Education in the 21st Century

O Pure Earth, may that we utilize your soil well, For creative production, Without causing you injury or harm and disturbing any vital element in you- Prithvi Sukta

National Education Policy (NEP) 2020

NEP2020 – Schools

Present Education Scenario: (i) Shortage of teachers, weakness in running & supervision of Anganwadis; (ii) Several Government schools (Central, State) are not delivering their mandate to the students, KG-12, and are in a state of decay (Teacher quality, disinterest in teaching, absentees; poor infrastructure & facilities; autonomy); (iii) lack of affordable Quality schools (public/ private) to meet increasing demand; (iv) student: teacher ratio generally about 60:1; (v) large number of drop-outs; (vi) not able to cater adequately to students living in poverty and with uneducated parents; (vii) inadequate school buildings, teaching material, technology; (viii) decreasing financial resources.

Research shows:

  1. 90% of jobs of the future will require:
  2. Digital skills (digital literacy & computational thinking, data analysis, working knowledge of tech-enabled tools & techniques)
  3. Higher-order thinkers (multidisciplinary, holistic & integrative learning)
  4. Lateral & deep thinking
  5. Life and employable skills (social and emotional skills, interpersonal skills, judgement & decision making, leadership)
  6. Practical, physical, and vocational skills & competencies
  7. Cognitive and meta-cognitive skills (creativity and critical & innovative thinking, growth mindset; learning-to-learn skills)
  8. Robot & automation programming
  9. Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR), 3-D Printing technology
  10. Globalization & broad-band reliable internet connectivity for individual, local, & global networking
  11. Rapid brain development takes place between 2-14yrs of age – Cognitive and Neuroscientists

Let us look at NEP2020 from the above perspectives.


Policy Formulation and Policy Implementation are two sides of Policy coin. India has always faltered in implementation and badly, primarily because very large number of individuals are involved in the process requiring highest level of integrity, honesty, commitment, accountability, responsibility, and much more. It is a system failure.

NEP2020 policy formulation has elegantly addressed the needs and dreams of 21st century Young India to unleash their creative energies for infinite possibilities, fulfilling most if not all the above requirements. For this purpose, while underscoring high-quality educational opportunities for ages 3-18yrs of all sections of society, especially the have-nots, it recommends holistic & multi-disciplinary education with equal emphasis on Sciences, Humanities, Arts, & Social Sciences (HASS), co-curricular & extra-curricular activities; attainment of foundational literacy; basic and advanced courses in each subject (basic course as minimum requirement); scientific temper and evidence-based thinking; ancient Indian knowledge; blended learning that integrates & optimizes face-to-face and online learning; less content for better understanding and absorption; meticulously trained teachers; credit-based semester system with continuous evaluation; experiential-personalized-individualized learning; student-centric active learning, self-learning, as well as life-long learning; flexibility & student empowerment; best & brightest teachers with attractive compensation & future; different types of assessments for different purposes; Technology use & integration; Total Autonomy; financial commitment of 6% of GDP by 2025, etc., bringing back the joy of learning. The committee could have elaborated more about implementation – how & when (causes, issues, strategy, process, process ownership, time-frames).

Comments & Recommendations:

  1. Teachers should take the following pledge (we require from students): I pledge to strictly adhere to human values and commitment as stated in NEP2020, and will strive to always maintain the highest standards of Quality in teaching, mentoring, assessment of my students.
  2. Education department staff & all those assisting in implementing NEP2020 should undergo a short training program on Human Values and do everything possible to assist in smooth & seamless implementation of NEP2020.
  3. Emphasize minimum competence level in each grade for promotion and for the benefit of students and their future.
  4. Use modern technology & quality online material effectively to supplement classroom teaching & adult education – blended learning & integration. For blended learning, choose from existing successful models that best suit students and teachers.
  5. Financial commitments of 6% GDP by 2025 for education, more at school level (NEP2020).
  6. Seriously consider and establish many more residential schools based on novel schools, such as Navodaya, Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya, Ekalavya, Navsarjan, Vigyan Ashram, Delhi Model schools, new models of school such as Riverside School & Design for Change, all these especially for SC, ST and economically backward community. Also encourage Affordable private schools.
  7. Introduce after-school activities and skills training for students, and illiterate & uneducated adults involving neighborhoods, community qualified volunteers, retired professionals (NEP2020), and engage family and community in the process of educating children.
  8. Encourage and empower local bodies to monitor implementation & sustenance of quality in schools with least interference by Government bodies (State & Centre) in day-to-day management. Give responsibility to women of the community.
  9. Do all that is necessary to get the best out of an individual for better and brighter future through quality teachers, teaching, curriculum, extra-curricular activities, etc.
  10. Invite private Individuals, Foundation-based philanthropy, Education societies, and businesses for a dynamic partnership for creating employable & skilled high school graduates.
  11. We need to provide reliable, stable, high quality, accessible broad-band high speed internet infrastructure and facilities to each and every Indian across all localities throughout India and tablets, laptops, mobiles at affordable costs (each and every student must have access to it).
  12. It would be desirable to get rid of coaching classes that have become necessary evil in India because of our broken education system. Hopefully NEP2020 with its innovative approach towards school education and novel assessment schema will reduce their necessity!

NEP2020 is an excellent progressive, constructive document, which, if implemented to the letter, spirit, and intent of the policy will propel India to a world-class education hub and destination, such as Takshashila, Nalanda, that will attract the best global students & scholars and enrich the institutions and India.


The whole world has now been forced by COVID-19 to go online for education, work, business, and all other activities necessary for survival. When I retired from IIT Bombay in 1994, reputed institutions such as IITs, NITs, BITS Pilani, and also large number of private institutions offered chemical engineering specialization, several of these with inadequate faculty, teaching, curriculum, facilities, etc. I thought it may be a good idea to create computer-based chemical engineering courses, based on my experiences at IITK, Texas A&M, and IITB, for the benefit of students, to supplement classroom teaching as well as for teachers for their own use. Only a few platforms such as Toolbook, Authorware were available in 1995, and I selected the ‘Toolbook’ platform to create five (5) ‘self-learning, interactive computer-based modules’, primarily in text form without any audio or video material ( Very few people were interested in computer-based learning (e-Learning) in late 90s. I guess we were too early to introduce the change in the learning process!

In early 2020, online education as principal mode of learning is still in its infancy. Online courses are available and used extensively by people around the world, for example from Coursera, EdX, Khan Academy. Attempts have been made to offer blended learning but is still in an experimental stage. Various models of blended learning are being explored. Most of the universities around the world still believe in traditional mode of offering education and learning, hence the progress on accepting online education has been slow.

All this is now going to change fast. We are currently seeing the future of how we deliver education & learning to our younger generation. The Corona virus/COVID-19 pandemic situation is speeding the process and providing us an excellent opportunity to experiment and optimize the entire on-line learning process and experience – hardware devices & software platforms, learning material, delivery, effectiveness, absorption, assimilation, tests & evaluation, and its overall impact. Online learning also facilitates self-learning and self-renewal through life-long learning, so very important in the era of rapid technological changes & obsolescence.

Of course, for all of this to happen and happen seamlessly, we need to provide reliable, stable, high quality, accessible broad-band high speed internet infrastructure and facilities to each and every Indian across all localities throughout India and tablets, laptops, mobiles at affordable costs.

Some envisage that, in the future, employment and degrees may be decoupled. Others disagree, because a degree is a representation of the knowledge and skills an individual possesses. Does a degree, implicitly or explicitly, imply that students are equipped with competencies such as critical thinking and problem-solving capabilities, work ethics and application to real-life problems? Can we perform lab experiments, teach hard skills on machines and online effectively, through modeling & simulation, virtual & augmented reality? My personal experience is that labs are much less effective online than in person, and one has to ‘dirty’ her/ his hands using different machines for experiential learning.

Will traditional brick and mortar universities be completely replaced by on-line universities or will online education and learning complement & supplement traditional learning in the future? We must not forget that, in a traditional university, education and learning also take place outside the classroom – through the experiences of living on campus housing (Hostels/ Dorms), sports and physical activities on the fields, and during extra-curricular activities, etc., with diverse groups of students.

Going to college is more than merely taking classes; it is a totally new experience for most young individuals where they transition into independence, learn how to take care of themselves and how to add to society. Campus life offers in-person experiences, face-to-face interaction leading to improved social skills, hands-on learning, and real-world experiences. Such experiences would prepare students better for future careers and lives. In a nurturing school environment, there are teachers, peers, friends, and staff who push a student to thrive. This community feeling is a large factor in education, and it is easily achieved in a classroom and campus setting. This campus culture, encouraging and nurturing environment are difficult to achieve online.

Will we be able to provide education in the future at affordable costs as opposed to today’s expensive education model, where students graduate with loans and debt that they can’t pay? This may be possible if universities switch completely to high quality holistic online education. Affordability and accessibility to a university is currently based by and large on a student’s socioeconomic status. This creates an obstacle for bright students with tremendous potential. Online education & learning is a possible answer.

The current problems of student learning as ‘one model fits all’ does not work because individual student learning speeds & styles, motivation, and preparation are different. This problem may also be true with online learning. Personalized learning is the way forward. Online learning meets that requirement. However, one finds that online learning necessitates self-motivation, self-learning, self-discipline, commitment, regularity, and more. The online learning environment is full of distractions such as phone, email, tv, social media, etc. and students are often much less motivated to learn. I believe people will retain less information learning online as opposed to in person, similar to how writing with pen and paper is better for retention than typing on a computer!

Online networks, chat groups, dedicated groups comprising slow, medium and fast learners with a teaching assistant, counselling sessions may address the situation to some extent. Supplementing ongoing hands-on curriculum with remote lectures/talks from experts may be particularly useful for schools and institutions that cannot afford to hire top-notch faculty. Accessibility to seminars/ webinars/ conferences around the world are only a click away. In general, online learning may work better for graduate programs than undergraduates.

It is also assumed that online teaching will be of high quality both in terms of teaching material with emphasis on concepts, applications & problem solving as well as instruction. Such quality teachers need to be trained in the new mode of online instruction.

What about the evaluation of learner and instructor? Is there a superior scheme for evaluation of learner’s extent of learning and application to real life situations? I believe proper testing can be done online, it will require teachers to put in extra effort and rethink how testing should be done and focus more on concepts than memorization. What about a ‘honor’ system with free availability of internet and cut-and-paste options?

We need to critically examine the success of a learner in both modes of education – in person and online, while continuously improving the online mode in all respects. We believe a learner is more comfortable with the traditional mode where interactions with student-student and student-instructor are face-to-face rather than in the online mode where they are virtual.

Opportunities & challenges are therefore available to experiment with online-to-on campus blend to be varied and optimized for individual students and/or for socio-economic groups. The optimal blend may need to be thoughtfully crafted to account for the relative advantages and disadvantages that are prevalent between students from different socio-economic groups. Factors to consider will include the home environment, pre-K to high school schooling, geographic location, and other variables. The question is – what and how to design for a holistic education experience.

Humans are social creatures and online isolation is not as enjoyable and productive as being in a physical classroom. People want the interactions, the discussions, the “social and personal noise.” I personally favor an optimum blend of both, supported by ‘online academic, professional, and social gatherings’, as an effective model for education and learning for the future.

Welcome to the bright new world offering creative and exciting opportunities and times ahead for educators worldwide, startups, mobile apps, and for innovative solutions!

(With input from my grandchildren in high school and college)

Draft New Education Policy 2019 – Comments

1. Appears to be moving towards 21st century requirements of inclusive holistic education with reduced curriculum, experiential learning, autonomy, flexibility, accountability, superior assessment, and good governance. Huge report but nicely written with required details. Careful implementation needed.
2. Move from ‘Spoon-feeding & Rote Learning to Self-Learning’ and ‘From Teacher-centric Education to Student-centric Active Learning’ to create innovators & socially aware citizens.
3. Least interference by Government & Other bodies in day-to-day functioning of Government & non-Government Schools/ Institutions with active & responsible PTA & Local committees doing the monitoring.
4. Minimize levels of governance & corruption.
5. Ethical service rules make it mandatory for teachers not to take part in Tuitions, start or teach in Coaching classes. Current practices must be stopped to improve Quality of instruction.
6. Innovate Competitive Tests such as JEE to test students’ aptitude, attitude, analysis, synthesis, & design thinking – Objective + Subjective content. Use Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools for evaluations.
7. High quality, highly motivated & committed Teachers & Faculty is the main & difficult issue. This problem is going to stay with us for a long time – Superior training & mentoring required.
8. Blended learning with ‘Bringing People to Learning’ + ‘Taking Learning to People’, making extensive & judicious use of excellent on-line courses & material of high quality is a possible solution worth exploring seriously.
9. Funding must be substantially increased, especially at the School level.
10. Implementation is always the most difficult issue, especially because Education is a concurrent subject.

Creating a 21st Century Technological Institute (published by Notion Press 2018*)

The student clientele of today has changed. The 21st Century generation is different in several ways. They are wired differently, tech savvy with different aptitudes & attitudes, information at their fingertips, selectively concentrate on material of their interest, attention span of only about 10min, and disinterested in traditional methods of teaching. Yet, our educational system remains fixed on the traditional model. We need newer approaches, new paradigms and pedagogies to cater to the 21st century generation.

This s what the author has attempted to do in this book. A modified approach that emphasizes a new paradigm shift in engineering education and learning has been proposed.

  1. It optimizes the numerous educational resources freely available globally, along with providing high quality faculty that encourage lateral thinking, self-learning, innovation and creativity, to cater to the young, internet savvy population, in the rapidly changing technological world of today.
  2. The emphasis is on holistic education to generate newer skill sets, creativity and innovation ability, critical thinking, sound theoretical basis with real life, complex, and multidisciplinary problem solving capabilities, personality development, and strong ethical values.
  3. This dynamic and flexible education model is an experiment in new thinking:
    • admission process, curriculum, courses (reduced course load and teaching, and increased learning space and time for understanding, assimilation, and application).
    • knowledge imparting approach (move from teacher-centric education to student-centric active learning; involve the learners in the process of teaching and learning).
    • incorporation of modern technology, use of internet and media, quality and skills of graduates, with constant feedback, to provide inputs for desirable changes, promptly implemented, for the benefit of its learners from around the world.
  4. The new institution that focuses on teaching, research, and innovation, striving for excellence, will make continuous effort to remain inclusive, modern, relevant, and current.

A green campus has been suggested, with multi-cultured variety of plants and trees, minimum environmental pollution and degradation, ensuring every resource is recovered and recycled. The buildings will be functional with a flexible classroom environment to cater to new ‘constructivist classroom’ set-up.

The model elaborated in this book should be of interest to the entire spectrum of education and learning – KG to PG to Lifelong learning. I expect this book to be useful to teachers, educators, parents, entrepreneurs, professional societies, change agents, policy makers (State & Central Governments – HRD Ministry, UGC, AICTE, and other such bodies), Corporate & Business leaders, and community. It is the author’s sincere hope that those, who wish to improve and modernize existing technological and scientific institutions, and establish new institutions will benefit from this effort, not only in India but in several other countries of the world.

These are exciting times, and a new challenge and opportunity exists for Indian public and private players to offer education and learning in dramatic new ways that will propel the country to global levels of excellence, and make a real difference to the society at large. Let us work together, my dear students, colleagues, private and public enterprises, and the state and central governments, and make it happen and soon.

*Available from


Mumbai University, new governance model

  1. Mumbai university with 5.6+Lakh student population and 700+ affiliated colleges has become unmanageable. The present online examination grading by a variety of examiners is a mess.
    1. Students are the biggest sufferers. They have to waste so much of their valuable time waiting for results after their examination, admission procedure to colleges, etc.
    2. The number of students is too large for the existing model to work effectively & efficiently.
    3. Also, the affiliated college model is outdated and is a legacy we still pursue! One needs to explore a new governance model.
  2. Alternative one is academic & managerial autonomy to the affiliated colleges with proven quality for 20years and based on well-defined norms, systems and processes, proper hand holding, and guidance. This should reduce the total number of students Mumbai university needs to handle, about one Lakh students, UG & PG combined.
    1. Each autonomous college will be governed by a Board of Governors (BOG), chosen by its faculty, alumni & professional well-wishers. The BOG would have one Government representative. The State Government would provide the finances as is done currently with proper accounting & audit by the college.
  3. Alternative two is to create 5 new universities from the existing Mumbai university – North Mumbai University, South Mumbai University, East Mumbai University, West Mumbai university, & Central Mumbai university, with each about 1Lakh students. The existing university will be the Central Mumbai university.
  4. These two models & possibly others need to be discussed & debated with wide inputs from alumni, government, students, faculty, professional bodies, reputed colleges & institutes, etc.
  5. When implemented, we can then provide high quality education and learning and produce quality graduates with substantial skill-sets and problem-solving abilities. We should shoot for 100% employable graduates and see to it that they get gainful employment.

New Governance Model for the IITs

The IITs have been enjoying considerable autonomy over the years in most of its functions, especially academic and managerial functions with President of India as the Visitor. The IIT Council is the highest Governing Body with HRD (Human Resources Development) Minister as its Chairman, and Officer of HRD Ministry as its Secretary. The Chairmen and Directors of all the IITs with representatives of the Central Government, Parliament, Indian Institute of Science, UGC and others are the members of IIT Council. The IIT council in 2010, decided that it was time that each BOG (Board of Governors) is well-represented by experts from the field of science, engineering and education, as well as have local industrialists and alumni on the Board. Also, the chairman of each Board will nominate a panel and the IIT council will finally appoint members of each IIT BOG.

IITs have been operated with this Governance model since their inception, and I believe it is time to move from the centralized model to a distributed model with total autonomy to each IIT. Let the BOG of each IIT govern the Institution, keeping in focus the National requirements of equal opportunity to all its citizenry, without compromising on merit. Currently each IIT, by and large operates independently in matters connected with academics and management. It is best to allow them to govern themselves with funding from the Government with transparency in accounting and audit. The selection of Board members would be the responsibility of each IIT through a search committee comprising of, for example, outgoing chairman, two members of Board, three distinguished alumni, director, and two Professors.


Paradigm Shift in Engineering Education

There is considerable existing knowledge and experience, which needs to be adopted, adapted, and conditioned to evolve a newer model of education and learning for the younger 21st century generation. Technological scenario is changing rapidly and one sees its effect on the work place. Identity of individual engineering disciplines is gradually fading away resulting in convergence and multidisciplinary focus.

A new paradigm shift to the knowledge-centered education is needed that emphasizes systems engineering and holistic engineering to provide a student, high motivation and initiative to learn and acquire knowledge. It also empowers the individual at all three levels – intellectual, physical, and emotional. The overall education system has to be continuously progressive, reinventing itself with a focus on a flexible, adaptive, innovative, and sustainable quality education with emphasis on education for knowledge.

A paradigm shift in engineering education was brought about first by IIT Kanpur in 1962. A new engineering science based curriculum was implemented, along with strong sciences base, a set of Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS program offered for the first time in India as a significant part of the engineering curriculum), and Technical Arts (TA) courses, initiating a paradigm shift in engineering education.

The curriculum and approach in instruction at the IITs and several other institutions is engineering-science oriented with emphasis on critical thinking, as stated earlier and is shown in Figure 1.

apk Paradigm Shift sudesh wordpress blog280317

The 21st century generation now needs a new paradigm shift in engineering education given in Figure 2.  As you can see, the difference between the IITK model and the present one, i.e. Figure 1 and Figure 2, is primarily at the synthesis level and at the two ends, where a student has to conceive/ identify a problem, define it, go through the learning process (critical thinking process) and finally design a workable and affordable solution, either a process or a product. Let us put that into practice at the new/ existing institution in designing the engineering science-based curriculum with a design & innovation focus and project-based learning, while expecting the faculty to develop the details of the entire learning process with critical thinking focus.



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