The draft NEP 2019 still talks about the supplemental role of technology in education when the developed world has moved much ahead in devising technological innovations for improving pedagogy in education.

Is Draft National Education Policy 2019 Anywhere Near Education 4.0?

Industry 4.0 is a reality across industries, and Education 4.0 is a necessary response to the requirements of Industry 4.0. No education policy today can succeed if it alienates itself from the needs of Education 4.0. Does Draft National Education Policy take this fact into account?

One major objective of education, undoubtedly, is to impart people with the skills and knowledge that will help them earn their livelihood. However, the employability of students in Indian education system today is alarmingly disappointing in relation to what various industries need in terms of skills and knowledge. For that reason, among others, the education system in India has often been criticized for its redundancy and rigidity.

27 years after 1992’s Program of Action (PoA), the Indian education setting is abuzz with stories and discussions about the new National Education Policy (NEP) 2019. The draft NEP has already been prepared after undergoing a lengthy online public consultation exercise, which received a whopping 275,000 direct responses and suggestions from various groups and individuals. The final National Education Policy 2019 will soon be available after getting approved by the cabinet.

Is National Education Policy 2019 Just an Old Wine in a New Bottle?

All vision documents sound good while reading for their ideal or somewhat utopian tone. Draft National Education Policy, which has been approved almost in toto, is no exception. Ironically, the policy itself is not transformative though it talks about several major transformations.

The policy itself states in clear terms that by virtue of being formulated in the age of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) unlike its predecessors, which came into existence just before the internet revolution, it can better guide education to meet the demands of industry 4.0. However, on just cursory glance, one may find that the document doesn’t move beyond the mere mention of digital technologies here and there. The requisite stress and concrete plans or measures to leverage technology for education are conspicuously missing.

The draft does mention the government digital initiatives like SWAYAM and development of MOOCs in higher education, open educational resources like National digital library (NDL), MOOCs for teachers like DIKSHA and NISTHA but fails desperately to align these initiatives into the mainstream education system.

Also, research and pilot testing of new technologies for learning like artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) have been talked about along with future implementation ‘based on feasibility and positive outcomes’. Such an approach (with caveats like feasibility or positive outcome) shows an anticipated apprehension towards swift adoption of technology.

There are numerous examples of successful implementation of e-learning projects both globally and in Indian private sector; Indian education system isn’t the first place where we need to adhere to now unnecessary norms of feasibility and positive outcomes. We just need to remodel the successful e-learning experiences to our own needs and provide ways and means for their serious implementation in our system.

The impetus must now be on making the e-learning complementary to the existing formal system. And, the new National Education Policy 2019 ought to have contemplated more on this perspective.

National educational alliance for technology (NEAT), proposed to be formed for sharing of latest technology under public private partnership model, has also been entrusted with a number of such tasks which might make implementation of latest technology rather a cumbersome process.

Not So Transformational on E-Learning Front

Technology Still in Supplemental Role

The overemphasis on past or cultural heritage, especially overlooking the practical aspects of today’s utterly competitive world, is somewhat undesirable in such a document. Future preparation for a technology-driven education has not been given due consideration even in the NEP-2019. The draft NEP 2019 still talks about the supplemental role of technology in education when the developed world has moved much ahead in devising technological innovations for improving pedagogy in education.

In the 21st century, technology has become integral to education of the centennials born and brought up in a technology-led world. The innovative concepts like blended learning, flipped classrooms, simulated learning environments, virtual classes, and augmented reality have not found any mention in the draft. These can be especially useful in improving school education but NEP hardly recognizes use of technology apart from providing some educational software to students in the school system.

Flawed Focus on ODL

The alternate modes of educating like open and distance learning (ODL), or say online learning, the latest form of distance education, have again received inferior treatment in NEP. Wherever these terms find mention, it is just to reiterate the fact that such a system is only for the weaker sections like disabled or disadvantaged who cannot avail the benefits of the ‘better’ mode of education, i.e. the conventional brick and mortar institutions.

There is no evidence of any attempt to bring the alternate system to the mainstream education. This perpetuates the age-old elitism of conventional education system and shows a lack of out-of the box thinking. A parallel system of ODL along with the conventional face-to-face within the same organization will not alienate the disadvantaged learner who can any time switch to either of the system according to the circumstances without having to altogether leave or drop out from the learning system. When this happens, then only will we be able to mitigate the learning crisis as mentioned in the document.

Overlooked Personalization

The draft talks about learning trajectories and paths but rarely mentions the emerging concept of personalization of learning as per the individual needs and characteristics of a learner. The focus is on learning and improving learning outcomes but not on the learners and their needs.

When we talk about Industry 4.0, it is but obvious that the jobs will revolve around the digital skills, data computing, automation, mathematical coding, web designing, artificial intelligence, entrepreneurship etc. Many of the e-learning companies like CampK12 and WhiteHat Jr. has already started training school children in these skills. But school education is still following the outdated curriculum and does not even mention of providing these subjects at K-12 level.

Seemingly Oblivious of Market Trends

The e-learning industry in India, growing at a CAGR of 30 percent and projected to reach USD 5.7 billion by 2020, has been completely ignored in the policy draft. This again creates stratification in the Indian education system because the industry is set to grow even if the conventional education system doesn’t include it.

Rather than benefiting from the expertise of the e-learning companies through a constructive alliance, the exclusionary practice will only tend to widen the digital divide. The document also takes into cognizance the availability and use of internet enabled smartphones in the hands of youth but says nothing about how this can be utilized in favor of mobile learning or M-learning.

Not Much on Lifelong Learning

The concept of lifelong learning has been touched upon but not adequately enough. It is not very clear from the draft as to how the conventional education system comprising schools, colleges, and universities will allow students who once moved out to reenter the system for their needs of upskilling or reskilling in tune with time. The document merely talks about skilling and reskilling as 21st century learning skills. The online reskilling courses have become a huge market for its demand and the education system is nowhere going to tap it for nearly a decade or more with the current state of affairs.

Falling Short of Education 4.0 and Industry 4.0

Industry 4.0 is a set of trends which are being applied or tried across industries, mostly characterized by automation and data exchange including the internet of things (IoT), industrial internet of things (IIOT), cloud computing, cognitive computing, cyber-physical systems (CPS), and artificial intelligence. Education 4.0 on the other hand is a response to the requirements and standards of Industry 4.0.

In other words, Education 4.0 not only follows the technological trends commensurate with those of Industry 4.0 in terms of how the education should be imparted today, but also it enables the provision of courses and skills in consonance with employability needs in Industry 4.0 scenario. So, Education 4.0 talks of both educational process and educational content aligned to the needs of today’s technology.

From prism of the above-defined Education 4.0, E-learning and online learning are the best fit and any policy document would do well to not ignore the potential of these technology-driven modes of education, where merely the learner-centric flexibility isn’t the consideration, but modern pedagogy and outcome-oriented education have been reconciled well.

The current system of over 40 years has not been successful in ensuring even equity and access, leave apart the quality. The increasing population and their demand is impossible to be fulfilled through the brick and mortar structures of limited capacity and resources. They were designed for promoting exclusion and nurturing elitism. Radical transformation for these educational structure is thus very much called for.

If we see the transformative needs vis-à-vis education 4.0, how these policy documents fail would be amply evident. These documents, invariably, just changes the contours of existing structure here and there and rehashes the old structure to an unproductive end, or to say not-so-productive end. The draft National Education Policy 2019 also takes flight after just touching the new concepts without delving deep into modus operandi of their application and integration into existing system.

We need a complete overhaul and restructuring of the education system in India if the goal at all is to achieve universal enrollment on one hand and emerge as the third largest economy next only to US and China. The document says ‘by 2030, India will be a 10 trillion economy but this growth will be driven by knowledge and information technology’ but performs scantily on allowing such technology trends into the current system with explicit provisions and dedicated resources.

In order to take advantage of its huge manpower, education is the only mean. The much neglected ODL and e-learning industry in India have a big role to play in preparing people for the challenges of the fourth industrial revolution.

(The opinions and viewpoints expressed above belong solely to the author and do not necessarily reflect the composite opinion or viewpoint of Courseware World.)

Dhananjay K. Singh

    Dhananjay K. Singh is a physics graduate and a seasoned copy-editor with over 10 years of writing-editing experience in various fields of publication. His prolonged association with the publishing industry enlivened him to changing dynamics of teaching and learning which in turn have had an indelible bearing on the field of publication. The strong imprint of web-based technologies on education made him explore the swiftly emerging e-learning, which later became his primary subject of writing-editing.

    Dhananjay K. Singh has 10 posts and counting. See all posts by Dhananjay K. Singh

    Dhananjay K. Singh