National Education Policy 2020: Opportunities n the way forward

The National Education Policy 2020 is a welcome and ambitious re-imagination of India’s education system into a modern, progressive and equitable one. Successful execution of this policy calls for dramatic simplification of decision-making structures and re-prioritization of budgetary resources in months and years to come.

Given that there are around 350 million Indians today in school-going or college-going age groups, the NEP calls for large-scale implementation of a magnitude never before attempted anywhere in the world.

This presents substantial execution challenges, both quantitative and qualitative.

  1. Opening universities every week is a herculean task. India, today has around 1,000 universities across the country. Doubling the Gross Enrolment Ratio in higher education by 2035 which is one of the stated goals of the policy will mean that we must open one new university every week, for the next 15 years. Opening one University every week on an ongoing basis is an undoubtedly massive challenge the numbers are no less daunting in reforms to our school system. So monitoring will be a humongous task.
  2. The National Education Policy 2020 intends to bring 2 crore children who are currently not in school, back into the school system. Whichever way you look at it, accomplishing this over 15 years requires the setting up of around 50 schools every week.
  3. Funding is a big challenge in the Covid era From a funding standpoint, this is not a challenge for the faint-hearted. The National Education Policy 2020 envisages an increase in education spending from 4.6% to 6% of GDP, which amounts to around INR 2.5 lakh crores per year.
  4. The current focus on healthcare and economic recovery to lower the execution speed Economists have been calling for large stimulus packages amounting to double-digit percentages of GDP, despite the strain on the exchequer.
  5. Need to create a large pool of trained teachers. In school education, the policy envisages a sweeping structural re-design of the curriculum a very welcome step. But in order to deliver this curriculum effectively, we need teachers who are trained in and understand the pedagogical needs. Many of the curricular changes require substantial mindset shifts on the part of teachers, as well as parents.
  6. Inter-disciplinary higher education demands a cultural shift. In higher education, the National Education Policy 2020’s focus on inter-disciplinary learning is a very welcome step. Universities, especially in India, have for decades been very siloed and departmentalized. This culture of disciplinary mooring runs very deep among scholars and professors alike, with few exceptions.
  7. Single stream institutions are not allowed so either smaller institutions will be taken over by larger institutions or smaller institutions will be closed.
  8. Monitoring large numbers of Universities/institutions is a humongous task.
  9. Capacity utilization of institutions will be challenging.
  10. The next 5 years will be very critical and crucial for the education system

How to integrate it with the existing educational system:

  1. To integrate the new NEP successfully with the existing system, government involvement at all levels will be needed to create stakeholder incentives so that the implementation is smooth and uniform.
  2. Formulate instruments in the form of legal, policy, regulatory and institutional mechanisms.
  3. Build reliable information repositories.
  4. Develop adaptability across HEIs, regulatory bodies and government agencies.
  5. Need an estimated 7 million-plus teachers: By 2030, over 250 million students are expected to enrol in schools in India. With a teacher-student ratio of 1:35, India needs an estimated 7 million+ teachers to address this huge student population. Those teachers need to have graduated with an esteemed B.Ed. programme for a 12th pass, graduates and postgraduates for one, two and four-year respectively.

Way Forward:

  1. NEP 2020 must consider linking the RTE to the goal of universalization of education at the pre-primary, middle and secondary levels. Without this legal backing, NEP 2020’s target will remain unmet.
  2. It must devise a collaborative strategy with states over the three-language formula, as education is a concurrent subject.
  3. It must make specific, time-bound, measurable commitments linked with accountability about funding and expenditure concerning the grand vision.
  4. It has to keep children and parents at the centre of implementation plans and provide “choice” not just in letter but also in spirit.
  5. The policy must also incorporate the Common School System which will ensure equal opportunities for all.
  6. Currently a robust framework for Foundational Learning has been laid out but metrics of evaluation are missing in the document.
  7. It has to devise a parallel strategy, relying on non-tech interventions, by leveraging existing networks of school leaders, social enterprises and educators.

Opportunities for all the Key Stakeholders:

  1. State Government
    1. Better outcome monitoring and resource sharing as the policy will lead to the consolidation of the highly fragmented higher education system into clusters
    2. Improved budgetary efficiency.
  2. Higher Education Institutions (HEIs)
    1. Ease of starting and operating HEIs because of clear demarcation of roles and responsibilities among various higher education bodies.
    2. Increased academic and administrative autonomy of all HEIs to result in quality enhancement, thereby causing both monetary and non-monetary benefits.
    3. Opportunities for expansion and increasing enrolments in terms of ODL and online programmes and branch campuses in other countries.
    4. Enhanced opportunities for private HEIs to obtain research funding owing to the emphasis on merit-based and peer-reviewed funding processes
  3. Faculty
    1. Better service environment for faculty in terms of access to infrastructure across basic requirements
    2. Career advancement opportunities for faculty through operationalization of career-progression mechanisms, professional development opportunities and improved incentivisation structures
    3. Minimal career gap and continuous learning opportunity for trainers through the use of technology platforms such as SWAYAM and DIKSHA, system-wide mentoring missions with senior faculty to ensure continuous training opportunities while pursuing their careers
    4. Rationalisation of teaching duties and greater autonomy to faculty to design curricular and pedagogical approaches will lead to improved teaching outcomes
  4. Students
    1. More opportunities to enter the higher education system through enhanced scholarships
    2. Greater flexibility for students for course choices and pace of study
    3. Digitally stored credits to enable easy transfer, self-paced study and verification by third parties (such as employers) in the future
    4. Hands-on learning and practical exposure through short-term skill certificates, internships, research-based curriculum etc.
    5. Improved transparency by HEIs would lead to informed decision-making
    6. Reduced pressure on students through the introduction of one common entrance exam with the option to choose subjects for UG admission
    7. Global exposure for Indian students through exchange programmes and setting up of foreign university branch campuses in India
  5. Industry and Other Service Provider.
    1. Collaboration opportunity for industry players in blockchain, AI, and predictive analytics.
    2. System-wide ICT transformation leads to the potential for private sector participation in technology provision, infrastructure set-ups, and capability development for both academic and administrative aspects.
    3. Opportunity for Financial services players and financial technology players to collaborate with the National Scholarship Portal to support, foster and track the progress of students receiving scholarships.
    4. Opportunity for industry participation in research, co-delivering short-term skill certificates, and partnering in the creation of online universities.
    5. Opportunity for the private sector to be involved as experts in setting up and operationalizing the National Educational Technology Forum (NETF)

( Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the author Mr Gaurav Verma, Education and Skills Development Expert. The matter and intent of this article have not been edited by The EduPress shall not be responsible for any damage if caused to any person/ organization directly or indirectly. )