Deloitte: Self-reliance aim of India’s New Education Policy

By Janet Brice
Four-step guide to building resilience and digitally transforming India’s higher education system – post COVID-19 – is analysed by Deloitte Insigh...

Plans to build a digital-ready higher education system is outlined in India’s New Education Policy (NEP) as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic and is analysed in a paper from Deloitte Insights.

A focus on technology is just one of the steps in a four-part framework aimed at transforming the country’s higher education system to become more resilient. Deloitte’s report, Building Resilience and Self-Reliance outlines the lessons India has learned from the pandemic and focuses on the way forward after polling top academics. 

The consultation paper outlines the new road map recommended by the NEP and how it will guide educators and stakeholders to build an education system that aims to be disruption-proof and promises a future-ready workforce.

The four steps include:

• Debunk long-held orthodoxies in the traditional academic model

• Build a digital-ready institution

• Re-invent student experience

• Develop a thriving multi-stakeholder ecosystem

Research for the report comes from the Deans Summit—Connected 2020. The virtual summit hosted 30 world-class speakers from the industry and the academia and over 300 from higher education institutions (HEIs) in India. 

“Educators, businesses, policymakers and parents need to collectively discard the long-held orthodoxies, embrace lifelong learning, inculcate a digital mindset, and develop a student-centric ecosystem,” says the Deloitte report. 

While it was relatively easy for some private universities to switch to digital, their public sector counterparts struggled during the pandemic. 

Deloitte points out the NEP policy offers an opportunity to build the next-generation higher education system; from harnessing technology to transforming the student experience and leveraging data to make decisions. 

“Equipping the future workforce with appropriate skills and reducing the talent demand-supply gap, academic institutions can build a self-reliant nation that derives high dividends from its human capital,” says the report.

Deloitte takes a closer look at the four-step framework to transform India’s HEIs:

  1. Debunk long-held orthodoxies in traditional academic model

The NEP suggests moving towards a flexible system from the focus of a single discipline to a multidisciplinary approach. Research shows this model can allow students to acquire a varied perspective. Mahindra University is already working in this direction with plans to integrate liberal arts with science and technology.

There is also a push towards lifelong learning due to the constant evolution of skills and technology. NEP predict this can be done by building a subscription-based model for continual learning during college years and beyond. “Students can dip in and out of the curriculum throughout their lives and update their knowledge and skills as needed,” states the report.

The NEP is also calling for a holistic approach to education. “Embracing students' holistic development that encompasses their intellectual, mental, emotional, and moral growth should be on educators’ agenda.” 

  1. Build a digital-ready institution

According to a Pearson Education survey, 83% of Indians aged between 16 and 70 felt the pandemic accentuated the digital divide.

Deloitte point out that although there is a drive to invest in more technology, institutions also need to develop a technology road map that minimises the impact of future disruptions and shift from “doing digital” to “being digital”.

“Being digital is more than just doing digital. “Being digital” is a state where one is continually innovating and challenging orthodoxies. It’s about a mindset, culture, and, most importantly, capabilities required to be future-ready,” says Deloitte.

“As technology in education delivery becomes even more critical than before, faculty upskilling and reskilling efforts should be institutionalised to ensure a seamless learning experience.”

There should also be a focus on using data to drive decisions. Deloitte point out the Indian HEIs have only scratched the surface with their data-driven decision-making strategy. 

“According to a dean at an Indian higher education institute, “Decisions are currently made in silos. Institutions sit on a ton of data; they need to start tapping into it to ensure data-driven decision-making,” says the report.

“To become a complete digital-ready institution, creating a digitally enabled ecosystem will be critical.”

  1. Reinvent student experience

It is predicted online learning is here to stay and will be a core component of the hybrid model (a combination of classroom and online training) the report suggests HEIs will need to rethink ways to engage students, redesign assessment criteria and prioritise inclusion.

“To maximise the online learning experience, instructors will need to design student-centric pedagogies. Innovative methods to engage students with the faculty and their peers will need to be implemented,” says the report.

However, Deloitte points out it can be harder to engage students in hybrid learning. “Early attempts to introduce a form of hybrid learning model (HyFlex) in the West have met with a lot of scepticism and, in some cases, criticism. However, institutions can experiment with different solutions to address the challenge.”

This step also looks at new ways of assessing performance. As an Indian higher education dean puts it, “Assessing online exams is a major concern and is often an impediment to accelerating the shift to online learning.” Moving away from traditional assessment methods requires a mindset shift and ties in very closely with the concept of “growth mindset.”

  1. Develop a thriving multi-stakeholder ecosystem

The pandemic has accentuated the role of an ecosystem that leverages connections between universities, industry and the government to address crucial gaps in resources.

“Such an ecosystem approach could yield multiple benefits. A renewed boost to multi stakeholder partnerships will also help drive progress in achieving the nation’s self-reliance objective,” says the report.

“A key recommendation made during the Deans Summit was that policymakers and HEIs collaborate in developing new clusters of economic growth based on the rapid infusion of digital skills. These clusters can be built around towns, cities and villages where digital skills are usually in short supply. 

“Not only will this help provide opportunities for students at the receiving end of the digital divide, but it will also help build a critical talent pool for industries within the cluster.

“The collective intelligence of all stakeholders holds the promise of building a future-ready workforce that is committed to learn, unlearn, and relearn,” concludes Deloitte.

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