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By Jaya B Phaniharam

The National Education Policy (NEP) is widely discussed in view of its recommendations and guidelines. There is apprehension as well as acceptance.

Academic institutions are the primary stakeholders constituting college management in the role of policymaking, academic staff in knowledge transfer, training and placement staff in opportunity scouting and coordination staff in process delivery. These role functions are interdisciplinary and have one primary participant – the student community. It is the pivot which turns the economic growth engine.

Impact on Students

A multidisciplinary approach to learning is one of the main features of NEP. Consider an example for grades VI to X under NEP.

Global transportation channels like land, water and air and their significance in the export and import of goods with reference to India is a topic in geography. It has context in economics while discussing the industry sector’s contribution to the economy.

This multidisciplinary approach to learning maps the above example to geoeconomics and geopolitical scenarios. The global energy concerns as a result of the Ukraine crisis and India’s priorities for energy sufficiency can be debated by students of VI to X encompassing world history and institutions, industrial shift impacting climate change and sustainable solutions for energy consumption.

Students can audit energy consumption practices within their school community to create green campuses. In the process, they are introduced to data collection, analysis and application of various tools to audit the same.

Science & Humanities

Grades IX to XII have a bucket list combining science and humanities, including lab work. Ideation on affordable alternative energy solutions can be explored with suitable skillsets. Biodegradable battery resources as a sustainable solution and regulations on EVs as a component of policymaking can be discussed.

Energy consumption practices in neighbourhood communities can be surveyed to collect feedback on implementing affordable alternative energy solutions and submitted to policymakers at the local level.

In the above example, the knowledge base for students is formed by observing real-time scenarios. The entire process delivers a creative-centric approach based on critical thinking and problem-solving identifying the KSA (knowledge, skills and abilities) levels of each talent pool.

The current industry paradigm shift is leveraged on emerging technologies. They play a significant role wherever end-user experience drives the innovation engine.

Technologies in the manufacturing industry are designing living spaces influencing lifestyles. Nanotechnology is about creating exciting possibilities with applications from consumer goods to healthcare and chip designing to space technology.

Service providers and product developers analyse human behaviours in the context of technology implementation. For example, blockchain technology with its decentralisation component contributes to digital data security, a high priority for the end-user. Data is a reflection of an individual’s behavioural patterns connecting savings to expenditure and networking to lifestyle choices. Collating this data influences the designing of physical, intelligent and hybrid SCM (Supply Chain Management) models.

These disruptive technologies are sustainable and lead to innovations which have affordable access to a large number of end-users creating new markets. Human experience creates new markets for innovation which is invention combined with a commercial component.

Innovation-centric Approach

The NEP recommends credit courses along with other disciplines pushing for creativity-driven innovation organically progressing towards entrepreneurship. The entire design showcases an innovation-centric approach.

The UGC has recommended a curriculum framework credit system for 4 years’ degree programme having 160 credits for 8 semesters with 20-22 credits for each semester of 90 days’ duration. They can be completed on distance, online, physical and hybrid platforms.

Specific skillsets are necessary to work on emerging technologies. Government initiatives like TASK, NSDC and Ni-MSME build capacity workforce by training in necessary skillsets and aspects of entrepreneurship. Global corporations like TCS, Google, Microsoft, IBM and business forums like CII and TiE are upskilling thousands of aspirants.

Institutes of excellence like IISc, IITs, IIITs, IIMs and ISB can fill the gap in mentoring incubation hubs with university collaborations at regional levels. Affiliations among stakeholders on an integrated platform by forging public-private partnerships are important to create a skilled talent pool as per industry expectations.

For example, the Telangana government has created DEET (Digital Employment Exchange of Telangana), and 342 companies have registered on this platform. Six lakh aspirants were employed and 30,123 aspirants receive 10.50 lakh texts per day notifying opportunities.

Students in graduation/postgraduation programmes are millennials in the 18 to 23 age group. Employment opportunities, including higher study options, for them will accelerate India’s economic growth. Encouraging entrepreneurship will sustain the growth story stabilising fluctuations at the bottom of the pyramid.

Gig Economy

Consider the gig economy with IT, e-commerce, food delivery and healthcare services as major sectors. Some 20 crore global workforce is driven by millennials as freelancers, contract employees, WFH, and full-time employees. By 2027, they are expected to increase by 8.65 crore. Around 30% gig workforce from developing countries is Indian, 40% of global freelance employees are Indians totalling 1.5 crore and 45% of the Indian gig workforce is employed in software and technical projects.

While the gig economy can create a second salary resource, it can also deprive long-term careers for millennials. Short-time employment has no financial security and providing pension, healthcare and other welfare facilities burdens the exchequer.

A dual degree and credit transfer ecosystem is one of the flagship recommendations by NEP. Suitable skilling and credit transfer ecosystem will enable students in 18-24 age group to take up gig jobs in emerging technologies as freelancers/part-time employees. This way, they can gain domain-specific work experience fulfilling long-term career goals either in employment or entrepreneurship.

The idea is to drive employment generation, push innovation and encourage entrepreneurship among student stakeholders in collaboration with industry, skilling organisations and government agencies.

A few gaps need review. The Telangana government introduced data science and public policy as credit courses at the XII level. However, students have no relevant real-time data. This gap can be addressed by creating data centres in each district collating inputs from various areas of governance directly relating to public policy. The entire exercise will boost active community participation democratically.

(The author is Consultant, Learning & Development and OD, SM Consulting Services, Bengaluru)



Author: Howard Caldwell