With the changes that have taken place in education over the past two years, government and private players are working to ensure access to quality education for all. Recently, the UGC released a draft document for the National Higher Education Qualifications Framework (NHEQF) and National Skill Qualification Framework (NSQF).
The objective of adopting the NSQF is to have a local approach to benefit rural youth who do not have an opportunity for higher education. With the focus on vocational training, the framework envisages subsidised fees, placement opportunities and skill development. The programmes are planned as short practical inputs with weekend classes and delivery in local languages. Students will be able to move from the vocational to conventional streams and continue their education while pursuing a job. General learning and skill development will be given weightage and sector-wise specialisation will be available.
The NHEQF aims to develop nationally acceptable and internationally comparable qualifications to facilitate higher education in India or abroad. It envisages increased flexibility in the choice of courses at the UG level, thus enabling students from Engineering streams to choose Arts, Humanities or Social Science courses for multidisciplinary education. The entire framework is along a continuum of levels from five to 10 with each having specific acquisitions through credits earned. These credits will accrue in an Academic Bank of Credit (ABC) and can be commuted and used anytime, anywhere. While each level is based on learning outcomes, these could be acquired through a single mode or a combination of different modes of learning such as in-person instruction, open and distance learning, online education and hybrid/blended modes.
Emphasis has also been laid on projects in community engagement and service, environmental education and value-based education. Internships with industries and businesses are provided with appropriate assessment rubrics to give students practical exposure and increase their employability. To facilitate this, comprehensive UG programmes have been designed for three- or four-year duration with multiple exit and entry options. If a student drops out after completing a year, he/she will get a certificate; a Diploma after two years; a Bachelor’s Degree after three years; or a Bachelor’s Degree with Honours/Research after four years. Students in the last category with a research component will be able to pursue a Ph. D. programme without a Master’s degree.
Many industrialised countries are reforming their educational qualifications so that they are comparable between nations and are also focusing on areas that are in demand in society and the labour market. Governments too are turning towards a qualification framework as a policy tool for reformation. The National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 offers scope for internationalisation of education, which will not only bring in the mobility of students and faculty across universities but also offer opportunities for global experts to share their knowledge in real time through webinars or online interactions.
The emphasis on delivering programmes in local languages will also ensure better acceptance by students, especially in rural areas. As Indian languages and cultures are intertwined, it will also help disseminate local art, literature, music and so on. Further, the Gross Enrollment Ratio will increase if the local language is the medium of instruction.
If these policies are understood properly and effectively implemented Indian education has the potential to become a sought-after destination.
The writer is Pro Vice-Chancellor, Hindustan Institute of Technology & Science (Deemed to be University), Chennai.