IN JULY 2015, on the eve of the launch of the Skill India mission — a government programme aimed at providing market-relevant skill training to the youth — a top Cabinet minister in the Narendra Modi government rued the education system in the country, saying it hasn't kept pace with the ever-changing needs of the industry.

"We need to come out of the archaic ways of imparting education. Along with theory, practical needs of the economy, too, have to be kept in mind while designing the country's education policy," the minister told a select group of media persons at his residence in New Delhi. The Skill India Mission is a move by the government to bridge the gap between the industry and academia, and more will be done in due course, he added.

Five years later, the tenets of the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 showcase the Centre's efforts to syncronise the needs of the economy and age-old systems of education in the country.

With 'multidisciplinarity', 'life skills' and 'flexibility' to choose from as learning trajectories, and focus on 'unique capabilities' of students as the key foundational element, the policy aims to create the nation-builders of tomorrow. "Education must move towards less content, and more towards learning about how to think critically and solve problems, how to be creative and multidisciplinary, and how to innovate, adapt, and absorb new material in novel and changing fields," NEP states.

The basic tenets of NEP apply universally, from elementary to higher studies. The policy tries to sift through the problems currently plaguing higher education in the country — fragmented ecosystem, rigid separation of disciplines, and lesser emphasis on research, to name a few.

The answer NEP offers is a multi-disciplinary approach. And with B-schools being a significant part of the higher education ecosystem, the policy, once implemented fully, will transform the way business education is imparted in the country, making it more flexible. The move aims to provide graduates with a holistic world view in addition to core competencies.

A four-year bachelor's programme as a preferred option and an Academic Bank of Credit (ABC) are additional steps suggested in the policy, which are likely to act as game-changers for B-school education in the country. A four-year bachelor programme will help align Indian practices with global systems. A four-year degree is a must for Indian students looking to pursue higher studies abroad.

The ABC will digitally store academic credits earned from various higher educational institutions so that institutes can take them into account while providing degrees. It will ensure continuity in education even if graduates opt for exits due to personal reasons.

NEP also promotes vocational learning, and a flexible curriculum. The move is likely to help B-schools design specific curriculum in line with the demands of the industry, both at a macro as well as micro level. At the micro level, the curriculum flexibility will come in handy for imparting competencies specific to industry needs of the region where the B-school is located.

Another aspect of the policy, which is likely to have a reformative impact on B-schools, is the step towards internationalisation, with an aim to churn out global citizens and professionals. NEP 2020 encourages international collaborations, global campuses for domestic institutions, and exposure for students.

According to the policy, high-performing Indian universities will be encouraged to set up campuses in other countries. Also, select global universities, especially those from among the top 100 globally, will be encouraged to operate in India. The government also plans to put in place a legislative framework facilitating entry of foreign varsities. They will be given special dispensation regarding regulatory, governance, and content norms, on par with other autonomous institutes in the country. Furthermore, research collaboration and student exchanges between Indian institutions and their global counterparts will be promoted through special efforts. Credits acquired in foreign universities will be counted for the award of a degree wherever appropriate, according to the requirements of each higher educational institution.

With quality education being one of the key tenets of NEP 2020, business schools, like other institutes of higher education, will have to adhere to stricter accreditation benchmarks. According to the policy, a robust system of graded accreditation will be established, specifying phased benchmarks for higher educational institutes (HEIs), to achieve set levels of quality, self-governance, and autonomy. "All HEIs will aim, through their Institutional Development Plans, to attain the highest level of accreditation over the next 15 years, and thereby eventually aim to function as self-governing degree-granting institutions/clusters," according to the policy.

In line with India's growth as a digital economy, NEP 2020 suggests integration of technology with education. Immersive learning through digital tools and online platforms could also be potential learning methods for B-schools, which will help enhance learning outcomes for students.

In short, B-schools are all set to benefit in numerous ways once the proposals start rolling out. With this, the much-needed reforms in higher education will be underway.

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