Why in news?
Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated a three-day summit in Varanasi that culminated with the adoption of the Varanasi Declaration on higher education.
- The summit is being organised by the Ministry of Education in association with the University Grants Commission and Banaras Hindu University, and will bring together over 300 Vice-Chancellors and Directors from public and private universities as well as educationists, policymakers and industry representatives to discuss the implementation of the National Education Policy 2020.
- Discussions will be held on various themes such as multi-disciplinary and holistic education, skill development and employability, Indian knowledge systems, internationalisation of education, online education, quality, ranking and accreditation.
- The Ministry, along with the UGC and AICTE, has introduced several policy initiatives like the academic bank of credit, multiple entry-exit, multi-disciplinarity and flexibility in higher education, regulations aimed at boosting online and open distance learning, and revising the National Curriculum Framework.
- While many universities have adopted these reforms, others are yet to do so.
About the declaration:
- The Declaration may announce a “realistic and phased-out timeline” for the much-awaited Higher Education Commission of India. The body will have a multi-stakeholder representation at all levels — policy, implementation, evaluation and assessment.
- It will also accommodate the best practices that pre-date NEP 2020 and ensure diversity in its composition and action, symbolic of the complexity in India’s vast higher education landscape.
- The growing relevance of “holistic education”, especially in the current phase of post-pandemic revival, will be addressed by providing full independence to higher educational institutions (HEI) to organise multi-disciplinary and inter-disciplinary engagements. The exercise can be taken up through internal reforms or external models of engagement.
- A critical component of the Declaration will be to ensure that “research, innovation and entrepreneurship (RIE)” does not become the exclusive preserve of ivory-tower-type HEIs and becomes accessible to all HEIs irrespective of their categorisation.
- The process of ensuring high quality teaching methods and teachers will have an oversight in the form of the Higher Education Advanced Development for Sustainable Teaching using Robust Technology (HEADSTART). It is an autogenous mechanism that engages the teaching eco-system in a process of continuous improvement through continuous training and development.
- The Declaration will call for evaluating the quality of higher education institutions on the basis of the building blocks of Hind Swaraj, insisting on improving instutional quality based on on home rules for home-grown institutions.
- The ‘phygital’ form of education shall be encouraged using the experiences from the pandemic times through a calibrated model that blends online and offline education in a balanced manner without the need to move towards either of the vulnerable extremes.
- Focussed attention on local language and Indian knowledge system shall strengthen the cognitive abilities and native wisdom of all learners during the formative stages of their careers and build a sense of pride in indigenous forms of knowledge and language.
Declaration shall not only reflect the multi-dimensional legacy that Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya left behind in the form of a magnificent BHU edifice but also the second coming of his own first self. In short, The Varanasi Declaration on Higher Education shall be the second coming of Mahamana’s First.