The National Policy on Education (NEP) promises many solutions to the rising complexities of education, work and life. A broad-based, multi-disciplinary and holistic under graduation is one such solution, as it includes flexible curriculum, creative combinations of subjects, integration of vocational education and multiple entries and exit points with appropriate certification. NEP envisages multi-disciplinarity in higher education with an aim to produce well-rounded individuals from universities, helping realize the full potential of India’s demographic dividend.
The way things are changing fast and getting complicated, it is observed that many career trajectories in the coming years would require employees to have wide knowledge in diverse fields and subjects. Soft skills and personality have started playing much bigger role in life than one’s academic performance. Various studies do suggest that exposure to arts and social sciences results in enhanced creativity, improved critical thinking, higher social and moral awareness, problem-solving, social and circumstantial adaptability, and better teamwork and communication skills among students.
Students from multi-disciplinary education system are considered to have better understanding of social issues as they are better able to encourage, appreciate and imbibe diverse voices, and foster an ambience that helps in creative learning and discourage rote learning practices. Such qualities are in high demand in the 21st-century economy where no sector of the economy works in a silo.
The NEP comes with a visionary document that is in tune with contemporary times and varying needs. It aims at de-compartmentalizing Indian education and breaking the rigid and artificial barriers between professional vs liberal education. It rightly points out that even in ancient times, good education was described as the knowledge of the 64 kalas or arts. This included knowledge in scientific fields like chemistry and mathematics, vocational fields such as carpentry and clothes-making, professional fields such as medicine and engineering, as well as soft skills such as communication, debate and discussion.
Hence, students from humanities’ background are needed to be equipped with the latest technological knowhow to suit to the needs and produce greater and holistic results. The National Education Policy 2020 underscores these fast changing needs and recognizes the importance of such holistic education and seeks to break the rigid and artificial barriers between disciplines.
Several institutions like IIT Bombay and others have already introduced an interdisciplinary undergraduate course that includes liberal arts, science and engineering in one program. Taking inspiration from the NEP, other institutions have also started exploring the possibilities of offering multidisciplinary courses.
Under multi-disciplinary system, UG education can be of 3 or 4 years with multiple exit options and appropriate certification is provided within this period. For example, a certificate after 1 year, advanced diploma after 2 years, bachelor’s degree after 3 years and bachelor’s with research after 4 years. An Academic Bank of Credit is in the process for digitally storing academic credits earned from different HEIs, so that these can be transferred and counted towards final degree earned.
Multidisciplinary Education and Research Universities (MERUs), at par with IITs, IIMs, is also in the process to be set up as models of best multidisciplinary education of global standards in the country. In the process, the National Research Foundation will work as an apex body for fostering a strong research culture and building research capacity across higher education.
The NEP also envisions setting up of Model public Universities for holistic and multidisciplinary education at par with IITs and IIMs, called MERUs (Multidisciplinary Education and Research Universities) which aims to attain the highest global standards in quality education.
The NEP 2020 is the first education policy of the 21st century and replaces the thirty-four year old National Policy on Education (NPE), 1986. Built on the foundational pillars of Access, Equity, Quality, Affordability and Accountability, this policy is aligned. to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and aims to transform India into a vibrant knowledge society and global knowledge superpower by making both school and college education more holistic, flexible, multidisciplinary, that is suited to 21st century’s needs and aimed at bringing out the unique capabilities. of each student.
Only recently, Prime Minister Narendra Modi chaired a high-level meeting to review the progress in the implementation of the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020.