Education has and always will be responsible for various reasons, but the primary function would be contributing to the national development and global competitive skill growth of the nation and their students. It is becoming increasingly important for HEIs to equip graduates with skill sets and competencies that enable them to live and work in a globalized world. Therefore, for HEIs, internationalization has become a focal point. Internationalization can be either at home or abroad but here, the considered field would be internationalization at home. I@H provides intercultural learning through the curriculum, pedagogy, ways of formal and informal learning of HEIs. Global Citizenship Education, on the other hand, highlights the importance of knowledge, skills, and values for the students. The document “Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” which was published in 2015, reflects on these values of UNESCO, which acts as a board, supporter, and facilitates implementation of the SDGs in different countries(UNESCO, 2015).As per the UNESCO guidelines, GCE highlights the importance of knowledge, skills, and values for students involved at all levels; and the emphasis should be on graduate experience both at home and abroad, implying mobility, curriculum, and syllabus(UN definition).
Indian education has had its share of flaws including dropout rates for the rural classes, gender disparity in the student audience, the monetarily well-off students only getting the chance to study abroad, and the chaos caused by the different strata of universities like public, private and central universities. However, the newly released NEP tackles such issues with a policy aim to have equitable education for all regardless of their socioeconomic background. The NEP mentions holistic learning for school students through exposure to multilingualism and universal access to Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) while for higher education, research, multidisciplinary learning, and partnerships are the key points.
Progress for Indian Education
India has made significant progress towards implementing the scheme of Education for All. Several key programmes and policies have been initiated to provide free and compulsory education to all children in the age group of six to fourteen years as a Fundamental Right. Initiatives such as SarvaSikshaAbhiyan (SSA) and Right to Education (RTE) have given the desired impetus to the education system in India(Pandey, 2018). In an unprecedented move, the government has decided to make a bold and transformative statement with the release of the New Education Policy.
The NEP has brought a lot in terms of much-needed change on the education front. Since the inception of the Draft Education Policy in 2019 by the Kasturirangan committee, there have been many calls to action in the space of education, especially during the new paradigm shift seen now because of Covid-19. India had been quite rigid in its higher education structure but with the NEP, multiple exit points have been provided which would benefit students in signalling their education status better as well as their employment readiness which will help India utilize its demographic dividend.
Convergence between SDGs and the NEP
Now, the following section chalks out the areas where the policy reforms intersect with the Sustainable Development Goals, more specifically SDG 4 on Quality Education, along with the indicators.
For SDG 4.2 that focuses on equal access to quality pre-primary education, NEP hasespecially attended to education forthree to six years of age. Under this initiative, the forebearers of Anganwadi education will get a much-needed boost. For SDG 4.3 i.e., Equal Access to Affordable Technical and Vocational Education NEP states that vocational education will be provided at a younger age and technical skills such as coding will begin from as early as 6th standard. Further, MHRD is setting up a National Education Technology Forum to address issues of tech and knowledge sharing and capacity development.For SDG 4.4 i.e., Increase the number of people with relevant skills for financial success, NEP has shifted from a 10+2 to the much-used 5+3+3+4 model. With this model, clearer benchmarks are defined which will lead to better outcomes. They have provided multiple exit points for higher education which will result in signalling the ability of students better. For SDG 4.5 i.e., Eliminate Discrimination in Education, NEP proposes setting up a new unit which addresses Internet-based e-learning,digital learning, infrastructure, and capacity building. There is further, a provision of a new Gender Inclusion Fund which has been provided for schooling and support for disability schooling is also proactive.For SDG 4.6 i.e., Universal literacy and numeracy, under NEP, a National Foundation of Literacy and Numeracy will be set up to provide basic literacy and numeracy skills by 3rd grade. This is very good news considering that India has decided to participate in the PISA survey which tests basic English and mathematics comprehension. SDG 4.7 talks about ensuring that all learners acquire knowledge and skills for sustainable development, promotion of culture, peace and global citizenship and appreciation of cultural diversity which is covered in NEP through the holistic development of the students by promoting creativity, critical thinking, empathy and decision-making abilities(Ministry of Human Resource Development, 2020).
It will certainly be a challenge to enable the reforms in India where education is a subject shared between the states and the centre, according to the concurrent list defined under the Constitution of the country. However, seeing the initiative and room for public voice given under the NEP, the states would try to be proactive in contextualizing the suggestions of the NEP.Therefore, Indian HEIs and Governments, through the pandemic, are trying to align with the IHE home goals and GCE in building a better citizen for tomorrow so that India can have better qualified, skilled, multicultural, and global citizens to help better the world.