In this exclusive conversation with Wonderpublish, Atul Bengeri of AcumenToday talks about the new National Education Policy (NEP 2020).
An Entrepreneur now, Atul Bengeri has over 22-years of successful track record on Digital Transformation in the IT Enterprise, Government, Healthcare, Education and Smart City Segment with a focus on Evangelising across verticals. Atul Bengeri’s core strengths are Strategic Planning, Strong Leadership, Program Management, Partnerships/Alliance Management.
Atul Bengeri’s excellent communication skills; ability to develop and leverage relationships at all levels within and outside the organization are in fine tune with his ability to meet goals as well as identify and develop new opportunities in competitive and niche markets.
Here Atul Bengeri gives us a 360-degree view of the new National Education Policy (NEP 2020).
Producing here the excerpt of the conversation with Atul Bengeri:
Q. 1: You have over 22-years of successful track record on Digital Transformation in various industries, do you see the new education policy putting Indian Education System on the Digital Transformation track?
Ans. Digital transformation is the way of life today. And the last year has brought the focus more towards what digital transformation can bring to the table, not just for industry but for the education segment as well.
We have to embrace technology. We have to be a part of technology to be in line with what is in store for the future. Education is all about providing the insights to create the impact that is needed by the present learners to be successful future individuals and if they lose on the digital aspect of it it would be a thing of taking them two steps back. So digital literacy is one of the most important aspects of our education system today and it is going to remain so.
Q. 2: Tell us about AcumenToday.
Ans. While I was with the industry earlier, I worked on smart education, e-learning and a whole lot of stuff that goes into bringing in new usage models through technology interventions in the education segment. And that’s when I realised there is a huge gap not just in terms of technology adoption but a basic understanding of the subject, the topic and the concept at a foundational level. And that manifests going forward into higher education because unless my fundamentals are not strong I will not able to apply it going forward and that would lead to a lot of complications of not being employable, not having the right skills, not having the right knowledge to be able to apply and be successful in your career whether as an employee or as an entrepreneur.
Having seen that gap, AcumenToday was formed basically to focus on addressing this gap of understanding the concepts, topics and subjects, and basically looking at how the understanding can be applied for problem-solving. When we say problem-solving, it’s all about learning to think and thinking to learn. And that’s exactly what AcumenToday is focussing on in a physical-digital approach.
Q. 3: In terms of the policy, how would you rate the new education policy? And what roadblocks do you foresee in its implementation?
Ans. When it comes to India as a country, the sheer size of the population and diversity is our strength. And that makes India an age-old traditional, fundamentally strong country. And this what the new education policy talks about to bring to the fore.
I’m happy that a lot of consultation has happened across all the stakeholders for probably almost one and a half years. But yes, there are going to be some challenges because of the sheer size of the country. There’s more than 500 million population in the age bracket of 5 to 24. We also have 250 million school going students. We have over 3 lakh schools in India and in spite of that there’s still a gap in the supply. Some estimate that more than 2 lakh schools and 35,000 colleges would be needed going forward. That is a gap that the new education policy is looking to fulfil. And it’s not going to be an easy task.
Capacity building is going to be a challenge. And by that I mean not just the infrastructure, but capacity building through resources. And the most important resources to take the new education policy are the teachers. We need to focus on building the ecosystem to support the teachers. To get the teachers to participate. And not to forget the role of parents. There is a huge responsibility on the parents as well. So these are some of the challenges that we’ll have to take up. Government alone can not do it all by itself. It has to be participative, it has to be constructive, and it is on all of us, people from all walks of life, to get this implemented.
Q. 4: How do you look at the relevancy of Data Science for the future of education?
Ans. Our education system has to be data-driven. The shift happened probably in the last decade or so. There is more emphasis on actually collecting, collating and analysing the data to look at what policy changes have to happen. To look at how we can have a competitive edge over other countries.
And it’s not just about the numbers, it’s about what do we do with those numbers. And that’s where data science plays its role. And because there were gaps we missed out on a lot of things. And now this intent to address the gap that can take India forward is what is driven by data.
Q. 5: What is an India centric education system?
Ans. India is probably the only country that had universities structured thousands and thousands of years back. We lost out in the global race because we diverted our focus away from our fundamentals.
The vision of the new education policy talks about envisioning an India-centred education system that contributes directly to transforming our nation sustainably into an equitable, vibrant knowledge society but providing high-quality education to all. So when you talk about India-centred, it is to bring about the cultural richness of the country which has been there for thousands of years.
Q. 6: How do you see industry involvement in education going ahead?
Ans. I have been talking about constructive participation. That’s where we, all as experienced individuals, have to start giving back to society. That’s one of the Aatmnirbhar Bharat activity for getting experienced individuals to participate in nation-building through sharing their knowledge and experiences with the future of India who is basically the students. And that’s exactly what AcumenToday envisages and have been doing.
We have conducted over 600 workshops, in-person as well as online, across India. Covering not just the teachers, and the students but also the parents. AcumenToday believes in providing a platform for everybody to participate.
Q. 7: How do you see the higher education landscape changing in the next 5 years?
Ans. There has been an over-emphasis on scoring high marks. And scoring high marks actually encourages rote learning which in turn detrimental when it comes to applying what you have learnt. Rote learning is good initial years, from pre-primary probably till 2nd standard. Beyond that, if it becomes a habit, it becomes detrimental to your growth and thinking, and it becomes detrimental to your learning.
And because this practice has led to the same students going into higher education focusing only on how to get the marks, and not how to learn to apply. That’s where the gap is, and that’s precisely what the industry is facing challenges with.
We need to move away from rote learning to enquiry-based learning. And that is where the learning is changing these days. This is what is needed and is explained in the new Education Policy.
Q. 8: What are the new metrics the progress of our education system should be judged upon?
Ans. It’ll all be outcome-based. The assessments would not be on what you remember, but on what have you learnt and what will you do with this learning. That is basically moving up the chain from lower-order thinking skills to higher-order thinking skills.
On this, the new education policy says, ‘the culture of assessment must shift from one that primarily tests rote memorisation to one that is more formative, promotes learning and tests higher-order skills.’
Lower order thinking skills are memorising, remembering, a little bit of understanding and a little bit of applying. We need to move ahead of this in terms of analysing. When we start doing analysis, we also start evaluating in terms of our own thought process. That would lead to a lot of creativity, innovation and a huge impetus to create something new. And it will be a Herculean task to implement this, so we need to move in this direction progressively but surely.
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