Interview with Hon’ble Minister for Higher Education, Government of Karnataka, Dr. C.N. Ashwath Narayan

Dr. Ashwathnarayan C.N., Minister for Higher Education, IT & BT, Science & Technology; Skill Development, Entrepreneurship & Livelihood, Government of Karnataka.

Interview with Hon’ble Minister for Higher Education, Government of Karnataka, Dr. C.N. Ashwath Narayan

1. How has Karnataka been implementing NEP in the state and how is it doing after almost 1 year?

Karnataka is the first state to implement the National Education Policy-2020 (NEP) as we believe that it is our responsibility to provide quality higher education that enables students to compete with the world while also helping in the expansion of our economy.

In the past year, the NEP has met and continues to meet its crucial engagement objectives such as having large, well-resourced, multidisciplinary institutions, research-intensive courses, autonomous degree-granting colleges, broad-based holistic UG education, flexible curricular structures, strong focus on equity and inclusion, empowered governance.

Also Read: Karnataka’s higher education transformation journey has just begun!

Moreover, I have always believed that NEP is a step towards expanding the economy, particularly because of the improvement and strengthening of educational institutions and universities in the country. The NEP also enables skill development at large for students, thereby equipping them for more focused professional and industry-oriented courses that involve more skills.

Towards implementation of the NEP, some important waypoints must be acknowledged. Are, Karnataka had constituted a task force under the Chairmanship of Shri SV Ranganath in March 2020 to suggest the implementation framework for the NEP, even before the NEP report was acknowledged by the GoI on July 29, 2020; in June 2020, Karnataka formed a committee under the Chairpersonship of Dr. Vasudev K. Aatre to draw the new Karnataka State Universities Act considering the NEP; established the Internafionalizafion of Higher Education Cell; and executed several initiatives for external (foreign) collaborations for reskilling teachers and making students future-ready to meet global standards.

One important component toward internationalization of education for the general degree, post-graduation, and engineering courses is the twinning program, under which agreements have been signed with foreign universities for dual degrees. This is in sync with the Karnataka government’s industry-driven curriculum.

While being global, we are also being local. Currently, 16 universities in the State are offering region-specific content as part of their curriculum.

After one year of the NEP’s implementation, the expected outcomes are clearly visible for all in academic reforms, model curriculum, skill courses through collaboration, technological intervention, and so on. We have always been sure of the fact that a successful NEP implementation will open newer opportunities while promoting research and development in the state and the country.

2. How is Karnataka coping with post-pandemic education challenges in light of NEP 2020?

 The COVID-19 pandemic has posed challenges. However, it has also put before us a set of newer opportunities that can bring about the desired overhaul in the Indian education system. Our endeavors to continue with education during the COVID-19 pandemic have in fact shown us the right path and in the right direction.

The crisis across the country pushed Karnataka to digitize, while also ensuring inclusivity in education. While we did face various challenges during the COVID-19 crisis, it has also helped us put greater focus on improving the teaching standards across the state. It is also important to acknowledge that the implementation of the NEP was during the COVID-19 pandemic, and besides improving teaching standards, the state took a number of steps in the dissemination of knowledge and reorienting teachers and students to pedagogy through online platforms in the wake of UGC guidelines to prevent the spread of the disease.

We do understand the fact that with NEP implementation and modernization of school and college infrastructure, teachers will also be needed to be skilled in modern teaching pedagogies and methodologies.

3. How does digitization play an important role in education and what does NEP say about it?

Digifisafion is undoubtedly the most important aspect of education today, especially after the pandemic when the whole education system has seen a major revamp. Digital learning enables quality education to all sections of society without any kind of discrimination based on caste, color, and religion. Through digital learning, students in remote areas will also get an opportunity to learn from experienced and highly qualified teachers.

Our decision to implement The Unified University & College Management System (UUCMS) and Learning Management System (LMS) is the real transformational decision in higher education in Karnataka.

The UUCMS will digitize the activities of Higher Education institutions (HEIs), right from the start of the student journey of applications to admissions to academics to examination to awarding the degree performed within the UUCMS system.

Further, the faculty activities from the date of joining to academic performance assessment and promotion are accomplished in the system in real-time. The faculty’s academic student activities such as lesson plans, class monitoring, student attendance capture, etc are an integral part of the UUCMS system.

Unified University & College Management System (UUCMS) brings all university functions across 23 state public universities and 3,800 affiliated colleges onto a single platform. In this direction, the state government and its higher education department undertook drives in which laptops and digital devices were distributed to students, especially those in rural areas. To take it forward, Karnataka, a leader in IT, is working towards bridging the digital gap.

Universities have also digitized entire processes, including admissions, fee payment, and issuing of mark sheets to do away with the use of paper. The Learning Management System (LMS), introduced in higher education institutions, also allows teachers to track the learning stages of every student. It replaces summative assessment with formative assessment. Today more than 3.5 lac teaching content is available digitally in various subjects by several teachers and experts. This is mammoth.

What is unique about our state’s digitization process is that with e-sahamafi with Digi locker also being introduced, a student would be able to digitally share her/his documents like cerfificates with any institution for the purposes of further education or job with just a single sign-on and approval.

The state government has set a target of converting 8,500 classrooms in higher educational institutions into smart classes, of which 4,000 have been converted into smart classrooms and the remaining 4,500 classrooms are being digitized. In addition, the adoption of a smart classroom system has also been transforming the education system with the use of technology in education.

4. What other states can adopt from Karnataka’s education system to enhance their education models?

I believe Karnataka has been the perfect role model in terms of education for other states to adopt and inculcate within their education systems. We implemented the NEP last year before any other state despite facing numerous challenges thrown by the

COVID-19 pandemic. This implementation is a true example of our determination

towards making our education system at par with any foreign country.

We also understand the fact that skill development is another most important aspect that should be taken care of when it comes to education. Our vision is to empower the

youth of the state with the right set of skills to make them job-ready and employable. We also believe that with the right skilling, our youth will become more competitive and ready to take up relevant jobs in the future.

We also believe in the education-to-industry apprenticeship-to-employment model. Towards this, the Karnataka government has invested in skill development and training of youths to make them industry ready. For example, 35,000 students, from various parts of the state have been trained in English to meet industry needs.

To implement and enhance the skill development within the state we have also executed these courses:

Technology-based skills courses: Karnataka being the hub of IT in India, the state aims to continue to lead digital transformations and contribute toward a skilled workforce. The Karnataka State Higher Education Council (KSHEC) has collaborated with NASSCOM to offer three courses through MoUs between NASSCOM and universities: Digital Fluency for first-year degree students (all non-computer disciplines), Arfificial Intelligence for second-year degree students and Cyber Security for third-year degree students. These three courses are designed by NASSCOM and are aligned to NSQF. Each course has two credits and a practical component

Financial Literacy courses: These are aimed at developing an understanding of money, its value, raising, managing, and growing it. The course has been designed and is being offered for second-year degree students in collaboration with National Stock Exchange Academy

Industry-ready Internship and Apprenticeship Programmes are embedded with UG programs. For example, logistics are being introduced in select universities. These have been included as part of Four Year Under-Graduate Programmes (FYUGP) regulations so that the other universities can also initiate these programs in the coming academic years. From the academic year, 2022-23 Maharani Cluster University, Nrupathunga University, and Mandya University are starting Apprenticeship Embedded UG programs in Logistics in collaboration with the Logistics Skill Council of Skill India.

We believe that by including such initiatives and many more, other states can reciprocate the Karnataka education model for the larger good of their youth as well as the society.

Name of the journalist: Akram Hoque, Founder Editor

Theme: Education with a focus on NEP

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Interview with Hon’ble Minister for Higher Education, Government of Karnataka, Dr. C.N. Ashwath Narayan
Dr. Ashwathnarayan C.N., Minister for Higher Education, IT & BT, Science & Technology; Skill Development, Entrepreneurship & Livelihood, Government of Karnataka.
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