(GIST OF YOJANA) Bridging Education and Communities
Bridging Education and Communities
A great amount of emphasis is laid on the importance of education in India. The first two Education policies of the country have aimed at compulsory education for children and achieving uniformity across social groups. They have been successful in establishing regulatory structures, systems, and processes to achieve access, quality, and equity outcomes.
With the growth of the education sector, there have also been several challenges. The focus on excellence has made education more knowledge-oriented with lesser importance to the application of knowledge to the society.
Community Engagement in School Education:
NEP envisages a public education system with true philanthropic private and community participation. The community is an integral part of School Education and has a major role to play in shaping it. There have been evidences that village schools function effectively only when the local community is active and participates in the functioning of the schools.
Regarding Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE), NEP 2020 states that Anganwadis shall be fully integrated complexes/clusters, and children’s parents and teachers will be invited to participate in school complex programmes. All these years, Anganwadis have focused on mother and child nutrition, their integration with education enables supporting parents and building communities in providing early childhood education along with the necessary nutrition and health care.
The concept of cluster schools brings in the role of community in building schools and enhancing learning. A school complex groups neighbouring schools into a cluster. Apart from the benefits of pooling and sharing resources like teachers, learning, and physical resources; the biggest benefit would be the communities around the school complex. Broad-based school complexes and clusters enable innovations specific to the location and context. The school cluster management committees consisting of various stakeholders include the community along with local management experts who can take care of the governance and management of school clusters.
The Policy recommends the participation of community, alumni, and volunteers in making learning more effective and in achieving Foundational Literacy and Numeracy (FLN) outcomes.
To use the unutilised capacity of school infrastructure and to promote social, intellectual, and volunteer activities for the community, the policy suggests ‘Samajik Chetna Kendra’ which could promote social cohesion during non-teaching/schooling hours.
Community Engagement in Higher Education
In higher education, the policy contains several important elements fostering social responsibility and community engagement in Higher Education Institutions (HEIs). In Higher Education, community engagement enables bridging the gap between theoretical concepts and its practice.
Education has no meaning unless real-time problems of the society are identified and solutions are provided. This can happen only through deeper interactions between higher education institutions and communities. Education and communities have a symbiotic relationship as education must contribute to society in finding solutions to the real time problems and in turn society has to support the institutions in facilitating curriculum development, teaching learning, and research.
The major recommendation of NEP is to make higher education broad-based and holistic. Universities and colleges have to become multidisciplinary institutions of higher learning, offering undergraduate and graduate programmes, with quality teaching, research, and community engagement. Multidisciplinary approach binds the courses to the needs of the society with flexible and innovative curriculum. The Choice Based Credit System (CBCS) structure calls for varied combination of courses with integration of experiential learning.
In its pursuit of implementing the policy, the government and concerned bodies are in the process of developing guidelines for the implementation both at the national level and at respective States.
The University Grants Commission (UGC) has also developed the National Curricular Framework and guidelines, 2020 specifically on fostering community engagement in higher educational institutions (HEIs).
There are efforts to develop courses and curriculum to engage students with rural communities under the ‘Unnat Bharat Abhiyan’.
Implementing Community Engagement in Institutions
The depth of community engagement depends on the priority that institutions place on involving communities in Governance, Teaching learning, Research, and Institutional Development.
The policy has paved way to the Institutions to become an integral part of the society, draw resources, and contribute knowledge to the communities.
The policy gives great clarity on what Schools, Colleges and Universities have to do for better community engagement and why such an engagement is necessary.
The challenge is how to go ahead with the implementation at individual schools and colleges with its true spirit and pro-activeness.
Community engagement has to be institutionalised by incorporating the same in the
vision, mission, objectives, and the institutional plans. Institutional mechanisms have to be developed to integrate community engagement with other areas of teaching-learning and
Institutions have three options in making community engagement a reality.
Firstly, anticipating directions from the government and implementing accordingly.
Secondly, taking the spirit of the policies, implementing them with or without anticipating directions from the Government and other concerned bodies by setting teams, preparing plans, involving community stakeholders, and working towards implementation.
Lastly, thinking beyond NEP, innovating newer ways of bringing community closer to the institution.
It is the Institutions which can build the interconnectedness within the society, in order to achieve this, the institutions have to instill amongst the stakeholders that they belong to the society and bring society closer to the institutions to respond to their needs.
The new policy attempts to address the need of social connect through education. The role of government bodies, institutions, NGOs, and other organisations is crucial in realising these goals and creating an adequate ecosystem and opportunity for individuals to build a connect.
It also focuses on the establishing a logical end to the process of learning which is not just accumulation of knowledge, instead building a robust environment that enables application of concept and understands the practical usage of the same in societal necessities.
The ideology behind NEP is to bridge the divide between the society and education. Education is intended to be part of the society and society needs contribution of educational institutions to have a synergetic relationship. This relationship could be strengthened only when institutions recognise their role and work towards making community engagement a reality.