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NEP 2020: What it means for Architecture and Design Students

mausam jamwal

Writer at Oneistox

August 24

05 mins read

The National Education Policy 2020 presents itself as the torchbearer of post-industrialist India and has been long in the making (quite literally, as it’s been 28 years since the last reform). With the amount of hype surrounding it, it may be difficult for key stakeholders, especially students to understand what it really means for their education. To aid that, we spoke to a few experts in the industry to put together a bite-sized list of what we ought to know about the policy as aspiring students of design and architecture. Here’s presenting the headliners of the NEP 2020:

1. Curate-your-own-Schooling

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What it says: NEP 2020 boasts of no hard separations between streams in secondary education and promises to bring in a wide array of academic and vocational study options. It implies that students will have greater control over their schooling and will eventually be able to assemble a niche set of subjects ideally suited to their future careers.

What it means: As of now, this reform will allow students to choose between subjects of their interest which have traditionally belonged to disparate streams. Realistically, however, most schools will not be able to offer an expanded panel of subjects anytime soon. Srishti Bhatia, a specialist in the field of Education Policy and Administration, feels that we have a long road ahead on making teaching expertise available nationwide before offering a wide variety of academic and vocational subjects. For example, a B.Arch aspirant who requires Physics and Mathematics but is not interested in Chemistry could now pick up History or Sculpture, but with the following major clause: subject to availability. While the increased flexibility is a massive step forward for design education in India, no key combination of subjects can make you a better architect or designer, as all studies have a viewpoint to bring to the multi-faceted nature of Design. It all depends on what interests you!

The Life-long Learner

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What it says: NEP 2020 places enormous emphasis on ‘learning how to learn’. It addresses rote-learning by reducing curricular content and pushing students towards thinking critically.

What it means: Hallelujah to the age of design-thinking! If schools across the country emphasize critical application instead of rote-learning, we could create fellow Indians who value learning throughout their lives and could mould themselves into various careers, if required. Within design education, students may find themselves better equipped to understand the complex nature of Design. Currently, design faculty (the good ones, anyway) spend valuable time and effort trying to de-program students from their input/output schooling and introduce them to critical thinking. This measure may shorten that time and potentially even reduce course-lengths by incorporating design-thinking from an early age.

3. The ‘University’: A Multi-disciplinarian Dream

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What it says: The policy aims to integrate colleges into larger universities that teach many varied courses under one roof. Single-stream institutions will fade out and within 20 years, all institutes will become multidisciplinary.

What it means: Many renowned institutions offering design education in India operate as single-stream colleges, and this measure could have a significant impact on them. The policy aims to create hubs of knowledge-sharing and innovation, as students would have the opportunity to be exposed to a wide array of studies (the American-dream style) instead of being limited to their stream. However, such universities are usually quite expensive to attend and could potentially restrict access to the economically privileged. According to Bhatia, the policy does not clarify how it plans to integrate colleges (for example, the Schools of Planning and Architecture) into university umbrellas.

4. Credit Banks and Multiple Entrance/Exits

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What it says: Choice-based credit systems allow more freedom to students to curate their higher education as per their interest. Additionally, these credits will be monitored by a ‘credit bank’ which would allow students to exit or re-enter the program as per their discretion.

What it means: Credit systems would standardise Indian education at the global level, which could ease the hassle of applying abroad by magnitudes. Council of Architecture (CoA) has already announced their interpretation of this measure in the Minimum Standards of Architecture Education Regulations, 2020. Per the new NEP, they will be providing a 3-year exit option to B.Arch students and increased flexibility in taking up subjects. A much-needed reform, this would allow designers to study more of their topics of interest, provided that a system of checks and balances ensures their overall development. A student with an interest in Building Technology could gain deeper knowledge in it by choosing to study related modules, and another with financial responsibilities could pace their learning as per their part-time jobs. In this respect, Multiple entrances and exits are essential in reducing the opportunity cost of being out of the workforce for 4 to 5 years.

5. Rise of the Researchers

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What it says: The NEP 2020 emphasizes the importance of conducting intense peer-reviewed research in higher education institutions and improving the country’s global standing in academic discourse.

What it means: To all the architecture and design students, get ready to put on your reading glasses! Design education in India traditionally pays little attention to academic research, preferring to disseminate knowledge through studio exercises. The new policy will see the creation of more room for serious research within design curricula.

Education has long been a political playground in India, and many experts doubt the workability of the NEP 2020. However, the policy may help break barriers and stigma around design as a profession and create balanced future Indians by bridging the gap between literacy and true education. Here’s hoping that we have it in us to collectively bring this vision to reality.

Till then, fill in your knowledge gaps by exploring architecture workshops in India at Oneistox!

mausam jamwal

architect
Mausam graduated as an Architect from SPA Delhi in 2019. A bookworm army kid who took an interest in writing, she advocates environmental and social activism through architecture, and strongly believes in the congruence of words and design to inspire thought and revolution.

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