On July 29, 2022, the second anniversary of the birth of the National Education Policy 2020, was celebrated with great enthusiasm. A few days later, on August 7, 2022, at an important NITI Aayog board meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the National Education Policy (NEP)-2020 was thoroughly discussed in this regarding its implementation. Fully prepared to meet the challenges of the 21st century, the goals and objectives of NEP-2020 are lofty and far-reaching. But implementing it was a daunting task.
One of the main goals of NEP-2020 is “character building” for students. The very first page of the policy document says, “Education should build character, enable learners to be ethical, rational, compassionate and caring.” This is reiterated again, on the same page: “This policy proposes the revision and overhaul of all aspects of the structure of education…, while drawing on the traditions and value systems of India in order to “develop all aspects and abilities of learners; and make education more complete”. In the “Principles of Politics” it is further emphasized: “The aim of the educational system is to produce good human beings capable of rational thought and action, possessing compassion and empathy, courage and resilience, a scientific temperament and a creative imagination, with solid moorings and ethical values.
It is no coincidence that, along with the announcement of the NEP-2020, the nomenclature “Ministry of Human Resources Development” was replaced by “Ministry of Education”. The term “human resource” implied that human beings were material resources, devoid of feelings and values, which could be used and discarded. It was inspired in a way by the materialist philosophy of the West. On the other hand, the designation Shiksha (education) encompasses, along with the material aspect, all other facets of human character, including cultural and psychological aspects – a reflection of the Indian value system.
Character formation and holistic personality development, in fact, have been important goals of Vidya or Shiksha in the Indian thought tradition – the idea being reflected/captured in the often repeated Sanskrit shloka “Vidya Dadaati Vinayam”. With more than half of the population (52%) under the age of 30 (National Family Health Survey-5), India is a young country. But the country’s youth are at a crossroads with personality disorders and imbalances that afflict a significant portion. The need for character formation and holistic personality development is an urgent requirement of the educational system of today.
The near critical proportions of the current situation – best characterized by the dominance of social media with shrinking lives in the shell of technology, the loneliness of virtual space, and the prevalence of indoor gadget games rapidly replacing outdoor sports – all combined to push young people down a treacherous path.
We create unbalanced individuals, who turn out to be unproductive, burdensome and sometimes even dangerous, for the family, the society and the country. Anomalous and terrifying stories about young people across the country are heard almost every day.
Considering these needs of young people, the University of Delhi has taken the lead in the implementation of NEP-2020 and designed “Value Added Courses” for the undergraduate program – an innovative and landmark step in the country’s university system, with far-reaching consequences.
With the firm belief that education has an important role to play in addressing the issues mentioned above, Value Added Courses (VAC) are a well-thought-out and far-reaching effort, and are closely watched by academics from all over the country. The primary focus of these Value Added Courses (VAC), developed with the help of experts from across the country, is the holistic personality development and character building of students; “integrating ethical, cultural and constitutional values; promote critical thinking, Indian knowledge systems, scientific temperament, communication, presentation skills and soft skills as well as teamwork.
A major feature of these VACs, in keeping with the spirit of NEP-2020, is that they will not be purely academic courses, as the current Macaulay model has propagated. Rather, inspired by ancient Indian pedagogy and Mahatma Gandhi’s model, these courses have at least 50% of the component in the form of practical or hands-on learning. The practical section will range from fieldwork, surveys, projects to other aspects of experiential and applied learning. It is important to note that the 50% practice-based study will not be limited to science-oriented courses, but also courses oriented towards the humanities, social sciences or business, providing practical experience for these students. .
Another notable feature of VAC is that instead of pure practical laboratory work, the experiments and applied activities will be carried out in the “laboratory of life”, connecting students to society and the country as a whole. For example, the course entitled “Swachh Bharat”, inspired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, is not limited to the theoretical understanding of cleanliness and hygiene, related social policies and programs, the relationship between remediation and development, or waste management techniques. etc., it also has various hands-on/hands-on components such as performing “cleanliness audit”, Swachh Bharat internship, organizing Swachhata Pakhwada with the help of the community. This, on the one hand, will inculcate a sense of social responsibility and a sense of service in our young people, and on the other hand, a sense of patriotism will also develop in them.
Another feature of VAC is that regardless of majors, any student, whether from the sciences, humanities, social sciences or commerce, etc., can opt for it. This will promote multidisciplinarity while enriching the diversity of the class, a need of the hour at the present time. Also, unlike some “additional” short courses offered at some locations, these VACs will be credit courses and the marks obtained will be part of the grade sheet, which will engender seriousness in their study.
So far, 24 courses have been prepared for the first semester of the upcoming academic session 2022-23. A total of approximately 100 such will be developed for the entire undergraduate program. Some of the current courses include: ‘Vedic Mathematics’, ‘Swachh Bharat’, ‘Fit India’, ‘Art of Being Happy’, ‘Emotional Intelligence’, ‘Panchkosh: Holistic Personality Development’, ‘Indian Bhakti Tradition and Values’ ‘, ‘Ayurveda and nutrition’, ‘Science and society’, ‘Yoga: philosophy and practices’, ‘Sahitya, Sanskriti and cinema’, ‘Ethics and values in the ancient Indian tradition’, ‘Constitutional values and fundamental duties’, ‘Sports for Life’, ‘Digital Empowerment’, etc. A unique attribute of VACs is that elements of the rich Indian Knowledge System (IKS) have been duly incorporated as specified in NEP-2020.
For example, “Vedic Mathematics” is a one-of-a-kind course, which will be taught as a credit course at a prestigious university like DU in the country. Prime Minister Modi has spoken of “Vedic mathematics” in several of his speeches. It was our misfortune not to be able to include this rich heritage of mathematics in our courses even after Independence. “Vedic Mathematics” greatly increases the calculating ability of students. These skills are extremely useful in competitions like the ‘CAT’ for admission into IIMs and other institutes. Moreover, Vedic mathematics will also promote critical thinking in students. Also, it will instill a sense of pride and respect for India.
We often see young people from the current educational system showing contempt for the ancient tradition of Indian knowledge. Likewise, “Panchkosh: Holistic Personality Development” will prove useful in dealing with the growing personality imbalance, mental stress and aggressive behavior of today’s youth. Molding the personality and character based on the “Panchkosh” described in Taittiriya Upanishad will give a positive direction to the youth. The course ‘Yoga: Philosophy and Practice’ will also be very useful considering today’s complex and stressful life. To inform students of the great IKS heritage, 25% of the total courses are in IKS-related fields.
Apart from this, other courses also incorporate elements from IKS wherever necessary. For example, in the course “Constitutional Values and Fundamental Duties”, along with “Secularism”, the concept of “Sarva Dharma Sambhav” was also added. It should be noted here that our constitutional position in matters of religion is more in line with the Indian concept of “Sarva Dharma Sambhav” than with the concept of “secularism”.
With its economic advances, the “New India” of our youth is in full gear to take the world by storm in the 21st century. But it would be fitting if this “New India” was also balanced, had character, was socially responsible with a sense of patriotism. Only then can India become a Jagadguru again. Delhi University’s ‘Value Added Courses’ will be a model par excellence in this regard for universities in the country.
Prof. Niranjan Kumar is Chairman of the ‘Value Added Courses’ Committee and Dean of Planning at Delhi University. He previously taught at various American universities. He tweets @NiranjanKIndia. The opinions expressed are personal.
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