Multidisciplinary and holistic learning is an ancient method used in Indian education system as well as the other parts of the world.
Education has supreme importance in the human life as it has the power to make the world better place. National Education Policy 2020 is a comprehensive document and its main purpose is to improve the education sector by making it inclusive, holistic, multidisciplinary and more fruitful. There is no doubt that multidisciplinary education is extremely significant in this post-modern society of 21st century. There has been a lot of emphasis on holistic and multidisciplinary education in the new NEP 2020.
In the post-Independence era, National Education Policies of 1968 and 1986 took some steps towards holistic learning such as identification of talent in diverse fields, participation in meaningful and challenging programs of community service and national reconstruction, high priority to research, training of youth for self-development, vocational education, youth development, computer education and so on. Despite having many provisions for strengthening education system these policies did not talk about multidisciplinary education at all. Concern towards multidisciplinary education was first reflected in CBCS System launched by the UGC. It is based on flexible approach of cafeteria system and the main objective is to provide the knowledge of different fields to the students at the under graduate and post graduate level.
Multidisciplinary and holistic learning is an innovative medium through which students can learn sciences, technologies, mathematics with liberal arts, humanities, languages, social sciences, professional skills, vocational skills, ethics, morality, human values and so on at the same time. It aims at overall development which means now students can have knowledge or mastery across fields through access to infrastructure, trained teachers and other facilities at the higher education institutes and newly introduced MERUs (Multidisciplinary Education and Research Universities).
With this interesting vision, NEP 2020 also raises several questions, such as do our institutions have suitable infrastructure for such initiatives? If not, how will they develop this infrastructure; what will be the sources of funds for these developments; how much and what type of autonomy will they have; will they give equal importance to research in social sciences, humanities and languages; will the PMRF and other fellowships which are only for the research in science be extended to the other fields; what type of institutions will be the MERUs; will these be government universities or private players will run them; what will be the regulatory authority; will this process increase the expenditure for students; how they will get required financial support; will the students from marginal sections, backward classes and women be adversely affected?
Multidisciplinary and holistic learning is an ancient method used in Indian education system as well as the other parts of the world. This is the reason that such type of education system was advocated by scholars like Kautilya, Banabhatta, Plato, and Aristotle among many others. One can trace the evidence of such an education system in ancient Indian literature and practices. It is seen in the Indian Gurukul system where students had to learn Science, Mathematics, Geometry along with vocational skills, professional skills, soft skills, ethics, morality, human values and so on.
Under the colonial rule in India a totally different education system was introduced by Lord Macaulay who aimed at making Indians clerks. The colonial rulers did not want to educate Indians, rather they developed the theory of 'White Man’s Burden'. They completely and intentionally rejected the holistic ancient Indian education system and transformed it through their so-called model of modern education which was mechanical and commercial in nature.
So far as National Education Policy 2020 is concern, it can be said that before stepping forward in this direction government has not only to find the answer to the above questions but also ensure protective measures for the welfare of the students in particular and the educational system as a whole. While the document proposes all the right moves to reform education, it does not have a legal status. To execute the provisions in their true spirit the government will need iron will, fund facility, infrastructure (particularly in rural areas, in case of providing vocational skills at school level), regulatory mechanisms, grievance redress cells, professionally trained teachers and so on.
It is also needs to be taken into account that this step towards holistic education does not lead to the commercialization of education as there is a lack of appropriate infrastructure to provide practical education in government institutions and private players can take advantage of this. Therefore, it must be ensured that foreign universities and local private institutions work with government institutions to attain the goal of holistic and multidisciplinary education. In a nutshell NEP 2020 is a framework for New India with quantum changes in education sector.
(Sugandha Yadav is an Intern with Academics4Nation. She is currently MA in Political Science from doing Lucknow Central University.)