NEP-2020 provides for creating a lifelong learning knowledge society based on the premise of equal and wider learning opportunities to all. Prevailing formal education systems are restrictive in respect of learning opportunities hence cannot meet the 21st Century learners needs. Non-formal education system is yet to receive sufficient social and government recognition. It is perhaps in this context that NEP-2020 stipulates for Academic Bank of Credits (ABC) for digitally storing the academic credits earned from recognized institutions to enable an institution to award a degree to students upon earning and accumulating credits required for completion of the program concerned. It is noteworthy to mention that credit earning from other institutions was already in practise, albeit rudimentary form, in the ancient learning institutions in India wherein students used to learn additional modules from the Gurus of other Gurukuls in addition to the Gurukul they were enrolled in.
ABC may ensure seamless movement of students between different education systems for pursuing courses of their choices and credit accumulation as required. The credits thus accumulated may be utilized by the students in order to fulfil the partial requirement of degree of the concerned programs. As such, ABC may facilitate seamless integration of the campuses and distributed learning systems by creating opportunities for students mobility within inter and intra university systems. For smooth operation, ABC may be linked to the National Academic Depository.
ABC will function like a commercial bank where students can hold accounts. Having an account with ABC is however optional. The bank will facilitate accumulation, transfer and redemption of credits of the account holders through opening, validation and closure of accounts and it will also carry out verification of credits required for authentication of degrees/diploma/certificates. Provision of credit transfer, however, may be restricted to institutions of equal grades or from higher to lower grades and not the vice-versa. Credit recognition procedure shall be laid down for enabling recognition of the credits earned by the students. The credits earned by the students may be verified by the bank educational transcript. The transcript will depict specific grades secured by the students and also the level of learning outcomes they have accomplished in a particular learning module of the course as well as for the overall course/program.These transcripts shall be recognised by all the institutions opting for membership in ABC.
The ABCmayalso allow non-science students, say arts and commerce stream students, to take up courses in the science stream after pursuing a bridge course. The ABC will offer Multiple-Entry-Multiple-Exit options to the needy students and will also ensure that learning space is available to them for anytime, anywhere, and any level of learning. ABC may also help integrate skills into a credit-based system by providing wide-ranging options for choosing courses from several institutions. Through this initiative of the Ministry of Education, students can plan for their learning objectives and can pursue courses to satisfy their learning needs.
The Main objectives of ABC thus are to promote a student centric higher education system rooted in Indian culture and to enable them to opt for courses and institutions. Say for example, a student can be enrolled for a program in one institution (which becomes a parent institution) and at the same time can enrol for the courses of her/his choice in multiple institutions simultaneously for earning credits in online mode. However, the ratio of credits to be necessarily earned from the parent institution and allowed to be earned from other institutions is to be appropriately decided by the participating institutions.Similarly, the validity period for credit redemption from the accounts is to be appropriately chosen. Thus ABC permits students to choose pace of learning depending on their capacity, and Multiple-Entry-Multiple-Exit options for students to complete their degrees keeping in view preferred and informed choices.This will also enhance integration of institutions seamlessly for carrying out academic activities and facilitate lifelong learning needs.
Added advantage of this initiative perhaps is that the learners have the options to either learn formally or informally in full-time or part-time modes or both. As a consequence, ABC will promote much sought after quality, flexibility and collaboration alongside access and equity to improve the efficacy of the nation’s higher education system and to make it current and relevant.
This will also enable students to develop global competencies and life skills.
Thus,the implementation of the Academic Bank of Creditswill revolutionise the higher education system of the nation. Now, it is the prime responsibility of the Higher Education Institutions to help actualize the ABC to the ground reality in order to ensure that the intended benefits reach the learners. The responsibility of implementing ABC, in my opinion, can be entrusted to the General Education Council - the fourth vertical under Higher Education Commission of India. ABC will go a long way in providing optimum opportunities to the learners in all aspects of learning and will thereby democratize higher education in the country.
(The writer is Vice-Chancellor, Central University of Punjab, Bathinda, and Incharge Academic Cell, Bhartiya Shikshan Mandal. Views are personal.)