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NEP's 'big' challenge: 7.5 lakh students in foreign lands, only 40,000 return each year

By Our Representative

Participated by senior academics from India and abroad, a web policy talk on Evolving Paradigm of Higher Education Amidst Coronavirus Pandemic, jointly organized by the Impact and Policy Research Institute (IMPRI), New Delhi, and the University of Idaho, US, has sought to endorse the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 for “paving” the way for transformational reforms in the country’s higher education systems, though several speakers underlined the need to overcome infrastructural constraints and digital divide.
Prof Manisha Priyam, faculty, National Institute of Educational Planning and Administration (NIEPA), New Delhi, said, at the present critical juncture, higher educational institutions have gone beyond geographies by ensuring that technology plays a key role. She praised the government for opening the Indian education system for world’s top universities.
Taking a similar view, Prof Cliff Zintgraff, chief learning officer, San Antonio Museum of Science and Technology, US, stated that the pandemic has given a new opportunity of remote learning, which would continue after the pandemic.
However, in a diametrically opposite view, Sydney Freeman Jr, associate professor, University of Idaho, said, the pandemic has highlighted divide in higher education due to racism, particularly in developed nation like US. He added, not only students but black educators also face discrimination. Many of them may be overqualified for their positions but are underpaid in comparison to their white counterparts.
Prof Pankaj Mittal, secretary general, Association of Universities, asserted that NEP 2020 has given prominent place to internationalization of higher education in India at a time when every year about 7.5 lakh students are abroad to study but only 40,000 students come back each year. India can attract more foreign students only by overcoming infrastructural constraints ranging from hostel facilities to outdated curriculum not viable for international students.
Dr Abdulla Rasheed Ahmed, minister of education, Republic of Maldives, said today two-thirds of classroom teaching is replaced by online learning, but there are several challenges such as access to technical infrastructure, competencies and pedagogies for distance learning and requirements of specific field of study. Covid-19, he added, is providing opportunity to rethink about higher education and redesign global education with provision of adequate social and human capital.
India can attract more foreign students only by overcoming infrastructural constraints ranging from hostel facilities to outdated curriculum
Prof Saumen Chattopadhyay, faculty, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi, said the prevalence of pandemic has led to a piquant situation: The budgetary allocation for higher education has declined in both developed and developing countries. Online teaching is being promoted by government and it may push transcend national boundaries, but there is the question on how to address the issue of quality of education.
He added, over-dependence on online education will snatch the experience of on-campus education, since teaching goes beyond classroom, and student interactions enrich learning. Underprivileged children and youth may be left out of higher education system.
Prof Sachidanand Sinha, faculty, JNU, concerned about safeguarding the interests marginalised students, said, recently, universities have seen vacancies continuing for years. There is also the failure to complete courses due to non-availability of required resource persons. There have also been cuts on scholarships. He believed, Covid-19 can be seen as opportunity to understand issued related to affordable education instead of pushing students into taking loans.
Arjun Kumar, director, Impact and Policy Research Institute (IMPRI), stated that there is a need to for technology grants for updating IT system for online interactions. By making universities and institutions self-dependent in technology will mean taking a step towards self-reliant (atmanirbhar) India. However, the bigger challenge is how to overcome digital divide and social exclusion.

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