India has been a point of attraction for the world throughout history from the so-called ‘Golden Bird’ to the present as a land of spiritualism, architectural marvels and cultural heritage in different forms of art and music. From Buddhist ‘Middle Path’ to Kautaliya’s pragmatic political thought and Gandhi’s political strategy of Satyagraha and non-violence are few to be mentioned which found distinct attraction and appreciation around the world. The two decades of the 21st century has immensely boosted India’s soft power. Yoga and Ayurveda have assumed a prominent place in the life and practice of people worldwide. Recognition and celebration of ‘International Yoga Day’ has ensured profound attraction towards India and its cultural practices to be emulated across the globe.
The New Education Policy (NEP) 2020 has placed special emphasis on the rich heritage of culture, knowledge and thought as its guiding light. The Indian education system had aimed at not merely the acquisition of knowledge for life and its sustenance rather for realisation of self and its liberation. The rush of modern life and its fatigue has made the Indian way of life a very attractive option. With pandemic underway, our yoga practice assumed a new dimension of importance and popularity as a sure method to deal with multiple socio-psychological and physical issues of the time.
The increasingly globalised and networked world has pushed the nations in a very challenging position to pursue their national interests with their traditional tools of diplomacy. The information transmission with fast-paced digitalization is throwing up a complex state of predicament to manage and package them in consonance with their national interests and aspiration. The major contemporary challenges like climate change, terrorism, fundamentalism and such health crisis as the pandemic underway can be dealt only by a cooperative coalition of nations with shared interests and willing cooperation. In such a scenario, a soft power strategy assumes crucial importance.
Soft power is referred to the ability of one’s culture and practices as part of attraction and persuasion of others and their willingness to follow and cooperate. The Indian culture, social values, spiritual orientation and way of life has been a distinct element of attraction for the world. Thus, its strategic and planned presentation in the contemporary perspective and mould can create an ecosystem of friendship and India’s soft power influence. The National Education Policy 2020 is, therefore, an appropriate pursuit in this direction.
The NEP 2020 envisages a holistic education system based on Indian identity and global outlook. It lays emphasis on India’s cultural and civilizational value to ensure a required dose of confidence to young citizens. With the vision of transforming India into an equitable and vibrant knowledge society, it provides a roadmap about how to develop a deep sense of respect among children towards national culture, Fundamental Duties and Constitutional values with necessary awareness and understanding towards the changing global scenario and responsibilities as a global citizen.
India has a vast population with the largest youth component, another dimension which the policy tries to convert into an added advantage by equipping them with contemporary skills with greater emphasis on such areas of learning as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Big Data, Machine Learning and optimal expansion of digital application and practices in order to keep pace with the changing landscape of knowledge. Thus the NEP is a timely strategic policy intervention to overall the system of learning in the country to ensure its futuristic direction and required pace.
As the technology is changing with the pace of imagination, to sustain the challenge of market and employment the education must change not only in content but in approach as well. Education requires a qualitative shift to keep pace with the changing employment ecosystem and its global pattern to keep our workforce relevant. Mere learning of a specific content area is becoming an obsolete idea. Thus, the NEP 2020 is aptly pitching for a revised approach of ‘How to learn’ as a new model of the learning system and process.
Education and educational institutions play a vital role in peddling the soft power of a country – the culture of the country, its political perspective and institutional mechanism. With the ultimate aim of developing India into the global destination for higher education, the NEP 2020 has the provision for foreign Universities to operate in India as well as our Universities can also start their campuses abroad. The government is at work to draft the due regulatory mechanism to reap the desired outcomes. These collaborative structures and mechanisms will usher in tie-ups of the foreign Universities and the established Indian Universities.
Addressing the webinar on the theme, “India: The Global Destination for Higher Education- The Post NEP, 2020 Scenario organised by IIT Kharagpur, the Union Education Minister, Dr Ramesh Pokhraiyal ‘Nishank’ said that “there is no need for some of our students to enroll in foreign universities, spending dollars in admission. We have all the infrastructure and facilities. The National Education Policy, 2020 has further taken care of the issue. Our students will stay and study in the country now.”
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has given a pragmatic push to ‘Neighbourhood’ and ‘Extended Neighbourhood’ policy in the foreign policy pursuits to fulfil India’s global aspiration. The NEP 2020 provides for a proper blend of these policies with the vision of a reformed learning system that can be an effective tool and strategy to expand and enhance India’s power and position in the concerned countries and regions.
Our diaspora policies can be ensured with the required teeth by integrating our educational ties and diplomacy. The huge Indian diaspora can be the primary target group for this venture, to begin with. The Diaspora can be very efficient partners in setting up the institution, their planning and management on a sustainable basis without much strain. The diaspora will prove to be an element of vital support to cater to the requirements of this education diplomacy and soft power.
Education is synonymous with human resource power. In the changing syndrome of global power, the strength in the battlefield is fast replaced by the power of knowledge and skills in laboratories. Thus the power of a nation is now determined by the power of its human resource and capacity-building prowess. The knowledge economy is the new benchmark for development and progress. Our education process with prudent vision can transmit this valuable and attractive Indian culture far and wide with contemporary scientific methods and technological applications. The vision of the NEP 2020 once translated into practice can prove to be an unbeatable soft power to facilitate India to become a knowledge leader and achieve its global leadership position in the emerging world order.