Education, women empowerment fueling drive toward new India

India, under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is focusing on two pillars that would emerge as the foundation of the national transformation en route to the realization of the New India Vision that envisions not only women development, but also women-led development built on an education policy set to fuel holistic development.

The realization that education and women are two pillars to be enjoined in the push for development has taken roots with regular policy decisions that are slowly but surely ensuring an empowered and educated India. “The progress of humanity is incomplete without the empowerment of women,” Modi has repeatedly espoused. And a women-led national transformation has been a defining feature under his government.

As India takes major strides to become a global economic power, the need for women’s participation in the nation’s growth story is becoming critical. Also in the changing world, where knowledge is becoming more and more vital, a wholesome change in education is set to shape the talent pool, and with it the future.

Education has always been the bedrock of every society and nation. And the Indian government is no exception in this belief, where they have adopted a new National Education Policy (NEP-2020) that was unveiled last year. The Indian Cabinet had cleared the new NEP proposing sweeping changes in school and higher education, reported the Indian Express newspaper, which stressed that a sound framework results in much more positive consequences for the nation at large.

Announced after 34 years since the previous one, the latest policy is aimed at revamping the education system and turning it into a much more future-oriented and job-focused initiative as well. In fact, the policy has successfully completed one year of its implementation under which numerous initiatives have been undertaken.

The NEP2020 is a visionary education policy of the 21st-century that was launched with the aim to bring out the capabilities of each student, universalize education, build capacities and transform the learning landscape. It has ultimate purpose to make education holistic, affordable, accessible and equitable.

A major step undertaken during this time period, in the middle of the raging pandemic, is the shift to online education. Granted priority because of serious lack of options as well as a conscious decision to invest heavily in digital media, the new educational policy has encouraged schools to explore methods that could stand as alternates to the conventional methods of teaching.

The PM e-Vidya program ensures that reading and writing through the online mode continuing with television and community radio options only supplementing the existing methods. In addition, the One Nation One Digital platform has ensured that e-content of study material items based on school curriculum has been made available in over 32 languages.

Also during the pandemic, examinations were held online and different mechanisms were implemented to cater to the changing realities as well. Multi-disciplinary entrance examinations were all held online to ensure no academic year was wasted because of the pandemic either, with a set of guidelines and regulations coming in from the University Grant Commission (UGC).

A portal created specifically for online learning was embedded with over 800 degree and diploma courses, with more than 54 lakhs students having registered for it as part of SWAYAM. Similarly, NISHTHA is one of its kind programs — world’s largest integrated teacher training program; it is geared towards improving school education.

Additionally, there is a renewed focus on numerous forums that have been created as part of larger national digital education architecture. This is aimed at creating open standards and spaces to facilitate innovation in the digital educational infrastructure category, with emphasis on unleashing the entrepreneurial spirits within young students as well.

The new National Education Policy has every ingredient that would transform the education sector with focus on a more egalitarian, inclusive and accessible education at all academic levels with a thrust on “experiential learning and critical thinking”.

With the seeds of one foundation already planted and the results of the education policy already bearing fruit with the emergence of a new generation of critical thinking and a skilled workforce to shape development, the government policies on empowering women, 50 percent of the Indian population, too is gaining ground.

Several steps, apart from education, have been taken over the last decade that has directly ameliorated the situation of women. The government has embarked on several measures to better the condition of women across different segments of society and was encouraged towards excellence in various fields and role models were duly celebrated.

On the social front, the India government has taken positive steps towards ensuring that the societal condition of women changes for the better. Taking a cue from the historic judgment of the Constitution Bench in the Shayara Bano case wherein the practice of triple talaq was deemed manifestly arbitrary, the government of India enacted a law abolishing the practice.

On the economic front too, things have improved for the better. Through amendments to an existing law, women have been allowed to work in night shifts in metropolitan cities, thereby increasing the scope of their opportunities. Further, to increase their access to financial capital, the Stand Up India scheme possesses a provision of enabling every bank branch to grant a loan of Rs.10 lakh to Rs.1 crore to women only.

With regard to small businesses, an overwhelming majority i.e. around 70% of beneficiaries of the MUDRA scheme have been women who have gained access to loans between Rs.50,000 to Rs.10 lakh. Also, PSUs have been mandatorily tasked to procure at least 3% of their required products from women-led or women- established MSMEs.

This has led to a clear spike in the presence of women in the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) sector wherein more than 32,000 women entrepreneurs registered on the government e-Marketplace (GeM) within few months of its announcement, and the number seems to be constantly rising.

More significant steps, however, have been taken in the arena of healthcare as well as access to opportunities in the armed forces. The opening up of Permanent Commission in all three wings of the armed forces for women will be remembered as a historic step towards ensuring gender parity in a segment dominated by males.

A nation is only as secure as the women of that country. To significantly improve the element of safety and security of women, the government of India has embarked on an ambitious project of creating a national database to identify perpetrators of crimes against women at the earliest possible instance. With schemes like the ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’, India is striving hard to save the lives of its girl children and protect & enrich them with all its resources.

This realization is dawning in a new India that only when society begins to treat its girls with pride, can the nation realize its full potential. Touching upon all aspects of life through various schemes and initiatives, it does seem like a positive beginning has been made in this long walk toward a better future.

With these policies in place India’s youth and women are set to fuel the nation’s developmental aspirations of a 21st-century’s Self-Reliant India and to make India a vibrant country, holding its own in the global community, in every facet of progress. — Agencies

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