Out of Syllabus
Honourable Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi recently emphasized, how India’s National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 aims to shift the focus from ‘what to think’ to ‘how to think’. I felt this ‘How’ was a wow! Remembered the 1946 Ellison Hawks book “How it works and How it is done”, my favourite “out of syllabus” book in high-school and college. I wasn’t fully aware then about the immense value in the real world for “Know How” – the practical knowledge (skill, talent, ability, expertise) it articulated.

Back in Time
Somehow, my thoughts wandered 4-5 Million years into mankind’s history – which is over 50,000 generations ago, wondering how would they be thinking. It was an era of Ardipithecus – the early “proto-human” who shared traits with gorillas and chimps, and dwelled in forests. In about a million years, they evolved into Australopithecines who had brains near the size of a chimpanzee’s, walked upright on two legs and earned the honour of being classified as our first human ancestors on planet Earth. They knew how to think – a mantra self-learnt from the ever-changing syllabus of mother nature. Every day, it helped them earn their food for survival, shelter for safety, and the better of the two learning outcomes – life or death!

Connecting the Dots
For a reliable 21st century update, I engaged in a conversation with students aged 14-20 years for a dip-stick to know how they think. Asked them two questions – “Why we learn?” and “What we learn”. The responses:

From how they think, it seemed that earning, continues to be the purpose and sub-set of learning even after millions of years. However, does the purpose of “Why we learn?” get served by “What we learn?”. Seems a bit of a mysterious grey area for students.

The larger familiar picture of reality that emerges after connecting the dots in the real world is:
The world of education is
-Straddled to traditional formats that have not changed for decades (perhaps centuries?).
-Facing increasing stress associated to crowding, competition and complexity of rapid change.

The world of work is
-Stressed to keep pace with newer “Know How’s” that occur at increasing frequencies, shrink the cycle times between industrial revolutions and cause disruptions.
-Grappling to survive, stay relevant and competitive in the 21st century (80 years left).
It is in this context that I feel, the NEP 2020 is a vital and positive gamechanger. Here’s how:

Swift Shift
The NEP 2020 was a result of years of deliberations. In parallel, EdTech too had been grabbing all the recent headlines about how necessary it was to be deployed as a tool for “How we learn”. The world has been increasingly getting connected, communicable and collaborative. There’s a lot of dazzle associated with the emerging ‘quick and easy’, ‘fast and furious’ instant computing and gratification tools and technologies, including EdTech. If that’s not overwhelming, quantum computing now holds the promise and threat of dislodging the world’ fastest super-computers that use the traditional bits (0 or 1) for computing! Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Blockchain, Coding seems to be the buzz amongst kids in classrooms. Living robots, Floating farms are no longer a fiction of science but work in process projects in the real world.

All this is valuable but can easily blind us into completely missing out on the deep potential of the slow and steady haul of evolution that mankind has gathered over millions of years. Coincidentally for the world in a rush for everything, it’s taken a pandemic for it to literally pause, reflect, reset and re-emerge with a swift shift in “How we think” about everything. The NEP 2020 fortunately and independently addresses the real shift required in “How we think” by bringing to the fore the two most evolved human possessions – Human Cognition and Know How (Skills, Talent, Ability). It urges the steady deployment of these in “How we learn”. Both have steadily evolved over millions of years and yet hold the promise of immense untapped potential.

वैश्वीकरण विविधता व्यावहारिकता
The NEP 2020 proposes a shift on how we think, learn and earn. In my view the three magnificent shifts are:
a. वैश्वीकरण Steadily transforming (note the contrast vis-a-vis rapidly disrupting) India’s Education System. This will lead India into becoming a global powerhouse of knowledge (“Know How”).
b. विविधता Enabling multi-disciplinary learning that gives the freedom of choice from a variety of options to learners. Human cognition with its intrinsic multiple intelligences will now thrive.
c. व्यावहारिकता Emphasis on practical learning to bridge the gap between “What we learn” and “Why we learn”. This will sync academia with industry for a vibrant, self-sufficient and self-reliant India.

NEP 2020 is just a policy but a collaborative effort of many beautiful minds. It is a vision that we all should its whole-heartedly embrace, and roll up our sleeves for implementation and execution. It is only with a collective effort of our citizens and institutions – both public and private, that NEP 2020 will achieve its goals.

Public Private Partnership
Human Cognition is private. Know How is public! “How we learn” is a result of forging a partnership between these two and weaving a fabric by intertwining their beautiful threads, as summarized below:

The human brain has a way of working. Understanding it helps hone the most fundamental skill associated with human cognition – Learning How to Learn. It involves a combination of six human cognition process dimensions – remember, understand, apply, analyse, evaluate, and create with the four knowledge dimensions namely factual, conceptual, procedural, and metacognitive.

Critical Thinking++

Creative Thinking++       

Communication & Collaboration++

Character & Compassion++
“When wealth is lost, nothing is lost; when health is lost, something is lost; when character is lost, all is lost.” The 2020 pandemic saw trillions of dollars of wealth lost – but there is genuine hope about recovery in the future, millions of people lost good health due to getting infected by the virus – and yet have recovered without a vaccine. However, what’s truly lost is the “knee jerk” character shown by global business owners and leaders in laying off millions in a jiffy. Even Mr. Ratan Tata, all of 82 years had to implore business owners to contemplate when he said, “..these are the people who have served you all their careers so you send them out to live in the rain? Is that your definition of ethics when you treat your labor force that way?”

NEP 2020 emphasizes that education must build character, enable learners to be ethical, rational, compassionate, and caring, while at the same time prepare them for gainful, fulfilling employment. It states that the aim of education will not only be cognitive development, but also building character and creating holistic and well-rounded individuals.

No Sir. Data is NOT the new Oil and neither is quantum computing! It takes millions of years for oil to form. 70% of today’s oil deposits are from the Mesozoic age (250-60 million years ago). The real new oil is old enough today, formed over a few million years and is available in two forms – Human Cognition and acquired Know How! How we learn to nurture these two forms will determine the planet (or planets) and life we earn for our younger and future generations. Time is ever running out, but the opportunity is ours to grab with NEP 2020. Let us all shift our individual and collective gears from “What to think” to “How to think, learn and earn” and build an India for our young and future generations to remember us. How?! Wow!

About Writer
Mr. Sunil Tatkar is a military boarding school alumnus and a mechanical engineer graduate from VJTI. Sunil as over 30 years of experience as a professional and entrepreneur in varied functional roles across several business and technology enterprises. Sunil is also a content writer, an art enthusiast, a marathoner and an educator who can engage learners of all ages with his flair for participative training and workshops. For more details look up Sunil’s profile at https://www.linkedin.com/in/sunil-tatkar-81b7528/. Sunil is reachable at suniltatkar@valurevolution.com


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