By Dr. Rashmin Deshmukh*
The new National Education Policy (NEP) – 2020 has raised lot of hopes among countrymen in general, and people connected with education, in particular, about the far reaching changes in education envisaged in the policy. The policy mentions in the beginning itself a clear aim for India to have an education system by 2040 that is second to none. Having a promising document in place more discussions are now doing rounds about how NEP will face difficulties in implementation.
Our present education structures are so rigidly constrained in the boundaries of exams, syllabi, marks, grades and degrees that implementing NEP within these structures will be an uphill task. Several thinkers and planners of the country have exposed these lacunae of the present system time and again. Any discussion about it instantly brings to mind the eye opener flick, ‘Three Idiots’ successfully screened some years back. In the satirical hit Aamir Khan sensibly portrayed the memorable role of Rancho affirming aloud in the corridors of country’s top educational institute that securing knowledge was more important than securing a degree from the institute. The offbeat movie and the critical works of many educationists have time and again conveyed a clear message that real learning meant securing knowledge, skills and wisdom and not just marks and degrees. But no discernable changes have taken place to this effect in our education system in the seven decades of our independence.
However, there are some initiatives in the country which have been working silently towards compensating the lacunae of our education system. These initiatives concur with many NEP ideas and thus promise a much smoother implementation of NEP than our formal education institutes. One such initiative is the Knowledge Centre (KC) initiative pioneered by Dr. Sanjay Jain, Professor of Physics in the Priyadarshini Institute of Engineering and Technology (PIET), Nagpur with the able support of Dr. Vivek Nanoti, Principal of PIET.
The initiative that began just five years back has been growing consistently by addressing education reforms that aim to shift the focus of learning to knowledge, skills and wisdom from its present focus on marks, grades and degrees. It has bloomed into a refreshing learning place that promises enjoyment, employment, empowerment and enlightenment of learners. As Dr. Jain mentions, “Whereas the existing education centers aim at covering the syllabi, KC aims at uncovering and discovering the syllabi and many new experiments in this regard helped KC to evolve as a laboratory for research in education.”
KC uses unconventional methods to facilitate learning. There are no teachers, no monologue lectures, no exams and no fixed and rigid methods of learning. Faculty here means experts who are willing to share their expertise with interested learners; they themselves are avid learners. KC has a very simple approach but a strong focus of learning. Learning begins with motivations and ends with outcomes. Just as one joins a driving school to learn driving and comes out of it by acquiring necessary knowledge, skill and wisdom of driving, one can enter KC with one’s learning motivation and come out of it with the intended outcome like, for example, article, research paper, book chapter, book review, book, website, presentation or working demonstration.
The ambience of KC is developed so as to arouse the learning motivations of visiting students by igniting their curiosity, widening their learning horizons and developing their wisdom. Many interesting resources have been developed for this purpose in the form of stories, anecdotes, jokes, puzzles, pictures, quotes, demonstrations, articles and research papers on a wide variety of topics. Exhibitions on various interesting themes are developed and displayed regularly. ‘Wonderful world of Science, Technology and Engineering’;‘From India to Bharat – A Forward Journey’; and ‘Science, Engineering and Education from a Gandhian Perspective’ are few of the themes covered so far. In addition to the current exhibition on display KC also retains the earlier exhibitions for those who could not visit these exhibitions when on display.
If one closely studies the functioning of KC it will be evident that working of KC has a strong concurrence with many NEP ideas. NEP’s vision of transforming India into a knowledge society has been addressed under KC and the research based on it has already been published in prestigious journals and magazines (which are available on the net). KC goes quite well with NEP’semphasis to make education more experiential, holistic, integrated, inquiry-driven, discovery-oriented, learner-centred, discussion-based, flexible, and enjoyable. The principles of NEP such as no hard separations between different steams/subjects; emphasis on conceptual understanding; creativity and critical thinking; respect for diversity and the local context; full equity and inclusion; rootedness and pride in India are in close consonance with the KC initiative. As envisaged in NEP, KC learners have the full flexibility to choose their learning trajectories and programmes, and thereby choose their own paths in life according to their talents and interests. Thus KC has already been precisely implementing several NEP ideas for reform in education for the last 5 years.
Unlike the present examination oriented structures in which all students are expected to write the same answers to given questions, KC brings to fore a very vast spectrum of the natural interests and inclinations of young minds. Dr Jain sums up the KC idea in apt words, “In KC a student can become a researcher, an author or an entrepreneur before he completes his graduation; a student can become an engineer before he becomes an engineering graduate!” Eager to spread the benefits of KC to aspiring young minds of the country, he says “KC initiatives promise to pump a whip of fresh air in today’s grim education scenario; if taken at the grass root levels, they can contribute significantly to India’s aspiration towards a knowledge society”. KC has a strong promise to serve as a representative model for better implementation of NEP reforms in the country.
*Freelance writer based in Nagpur