I have long held the view that whatever else a nation like India does to keep its economy moving, it must pay attention to small- and-medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and to localised and regional economic activity across the land. Happily, in his address on Independence Day, among the many issues that Prime Minister Narendra Modi mentioned, was something that relates to my belief.
He urged the nation to realise the need to lay stress on creating greater tourism opportunities within the nation economic activity at the local and regional levels.
These two issues are interlinked and have the potential to help the economy grow. Gandhiji too had very clear and strong views on making local economies strong. The moot point is deciding on a strategy and roadmap to implement this plan in a smooth and efficient manner.
This brings me to a related issue through which I firmly believe that a meaningful and practical way can be devised for the two points from the PM’s address as mentioned above. Actually, at this point in time, a golden opportunity hovers tantalisingly, through the realm of education, to allow this, that too quite smoothly and with good effect.
The New Education Policy allows a productive mix and match of different disciplines. (Photo: Reuters)
I need to elaborate on what I mean by my assertion above. The ministry of Human Resource Development-appointed Kasturirangan Committee has submitted its report on the New Education Policy (NEP), which calls for a four-year undergraduate programme of education across the board in India. This recommendation has been further endorsed — according to reports in the media — by a University Grants Commission (UGC)-appointed committee headed by professor P Balram, former director, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. The power of Kasturirangan committee recommendations can be gauged from paying some attention to what it prescribes. In effect, it allows for several good things to be inducted into the curriculum, so that it has the potential to empower our youth and, through that, to economically empower our nation.
First and foremost, the NEP creates room for a healthy and synergistic blend between skills and knowledge. Second, it allows a productive mix and match of different disciplines so that learning one discipline can provide ideas and connections with another discipline for a real-world outcome or application. Third, it creates room for an energised pedagogy that can be very hands on and project-oriented with emphasis on group activity with societal applications.
Finally, it engenders creation of the curriculum around the needs and challenges of the nation. And it is through this fourth and final point that I wish to draw a direct link to finding ways and means to create economic strength at near-micro levels in the nation.
Education and economy
Who shall disagree that this prescription of enabling tourism at a local level and getting a local economy to take off are an important need and a challenge for the nation? Under the draft NEP, the curriculum at universities and colleges should take into account ways and means of creating better tourism opportunities around the very local regions that they are situated in.
How does this work? The curriculum should encourage project work related to developing local histories and on studying and developing special features of the region that could be connected with tourism, such as the geography and natural features of the land or even the local cuisine and culture. At the same time students should be encouraged to develop various ideas for start-ups that are peculiar to the region. The curriculum should also incorporate ways and means to engage with local economic activities.
Let me embellish my assertions through a couple of illustrations. Almost every educational institution tends to teach some sort of management and entrepreneurship.
What prevents such institutions from looking at building tourism-based attractions through studying and presenting historical and archaeological facets or even creating attractive arts and crafts with the insights of an academic and entrepreneurial lens? We did this successfully at Delhi University through courses and projects on historical tourism.
A tested formula
In addition regulations can be devised to encourage the establishment of local entrepreneurial activity through educational establishments. I say this because during the last many years I have had the good fortune of witnessing the swift success of these ideas.
I conclude by stating why I have been emboldened to present my thoughts through this column. I have recently received numerous congratulatory messages from across the land and from abroad in the aftermath of the publicity surrounding the announcement of the draft of the NEP and the ensuing discussions and debates. It seems that the ideas that we at Delhi University had espoused and tried under our celebrated and erstwhile Four Year Undergraduate Programme (FYUP) have been resurrected under the umbrella of the NEP.
Clearly, issues related to meaningful education resonate with all. For instance, the year we launched FYUP, the number of applicants seeking admission at Delhi University shot up to nearly double the usual number.
(Courtesy of Mail Today)