Till the eleventh century glory of the ancient Indian learning system was at its peak when universities like Nalanda, Taxshila, Vikramshila, etc. used to attract scholars from all over the world. The entire education system in those days was based on the Gurukul system- a residential teaching-learning place where the learning system was student-centric and holistic in nature. Four components of learning made the system holistic. These four components are related to the mind, body, heart, and soul of the learner.
It was believed that learning is holistic only when all four components get an adequate education in the right proportion. On the delivery side, the curriculum was so designed that concept and theory of the subject taught, exercised the mind of the learner in order to make him/her understand and retain the knowledge. The skill development and practicals were part of the curriculum which implied the application of theory and experiment with the theoretical knowledge gained. It encouraged a certain amount of research orientation also. Learning is incomplete unless there is food for the heart and soul.
This system ensured that the curriculum had adequate part of social connections, and learning of value systems, arts, and culture which developed values in the heart of the learner. It is said that character building is the most essential part of any education. The curriculum in those days ensured adequate part of spiritual learning which directly affected the soul of the learner. Continues learning, monitoring, evaluation, and counseling for all four components of learning was an integral part of the system.
Unfortunately, this beautiful system of learning was destroyed by various invaders successively for over eight centuries when they destroyed our world-class universities. Slowly holistic learning was replaced by rot learning which primarily exercised only one component i.e. mind and promoted only remembering and not critically thinking and analyzing. Skill development, social connect, values and character building took a back seat in the new Western kind of learning system.
The New National Education Policy-2020 (NEP-20)
The new education policy which emphasizes holistic education could be a game changer and could bring back the glory of the ancient Indian learning system. It focuses on the brining idea of India, Indian languages, and the Indian system of learning back into the curriculum. This policy makes learning more effective and efficient by totally restructuring the system and redesigning the curriculum. Some essential ingredients promoted in the new policy to make learning effective and meaningful are noteworthy.
(a) Medium of Learning- NEP-20 encourages learning in the mother tongue which is one of the key points, as undoubtedly man thinks best in his own language. With the development of technology now getting the resources in own language is not a big issue.
(b) Critical Thinking & Experiential Learning- Rot learning and cramming is to be replaced by critical thinking and rational learning. Experiential learning is an important aspect where learning is to be extended to real-life experience in terms of applying the knowledge into practice.
(c) Skill Development- The most important aspect of learning is developing skills to apply the knowledge gained. It should be not only in the core field of learning but also in other fields of interest including the area which is close to the learner’s heart. In skill, body heart, and soul in unison produce the best result.
(d) N is equal to one- The best learning system is where in a group of learners one should be able to feel as if the curriculum has been designed keeping only his needs and ability in mind. Outcome-based learning, continuous assessment, and monitoring are parts of this kind of learning environment.
(e) Multi-Disciplinary Approach- NEP-20 makes it mandatory for all HEIs to be multi-discipline in nature. So professional institutions will also have departments of arts, science, humanities, and languages. This will not only help developers in all disciplines but provide better resources for holistic learning.
(f) Research Environment- Academics and research are two faces of the same coin called effective learning. Learning becomes effective when research is an integral part of education. NEP-20 encourages HEIs to build a research environment.
(g) Character Building & Values- Ultimately the essence of learning is in building character and developing a value system in a learner, in addition to going knowledge and skill in the core area of education. This was possible in the ancient Indian education system with dedicated and experienced teachers and a dynamic curriculum and continuous monitoring and assessment system.
Learning System Post NEP-20
NEP-20 provides an excellent platform and the right direction for developing an effective learning system. It has all the ingredients of time proved learning system of ancient Gurukul times.
(a) The Curriculum- The curriculum has to be developed in such a way that it provides adequate learning in all four components i.e. core knowledge & concept building, practicals & skill development, social connection and connect with the cultural roots, and character building and value system development. This curriculum has to be dynamic and continuously growing. It should give equal weightage to all four components in the syllabus and assessment.
(b) Delivery System- The medium of learning is best in the mother tongue. There will be a need to develop learning material in regional languages. With the unprecedented growth of AI and computing technology, it is possible to provide online resources and facilities to enhance the power of learning.
(c) Critical Thinking & Experiential Learning- Learning becomes effective if it answers basically three questions- What, Why, and How. What relates to the observational part and provides ground for inquisitiveness and critical thinking. Why is operational part and system should provide adequate ground for the learner to learn the concepts and reason out? How is the analytical part and should provide ground for experiential learning and research motivation?
(d) Collaboration and Multidisciplinary- Collaborative learning and going to another discipline to form a cohesive group for learning makes not only learning effective and interesting but provides great exposure to the learner.
(e) Happiness Index- Learning becomes most effective when the learner is happy and feels deep satisfaction by what he/she is learning. The learner should have the option to take some electives to develop knowledge and skill in the subject of his/her choice. This will improve performance in all other core subjects.
(f) Assignment and Project-based Learning- Learning becomes effective if there are assignments and projects related to subjects being taught on a regular basis. Research becomes an integrated part of such a learning system.
(g) Life-Long Learning- The curriculum should encourage both the teacher and learner to continuously upgrade their knowledge and keep themselves abreast with development. It should encourage them to go beyond the curriculum.
(h) Extra Curriculum and Co-Curriculum Activities & Value Addition- Such activities provide exposure to the learner and build their confidence level.
The learning system becomes effective if all the ingredients discussed above are taken care of in developing a curriculum. It becomes the responsibility of not only the teacher but also of the learner to make the teaching-learning system dynamic and futuristic by continuously contributing to updating and changing the system.
Author – Prof. Vijay Kant Verma, Chancellor, Dr. CV Raman University, Bihar