New Education Policy 2019 - Welcome Move, But Entrepreneurship Education needs a Major Boost

Nitin Potdar, Partner & Lead - Education Sector, J. Sagar AssociateThe policy’s emphasis on entrepreneurship is highly commendable, but it calls for a robust import of Entrepreneurship Education right from primary school for radical transformation of job seekers into job creators.

There’s no denying the fact that the Indian education system, though one of the more credible among developing nations, leaves a lot to be desired. Consequently, academic institutions across all levels have been long grappling with diverse challenges like high student dropout, paucity of qualified teachers, outdated and lopsided curricula and a rather lackadaisical, perfunctory approach to education.

The analytical focus of this thought piece is on the policy’s stress on the entrepreneurship aspect, which called for powerful intent, ahead of a mere clarion call.

At the outset, it would be pertinent to note the key recommendations in the context of entrepreneurship:

To its credit, the proposed policy has underlined several critical aspects in the context of entrepreneurship growth: integration of vocational education into mainstream education, role of entrepreneurship professionals in the teaching area, international collaborations to promote entrepreneurship, inculcation of entrepreneurship skills and training in various fields of professional education, and integration of technology in education and entrepreneurship.

Chapter 5 (Teachers) of Part I underlines the need for highly qualified and professionally trained teachers, rightly emphasising the need for promoting local knowledge and expertise, by hiring local experts and specialised instructors in various subjects including entrepreneurship.

Chapter 14 (National Research Foundation) of the Part II proposes establishment of a National Research Foundation (NRF), expected to build research capacities across colleges and universities through international collaborations. Special efforts and schemes have been recommended for leveraging the Indian diaspora, rightly considered an “asset with regard to the research, innovation and entrepreneurship in the country.”

Chapter 16 (Professional Education) of Part II aims at building a holistic approach to professional capacities and skills. This would help postgraduates acquire knowledge, skills, self-confidence and entrepreneurship training.

Chapter 19 (Technology in Education) of Part III aims at integrating technology into all levels of education. It stresses upon the need to encourage entrepreneurship in the field of technology as well, stressing the need for further encouragement for faculty and students to engage in entrepreneurship.

Chapter 20 (Vocational Education) of Part III calls for enhancement of vocational education and its integration into mainstream education. Notably, this chapter specifies that

- Academic institutions must integrate vocational programmes in mainstream education in collaboration with ITIs, polytechnics, local businesses, and more to provide students with practical skills training with associated theoretical knowledge.

These programmes must include important courses in life skills such as entrepreneurship, digital and financial literacy, communication skills, and more.
- Schools are required to ensure that students complete their education till grade 12. This is with a view to ensure that they receive supplementary broad based general education along with courses in entrepreneurship, soft skills, digital and financial literacy, and more.

- Short term certificate courses in life skills such as entrepreneurship and soft skills can be introduced for students in mainstream education, to make them more confident and employable.

There’s no denying the fact that the Indian education system, though one of the more credible among developing nations, leaves a lot to be desired

- Universities and colleges are encouraged to set up incubation centres and centres of excellence to nurture the ideas of students and develop an entrepreneurial culture among them.

- Vocational education must be extended to adults and the youth to provide them access to tertiary education irrespective of prior educational experience.

- For extending vocational education and training to the unorganised sector, the Higher Education Institutions (HEI) must be incentivised to explore appropriate models and infrastructure for adult education and online education.

The proposed policy has done well to underline the need for development and promotion of entrepreneurial skills, and entrepreneurship in general. However, it seems devoid of breakthrough ideas and a concrete action plan for developing Entrepreneurship in India. In expecting to usher in multiple paradigm shifts - revamp of the curricular and pedagogical structure of school education, transformation of the institutional architecture of higher education, promoting high-quality liberal and vocational education and the like - it should have been more robust and prescriptive in nature with specific pointers to make it more decidedly actionable and implementation-driven.

Ideally, Entrepreneurship Education should have been included in NEP 2019 under a consolidated chapter and clearly outlined the following:

- A milestone-driven time-frame for introducing a basic to advanced Entrepreneurship Course in Schools and Colleges like any basic language,

- Enactment of a regulatory framework, making the Government and academic Institutions accountable towards fostering the incubation of radical ideas and entrepreneurial innovation,

- Creation of a National Fund to be used as seed capital for the benefit of up-and-coming student entrepreneurs with a separate regulatory regime for starting business,

- Directing corporates across sectors thr introduce commensurate internship programs from students starting from school level itself to build a talent pool of budding entrepreneurs.

- Creating a National Pool of Educational NGOs/ Professionals/ Innovators/ Entrepreneurs and encourage them to be part of the mission to come forward and share their knowledge and experience with the next generation.

The need for developing a potent entrepreneurship education curriculum in academia has always suffered from a flawed understanding of the essence of entrepreneurship, which is about a mindset, not a formulaic term. In this context, the words of Daymond John, the celebrated US investor, businessman, author and motivational speaker, come to mind. He eloquently sums up the spirit of entrepreneurship in his highly acclaimed book ‘The Power of Broke’: “Entrepreneurship is the ultimate equalizer. It’s mainly about whether you’re hungry enough to wake up before everyone else and go to sleep after everyone does.”

John’s words ring truer especially as we get ready to lock horns with the challenges of the Industry 4.0 era, waiting to unfold on the cusp of diverse technological breakthroughs including advanced analytics, robotics and automation, business process digitization and IoT-led connectivity, that would necessarily make businesses more agile, more customer centric and more disruptive in innovation.
A massive upskilling and reorientation of human resource talent and temperament across different sectors and spheres will become critical even as all kinds of workspaces – from manufacturing shop floors to service cubicles, turn skill-intensive across levels and hierarchies. New-age workers and managers must be discernibly aspirational, resilient and solution-centric, keen to lead from the front in creating opportunities rather than scouting for them. For a young country like India, a potent and purposeful education policy focussed on Entrepreneurship Education right from primary school will only pave the way for this radical transformation.