Aligning India’s STIP-2020 vision with NEP
At a time of unprecedented change, advancement in science and technology has become an important determinant in India’s transformation into a self-reliant global leader. The foundation of innovation will be built through the creative efforts of our youth and children, and we must inculcate a scientific and innovative temperament in them. With sweeping changes in policy, a paradigm shift in the processes of learning will be needed as they become more driven by critical thinking and innovation.
There are two interconnected aspects. One involves exploring the mechanisms through which to promote Science Technology Innovation (STI) learning in the early stages of school education. The other explores the pathways through which research and innovation can be reformed in Higher Education (HE) and Higher Educational Institutes (HEIs) to facilitate the expansion of research and development (R&D).
Former President APJ Abdul Kalam once said, “Millions of people walk in this universe, but you can enter the Marvels of the Universe only if you have curiosity and thinking. The mission of schools should indeed be a generation of curiosity. I suggest thinking should become your capital asset, no matter whatever ups and downs you come across in your life. Thinking is progress. Non-thinking is stagnation to the individual, organisation, and country.” These profound words from this visionary statesman still resonate in my mind.
This was what was kept in mind while formulating the recent National Education Policy (NEP) 2020, with which our education system envisages transformational changes. There is a strong focus on analytic thinking, creative problem-solving, and critical examination of existing structures rather than just a transfer of information. As Science, Technology, and Innovation Policy (STIP) 2020 is being given its final touches, it is important to draw from the experiences of NEP-2020 and align the STI ecosystem’s vision with its priorities to ensure a holistic growth trajectory.
STIP-2020 aims to build an educational environment that nurtures and encourages innovative thinking and also creates pathways for its pursuit in the long-term. In the current policy-building exercise, we have kept our focus on select areas. We learn to live, we learn to think and we learn to learn.
One, a major attempt has been to focus on innovation in education, which can help students and young scholars in HEIs achieve quality research outputs for STI. The proposed changes in curriculum development through a National Curriculum Framework and the complementary National Curriculum Framework for Teacher Education (NCFTE) of the NEP-2020 will give flexibility in pedagogy that encourages critical thinking, scientific temper, problem-solving, innovative approaches, collaborative learning, and active learner engagement.
Two, we need to bridge the disconnect between research and education to overcome fragmented learning. Making research mandatory in school education has increasingly become a priority. This should be complemented by strengthening incentive mechanisms such as Science Olympiads and Technology Innovation Awards. Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education and general education are set to receive a better impetus through effective linkages. STIP-2020 bridges the gap between curricular, co-curricular, or extra-curricular areas; arts and sciences, and vocational and academic streams and provides the possibility of switching subject areas. It is also necessary to interlink academia with industry, encouraging collaborative projects and need-based capacity-building. NEP-2020 has also proposed the establishment of a National Research Foundation (NRF), which will have significant funds for supporting research in technology, science, social science, arts, and the humanities.
Three, a dynamic and creative environment must be facilitated. Collaboration between ministries and HEIs is the way forward. Students will get hands-on experience in fields of their choice and once qualified can seamlessly enter industry.
This will also boost vocational education, promoting entrepreneurial skills among students and make them both knowledge and job-creators. Four, we must look at science beyond the classroom. To strengthen the education base, we must establish an infrastructure base to support educational activities with a special focus on digitisation platforms, research, innovation, and entrepreneurship. And five, there must be focus on the development of assistive technologies and learning resources.
This will create interactive personalised learning environments for students with specific learning disabilities and ensure that the expansion of the STI ecosystem is equitable and inclusive. This must begin right from the school level. For higher education, there is a need to support research in this domain and incentivise the development of haptics, smart devices, advanced bionics, in-built speech, and other sensory interfaces.
STIP-2020 in alignment with NEP-2020 must aim to bolster innovation-driven scientific temper in the education system from the foundational stages intensifying its linkages with the economy and society. It should play a major role as a true enabler for last-mile innovation.
Harsh Vardhan is minister for science and technology, earth sciences, health and family welfare.
This article is a part of a series on STIP-2020
The views expressed are personal