiences to students. Video calls between students and professors with a real-time experience can give ground-breaking results in terms of engagement and knowledge retention.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) recreates the human intelligence procedure. It helps in the grading of tests as it can eliminate the risk of human errors and unjust biases. It can also assist educators in creating online tests in various formats such as multiple-choice questions (MCQ), skills, essays, aptitude-based questions, and typing. On the evaluation front, these automated solutions are in-built with an intuitive multi-section window where the evaluator can change to various settings to convey explicit evaluations. The AI-empowered video interviews help generate extensive and detailed student reports based on internal score and performance.

ROLE OF NEP 2020

The newly-enacted National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 couldn’t have come at a better time. The policy is a positive re-imagination of India’s education system with an aim to overhaul it into a progressive, practical, and equitable regime. Effective execution of this policy requires the re-prioritization of budgetary resources. The policy envisions revolutionary structural reforms for higher education. It promotes a flexible three- or four-years degree programme structure at the undergraduate level, allowing multiple exits to learners even after 1 year with certification.

The departure from the current three-year model is meant to encourage and inculcate a research component at the undergraduate level, which in turn, will lead to a degree with research by the time of its completion. Students who are mid-term dropouts would be awarded credit for the term they completed and an option to complete their degree after the break. Colleges will not be affiliated to any university. The deemed university status will also be put to an end. Over the next 15 years, graded autonomy will be extended to colleges to provide degrees.

NEP 2020 has its eye set on designing a multi-disciplinary curriculum that is touted to be a game-changer. The top-rated global universities would be encouraged to come to India while top Indian universities will be motivated to go global. Creative combinations of subjects and vocational education will be the primary focus. The policy emphasises teaching ‘21st-century’ skills like mathematical thinking and creative temperament that will go a long way in preparing students for the competitive professional world.

The new education policy, in a nutshell, seeks to upskill management graduates in areas that will help them future-proof themselves and be relevant to the changing job market scenario.

NEW OPPORTUNITIES

In times of economic distress, sound education becomes more important than ever. Due to the disruption caused by Covid-19, there is a rise in the demand for tailored courses keeping in view the changing economic and social dynamics of a post-pandemic world. The coronavirus crisis has shown students many new employment possibilities.

As large amounts of the economy move online, technologies like big data and cloud have helped businesses manage data more efficiently, indicating the opening up of more lucrative job positions. The surge in data usage will lead to more demand for data engineers, data analysts, data scientists, and ML/AI engineers. Short-term programme by FORE of 5 Months is helping a lot on the same.

As remote working becomes popular, skilled IT students who can serve as security architects and ethical hackers will be more sought-after. More management graduates will be needed to manage such high-tech businesses, as well as more managerial positions across other verticals, are bound to open up.

SUMMING IT UP

We are living in tough times. Many of the students and graduates will be the first ones in a new generation to make the most of their recently-acquired education and skills in a post-coronavirus world. Therefore, it goes without saying that skilling, hard work, and targeting the right opportunities will be the key factors in the success and adapting to change.

The writer is director, FORE School of Management.

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HOW TO CRACK THE IIFT EXAM IN 2021

The MBA-IB offered by the IIFT is a much sought-after programme for students across the country. However, to make your way to the top of the admission list, a few pointers have to be kept in mind.

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The Indian Institute of Foreign Trade (IIFT) is the only institution among the top B-schools in India which is currently offering an MBA programme in International Business (MBA-IB). IIFT institutes are located at two locations, Delhi and Kolkata, with a proposition of launching its new Kakinada campus with 60 seats in 2021. The Dar-es-Salaam campus of IIFT has also started operating.

The NTA conducts the IIFT entrance exam in online mode for candidates interested in pursuing its flagship programme of MBA-IB. But there are a few things to be kept in mind for the entrance exam in 2021.

CHANGES IN EXAM PATTERN

The 2021 entrance exam will be a computer-based test and not a paper-based test. The timings have also undergone a change: the test will now be held from 3 PM to 5 PM, as against the previous 10 AM-12 PM slot.

The IIFT exam consists of multiple-choice objective type questions and will have four major sections in its 2021 instalment, instead of the earlier six. Each section has a different number of questions. VARC, Quant, DILR will have the same scoring pattern, while GK will have a different one. At least 4-5 reading comprehension passages of moderate difficulty are also to be expected.

The IIFT 2021 edition will be a single session test and the exam will be held in 68 cities across India on January 24, 2021.

THREE STAGES OF EXAM

The IIFT exam will have three stages to be cleared by the applicant. The first is the writing skill assessment round, meant to check the writing skills and critical analysis capabilities of the candidates. The ones who mark their place in the cut-off list of IIFT 2021 will be eligible to sit for this round.

The topic for writing will be given on the spot, and candidates will be told to complete an essay within the stipulated time. The topic can be about any topic under the sun, including politics, business and the corporate world, the Indian or global economy, sports, media and communication, social reforms and the society and law and amendments.

The topic and time duration will be set by the admission selection authorities of the IIFT and any query regarding the round must be brought up to the authority without delay. After the completion of this round and declaration of the results, selected candidates will be sent for the next round of the selection procedure, which is a group discussion (GD).

The motive for the GD round is to test the thinking capabilities, levels of knowledge, and skills for speaking and debating. The topics for the round can emerge from any prominent subjects, mostly including economics, management, business, politics, science and technology, media and mass communication, law, sports and literature.

Selected candidates will be given time to prepare talking points on the topic and asked to discuss it in groups of seven or eight people. The trick to succeeding in this round is to counter question the points put forth by other candidates and make sure that valid and correct arguments are used to do that.

The candidates who perform well in the GD will be cleared for the personal interview (PI), the final round in the selection process. The main aim of this round is to judge the candidates’ understanding of the course they are about to opt for along with their interest in the subject matter.

Candidates can expect a panel of judges to ask them questions from any field, including the personal life of the candidate. Answering their questions with confidence is key for this round. The candidates’ responses will be examined on terms decided by the judges, and those deemed fit will be put on the final list of students selected for admission.

The GD and PI will take place in February 2021 in various cities, including Mumbai, Lucknow, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Delhi, Chennai and Bengaluru.

Shortlisted candidates will have to submit a Statement of Purpose (SoP), considered a significant criterion for the IIFT selection procedure, and pay the requisite fee. Later, the candidates can choose a campus (either in New Delhi or Kolkata), based on which, seat allotment would be carried out. However, the candidates who get selected in the IIFT entrance examination will be given first preference during the seat allotment.

HOW TO PREPARE

Firstly, it is important to identify strong and weak areas and work on them. This would include regular practice and solving questions and mock tests, and developing a proper understanding of the basic concepts to help apply advanced tricks. It is also important to establish a balance between speed and accuracy. Neither should be too low. Moreover, it would help a candidate to read as much as they can to improve language and comprehension skills.

Since sectional cut-offs are important in the IIFT tests, taking a section-wise approach can also be really helpful. For instance, candidates may prepare for Reading Comprehension and Verbal Ability in ten days, Logical Reasoning and Data Interpretation in ten days, and Quantitative Analysis and General Knowledge in another ten-day period. Identifying any usual types of questions by going through previous years’ papers and practising them on a daily basis can also help.

For Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning, which is a time-consuming section, timed practice tests would improve reading speed. The Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension sections can be mastered by building proficiency in English grammar, syntax and vocabulary, phrases and idioms, and reading skills. The Reading Comprehension section generally has 4-5 passages, so it is impractical to attempt all of them are they are likely to be lengthy. Keep in mind that at least two passages would be easier than the rest, and candidates can maximise on their scores by reading fast and going through the questions before answering.

For the Quantitative Aptitude questions, candidates would need to enhance basic mathematical skills and practise topics like time, distance, work and heights, simple and compound interest, mensuration, permutation and combination and geometry.

The General Awareness paper holds the least weightage, but the section is still important in proving the merit of a candidate. To proceed with it, first, one should divide the section in two parts: static and dynamic. Then, read the Manorama Yearbook and daily newspapers thoroughly, with a focus on current events, business and trade and policies of India with other countries.

The writer is a senior faculty member at T.I.M.E. Delhi.

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ODISHA NEET COUNSELLING 2020: REGISTRATION PROCESS BEGINS

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The registration process of the Odisha NEET Counselling 2020 began on 10 November on the official website of Odisha Joint Entrance Examination Committee. Candidates who wish to register for it can do so by visiting ojee.nic.in. Only those candidates who have cleared the NEET exam can register for the Odisha NEET Counselling 2020. The registration process would begin at 12 noon and would end at 11:59 pm on 18 November 2020. Candidates must also note that the choice filling and locking window would open on November 23 and would close down on 24 November 2020. Candidates can also check the detailed schedule on the official website of OJEE—ojee.nic.in.

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