Prime Minster Narendra Modi in his recent address at the Global Business Summit said, “I am also confident that India may have missed the bus during the first three industrial revolutions, but this time, it is a bus India has not only boarded but will also drive.” The entire speech was studded with positivity and optimism on India’s march towards becoming a global leader.
The showering of confidence by the Prime Minister makes me go one step further to add that we have not only boarded the bus and driving the bus but we also own the bus for global development through policy making that has shifted gears from the traditional five-year plans to the NITI mode. My friend’s comical statement refers to the first draft of the 12th Five-year Plan that resembles the 12th draft of the first Five-year Plan starting with the same set of problems. Every country has its problems, but can the country be a problem? Every educational system has its problems, but education cannot be a problem.
PM Modi also spoke on India as a global contributor and not just a consumer. Indian education has a lot to offer to the world and cannot be (mis)understood as it is now. Unburdening the antiquated policy making, we are beginning to see progress in it. Such policies need to be celebrated for confidence-building, calibrated for connection and cerebrated for catalytic action. This ‘3C’ approach has a few highlighting pointers.
The progressive policy making is tellingly visible in the HRD ministry’s conscious and honest efforts to build globally competitive nation-building institutions, recognise nation builders and also inject genuine nationalism among students. The string of policies that encourage graded autonomy, global and national collaborative research and teaching, online education, recognising private institution’s role for public good, etc, are policy positives worthy of celebration. There are certain policy hurdles either due to flawed design such as the Institutions of Eminence regulations or faulty implementation such as the teacher education policy ecosystem, but certainly enough is there to celebrate and build confidence.
When confronted with a question on quality of education, we often refer to the American or European or Australian model failing to recall an Indian model due to ignorance. The mainstream discourse often rests on foreign comparatives than on indigenous narratives. A diverse country such as India has extremes on both sides but still manages to deliver results.
The school and higher education systems, which are interwoven in pursuit but isolated in practice, need to be calibrated to achieve learning outcomes that are India-centric to solve the country’s problems with a global outlook. We need to calibrate our learning outcome approach and build case studies (referred as use cases in corporate) to respond to questions on quality of education with an emphatic Indian response. Such calibration must be with synergistic coherence between schools and higher education, which needs a calibrated connect with teacher education being the connecting bridge.
A Newtonian external push is required to remove the inertia in accepting non-traditional and non-formal teaching-learning mechanisms. While digital and online education is formal and getting its due share in policy making, it still appears to be an ivory tower elitist. In addition to digital and online, there should be a concerted effort to reduce the gap between the illiterate employers and literate employees. Innovation and entrepreneurship that drive native success stories seem to overwhelmingly lie outside the formal education orbit. Policy making requires deep cerebration that can catalytically provide an academic recognition to accomplished abilities.
(Extracted and modified from the author’s speech at the recently concluded ThinkEdu 2019)
Vice-Chancellor, SASTRA Deemed University