[Burning Issue] National Education Policy 2020

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Seeking to completely overhaul India’s education system, the Union Ministry of Education, formerly known as the Human Resource Development Ministry, introduced the National Education Policy 2020. The set of reforms encompasses a whole range of ideas and promises, from vocational education through schools to higher studies.

“Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.” – Malcolm X

Backgrounder: Education Policies in India

Education Policy lays particular emphasis on the development of the creative potential of each individual. It is based on the principle that education must develop not only cognitive capacities -both the ‘foundational capacities ‘of literacy and numeracy and ‘higher-order‘ cognitive capacities, such as critical thinking and problem-solving — but also social, ethical, and emotional capacities and dispositions.

The implementation of previous policies on education has focused largely on issues of access and equity. The unfinished agenda of the National Policy on Education 1986, modified in 1992 (NPE 1986/92), is appropriately dealt with in this Policy. A major development since the last Policy of 1986/92 has been the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act 2009 which laid down legal underpinnings for achieving universal elementary education.

Evolution of Education Policy in India

  1. University Education Commission (1948-49)
  2. Secondary Education Commission (1952-53)
  3. Education Commission (1964-66) under Dr D. S. Kothari
  4. National Policy on Education, 1968
  5. 42nd Constitutional Amendment, 1976- Education in Concurrent List
  6. National Policy on Education (NPE), 1986
  7. NPE 1986 Modified in 1992 (Programme of Action, 1992)
  8. S.R. Subrahmanyam Committee Report (May 27, 2016)
  9. K. Kasturirangan Committee Report (May 31, 2019)

Some of the major pathbreaking policies and their features:

Earlier major Educational Policies

(Year)

Key Features

1968

  • Based on the report and recommendations of the Kothari Commission (1964–1966)
  • India’s first National Policy which called for a “radical restructuring” and proposed equal educational opportunities
  • It gave the “three-language formula” to be implemented in secondary education

1986

  • Introduced under Rajiv Gandhi’s Prime Ministership, expected to spend 6% of GDP on education for the 1st time
  • It called for “special emphasis on the removal of disparities and to equalize educational opportunity”
  • It called for a “child-centered approach” in primary education, and launched “Operation Blackboard
  • Also called for the creation of the “rural university” model, based on the philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi

1992

 

  • 1986 Policy modified in 1992 by the P.V. Narasimha Rao government
  • It laid down a Three – Exam Scheme: JEE/AIEEE/State EEE (Engineering Entrance Exam)

 

 The National Education Policy, 2020

  • It marks the fourth major policy initiative in education since Independence.
  • The last one has undertaken a good 34 years ago and modified in 1992.
  • Based on two committee reports and extensive nationwide consultations, NEP 2020 is sweeping in its vision and seeks to address the entire gamut of education from preschool to doctoral studies, and from professional degrees to vocational training.

Features of the 2020 policy:

1) Languages

  • A perfect mix: The policy raises the importance of mother tongue and regional languages; medium of instruction until class 5 and preferably beyond should be in these languages. Sanskrit and foreign languages will also be given emphasis.
  • No compulsion: The policy also states that no language will be imposed on the students.
  • More to clarify: The government clarified that the language policy in NEP is a broad guideline; and that it is up to the states, institutions and schools to decide the implementation.

2) School education

  • New structure of schooling: The “10 + 2” structure will be replaced with “5+3+3+4”.
  • Reforms in the exam: Instead of exams being held every academic year, school students will only answer three exams, in classes 3, 5 and 8.
  • Novel assessment by PARAKH: Board exams will be continued to be held for classes 10 and 12 but will be re-designed. Standards for this will be established by an assessment body PARAKH.
  • Report cards will be “holistic”, offering information about the student’s skills.
  • Inter-disciplinary approach: This policy aims at reducing the curriculum load of students and allowing them to be more “inter-disciplinary” and “multi-lingual”.
  • One example given was “If a student wants to pursue fashion studies with physics, or if one wants to learn bakery with chemistry, they’ll be allowed to do so.”
  • Software coding: Coding will be introduced from class 6 and experiential learning will be adopted.
  • The Midday Meal Scheme will be extended to include breakfasts. More focus will be given to students’ health, particularly mental health, through the deployment of counsellors and social workers.

3) Higher education

  • Revamped UG/PG courses: It proposes a multi-disciplinary bachelors degree in an undergraduate programme with multiple exit options.
  • MPhil (Masters of Philosophy) courses are to be discontinued to align degree education with how it is in Western models.
  • Increasing GER: A Higher Education Council of India (HECI) will be set up to regulate higher education. The Council’s goal will be to increase the gross enrollment ratio.
  • The HECI will have three verticals: National Higher Education Regulatory Council (NHERC), to regulate higher education, including teacher education, while excluding medical and legal education; the National Accreditation Council (NAC), a “meta-accrediting body”; and the Higher Education Grants Council (HEGC), for funding and financing of universities and colleges.
  • This will replace the existing National Council for Teacher Education, All India Council for Technical Education and the University Grants Commission.
  • The National Testing Agency will now be given the additional responsibility of conducting entrance examinations for admissions to universities across the country, in addition to the JEE Main and NEET.
  • The policy proposes to internationalize education in India. Foreign universities can now set up campuses in India.

3) Teacher education

  • The NEP 2020 puts forward many policy changes when it comes to teachers and teacher education.
  • To become a teacher, a 4 year Bachelor of Education will be the minimum requirement needed by 2030.
  • The teacher recruitment process will also be strengthened and made transparent.
  • The National Council for Teacher Education will frame a National Curriculum Framework for Teacher Education by 2021 and a National Professional Standards for Teachers by 2022.

4) Other changes

Under NEP 2020, numerous new educational institutes, bodies and concepts have been given legislative permission to be formed. This includes:

  • National Education Commission, headed by the PM of India
  • Academic Bank of Credit, a digital storage of credits earned to help resume education by utilising credits for further education
  • National Research Foundation, to improve research and innovation
  • Special Education Zones, to focus on the education of underrepresented group in disadvantaged regions
  • Gender Inclusion Fund, for assisting the nation in the education of female and transgender children
  • National Educational Technology Forum, a platform to facilitate the exchange of ideas on the technology used to improve learning

The policy proposes new language institutions such as the Indian Institute of Translation and Interpretation and the National Institute/ Institutes for Pali, Persian and Prakrit. Other bodies proposed include the National Mission for Mentoring, National Book Promotion Policy, National Mission on Foundational Literacy and Numeracy.

Regulatory cholesterol is the bane of governance in India, with poor outcomes to boot.

An analysis: Hits and misses of the Policy

NEP 2020 is an amalgamation of need-based policy, cutting-edge research and best practices, paving the way for New India.

1) Targets ‘Antyodaya’

With an extensive focus on universalizing access from early childhood to higher education, integrating over two crore out-of-school children, and concerted efforts directed at socio-economically disadvantaged groups, the policy ensures last-mile delivery, embodying “Antyodaya”.

2) A revamped curriculum

  • Through a convergence of efforts and erasing traditional silos in workflows, early childhood care and education will be delivered through a new curriculum as well as a play- and activity-based pedagogy.
  • Along with a dedicated national mission for foundational literacy and numeracy, NEP 2020 will be significant for bolstering the most critical phases of learning, building a strong foundation for education.

3) Departure from the ‘old’ school

  • NEP marks a departure from archaic practices and pedagogy.
  • Revamped curriculum, adult education, lifelong learning and the vision to ensure that half our learners have exposure to at least one vocational skill in the next five years is characteristic of the shift from rote to applied learning.
  • Through a skill gap analysis, practice-based curriculum and internships with local vocational experts, NEP 2020’s “Lok Vidya”, echoes the PM’s clarion call of being “Vocal for Local”.

4) An evidence-based policy

  • With the NITI Aayog’s mandate to facilitate evidence-based policy, there is a strong belief in the fact that what can’t be measured can’t be improved.
  • Till date, India lacks a comprehensive system for regular, credible and comparable assessments of learning outcomes.
  • The MoHRD undertook a rigorous consultation process in formulating the draft policy – “Over two lakh suggestions from 2.5 lakh gram panchayats, 6,600 blocks, 6,000 Urban Local Bodies (ULBs), 676 districts were received.

5) Focus on Teacher’s skilling

  • Teacher education is reimagined with a comprehensive curricular framework, multidisciplinary programmes and stringent action against substandard institutions.
  • Driven by SEQI’s vision for teacher adequacy and transparent systems for merit-based selection and deployment, online systems for teacher transfers and planning will ensure that the right teachers are in the right institutes.

6) Academic credit bank

  • The creation of an academic credit bank, the impetus to research, graded autonomy, internationalization and the development of special economic zones are vital to rebranding India as the higher education destination.
  • Further, multilingual education and efforts to enhance the knowledge of India could restore the country’s educational heritage from the glory days of Takshashila and Nalanda — creating a system that’s modern yet rooted.

7) Departure from over-regulation

  • NEP 2020 makes a bold prescription to free our schools, colleges and universities from periodic “inspections” and place them on the path of self-assessment and voluntary declaration.
  • Transparency, maintaining quality standards and a favourable public perception will become a 24X7 pursuit for the institutions, leading to all-round improvement in their standard.
  • A single, lean body with four verticals for standards-setting, funding, accreditation and regulation is proposed to provide “light but tight” oversight.

8) Getting a job-ready generation

  • With the new policy coming in picture, the school and college education will not only be seen as a facilitator of degree but it will be treated as a medium to build personality and it’ll help the students in their holistic professional growth.
  • The flexibility and autonomy now presented to the future workforce will enable them to explore a variety of options and build more relevant and in-demand skills rather than following traditional career paths.

9) Sweeping in vision

  • Based on two committee reports and extensive nationwide consultations, NEP 2020 is sweeping in its vision.
  • It seeks to address the entire gamut of education from preschool to doctoral studies, and from professional degrees to vocational training.
  • It acknowledges the 21st century need for mobility, flexibility, alternate pathways to learning, and self-actualization.

Issues with the policy

The new policy has tried to please all, and the layers are clearly visible in the document. It says all the right things and tries to cover all bases, often slipping off keel.

1) Lack of integration

  • In both the thinking, and in the document, there are lags, such as the integration of technology and pedagogy.
  • There are big gaps such as lifelong learning, which should have been a key element of upgrading to emerging sciences.

2) Language barrier

  • There is much in the document ripe for debate – such as language. The NEP seeks to enable home language learning up to class five, in order to improve learning outcomes.
  • Sure, early comprehension of concepts is better in the home language and is critical for future progress. If the foundations are not sound, learning suffers, even with the best of teaching and infrastructure.
  • But it is also true that a core goal of education is social and economic mobility, and the language of mobility in India is English.

3) Multilingualism debate

  • Home language succeeds in places where the ecosystem extends all the way through higher education and into employment. Without such an ecosystem in place, this may not be good enough.
  • The NEP speaks of multilingualism and that must be emphasised. Most classes in India are de facto bilingual.
  • Some states are blissfully considering this policy as a futile attempt to impose Hindi.

4) Lack of funds

  • According to Economic Survey 2019-2020, the public spending (by the Centre and the State) on education was 3.1% of the GDP.
  • A shift in the cost structure of education is inevitable.
  • While funding at 6% of GDP remains doubtful, it is possible that parts of the transformation are achievable at a lower cost for greater scale.

5) A move in haste

  • The country is grappled with months of COVID-induced lockdowns.
  • The policy had to have parliamentary discussions; it should have undergone a decent parliamentary debate and deliberations considering diverse opinions.

6) Overambitious

  • All aforesaid policy moves require enormous resources. An ambitious target of public spending at 6% of GDP has been set.
  • This is certainly a tall order, given the current tax-to-GDP ratio and competing claims on the national exchequer of healthcare, national security and other key sectors.
  • The exchequer itself is choked meeting the current expenditure.

7) Pedagogical limitations

  • The document talks about flexibility, choice, experimentation. In higher education, the document recognizes that there is a diversity of pedagogical needs.
  • If it is a mandated option within single institutions, this will be a disaster, since structuring a curriculum for a classroom that has both one-year diploma students and four-year degree students’ takes away from the identity of the institution.

8) Institutional limitations

  • A healthy education system will comprise of a diversity of institutions, not a forced multi-disciplinarily one.
  • Students should have a choice for different kinds of institutions.
  • The policy risks creating a new kind of institutional isomorphism mandated from the Centre.

9) Issues with examinations

  • Exams are neurotic experiences because of competition; the consequences of a slight slip in performance are huge in terms of opportunities.
  • So the answer to the exam conundrum lies in the structure of opportunity. India is far from that condition.
  • This will require a less unequal society both in terms of access to quality institutions, and income differentials consequent upon access to those institutions.

 Making it happen: Way Forward

This ambitious policy has a cost to be paid and the rest of the things dwells on its implementation in letter and spirit.

Public investment is considered extremely critical for achieving the high-quality and equitable public education system as envisaged by the policy, that is truly needed for India’s future economic, social, cultural, intellectual and technological progress and growth.

  • Implementation of the spirit and intent of the Policy is the most critical matter.
  • It is important to implement the policy initiatives in a phased manner, as each policy point has several steps, each of which requires the previous step to be implemented successfully.
  • Prioritization will be important in ensuring optimal sequencing of policy points, and that the most critical and urgent actions are taken up first, thereby enabling a strong base.
  • Next, comprehensiveness in implementation will be key; as this Policy is interconnected and holistic, only a full-fledged implementation, and not a piecemeal one, will ensure that the desired objectives are achieved.
  • Since education is a concurrent subject, it will need careful planning, joint monitoring, and collaborative implementation between the Centre and States.
  • Timely infusion of requisite resources – human, infrastructural, and financial – at the Central and State levels will be crucial for the satisfactory execution of the Policy.
  • Finally, careful analysis and review of the linkages between multiple parallel implementation steps will be necessary in order to ensure effective dovetailing of all initiatives.

Conclusion

India’s political economy has simply not made quality education a top priority. What has changed in the last couple of decades is the explosion of aspiration and demand for education. But that demand has yet to be channelized into institutional change.

Its’ too early to judge

  • This policy is an ambitious and complex document and it has been adopted during a pandemic and a lockdown, which renders discussion and debate difficult.
  • It lays down a roadmap for the next two decades. But, there are many reasons why this policy needs close scrutiny, a full debate, for what it says and what it doesn’t.
  • For instance, what are its implications for the majority of those covered under the acronym SEDGs (Socially and Economically Disadvantaged Groups) in the text?
  • This is particularly crucial as the document visualizes increased “benign” privatization of education, attempting to distinguish this from commercialization.
  • In a situation of growing privatization and the near-collapse of public institutions of higher education, how these policies will be implemented is a matter of concern.

There is no getting away from the need for a highway and device access for all, to enable the future of learning. The NEP is but one step towards freedom in education. So much, including the concepts of synchronous learning, of batch-processing and of provision as patronage is gone and we must embrace the change.

 


References

https://www.civilsdaily.com/news/pib-highlights-of-the-national-education-policy-nep-2020/

https://thediplomat.com/2020/07/indias-new-education-policy-streams-merge-into-a-river/

https://www.bloombergquint.com/opinion/national-education-policy-the-hits-and-misses

https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/national-education-policy-niti-aayog-6536524/

https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/an-education-policy-that-is-sweeping-in-its-vision/article32233396.ece

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