“National Education Policy 2020 - A New Paradigm – Higher Education: Changes & Impact”


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Context :

Recently, the Union Cabinet has approved the new National Education Policy (NEP), 2020 with an aim to introduce several changes in the Indian education system - from the school to college level.

In News :

      •The NEP 2020 aims at making “India a global knowledge superpower”.
•The Cabinet has also approved the renaming of the Ministry of Human Resource Development to the Ministry of Education.
•The NEP cleared by the Cabinet is only the third major revamp of the framework of education in India since independence.
•The two earlier education policies were brought in 1968 and 1986.

Education In India

•Constitutional Provisions:
•Part IV of Indian Constitution, Article 45 and Article 39 (f) of Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP), has a provision for state-funded as well as equitable and accessible education.
The 42nd Amendment to the Constitution in 1976 moved education from the State to the Concurrent List.
The education policies by the Central government provides a broad direction and state governments are expected to follow it. But it is not mandatory, for instance Tamil Nadu does not follow the three-language formula prescribed by the first education policy in 1968.
The 86th Amendment in 2002 made education an enforceable right under Article 21-A.
•Related Laws:
•Right To Education (RTE) Act, 2009 aims to provide primary education to all children aged 6 to 14 years and enforces education as a Fundamental Right.
It also mandates 25% reservation for disadvantaged sections of the society where disadvantaged groups
•Government Initiatives:
•Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, Mid Day Meal Scheme, Navodaya Vidyalayas (NVS schools), Kendriya Vidyalayas (KV schools) and use of IT in education are a result of the NEP of 1986.

Key Highlights of NEP 2020 :

School Education :

Universalization of education from preschool to secondary level with 100% Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) in school education by 2030.
To bring 2 crore out of school children back into the mainstream through an open schooling system.
The current 10+2 system to be replaced by a new 5+3+3+4 curricular structure corresponding to ages 3-8, 8-11, 11-14, and 14-18 years respectively.
It will bring the uncovered age group of 3-6 years under school curriculum, which has been recognized globally as the crucial stage for development of mental faculties of a child.
It will also have 12 years of schooling with three years of Anganwadi/ pre schooling.
Class 10 and 12 board examinations to be made easier, to test core competencies rather than memorised facts, with all students allowed to take the exam twice.
School governance is set to change, with a new accreditation framework and an independent authority to regulate both public and private schools.
•Emphasis on Foundational Literacy and Numeracy, no rigid separation between academic streams, extracurricular, vocational streams in schools.

Vocational Education to start from Class 6 with Internships.
•Teaching up to at least Grade 5 to be in mother tongue/regional language. No language will be imposed on any student.
•Assessment reforms with 360 degree Holistic Progress Card, tracking Student Progress for achieving Learning Outcomes
Equitable and Inclusive Education
•Special emphasis will be given on Socially and Economically Disadvantaged Groups(SEDGs) which include gender, socio-cultural, and geographical identities and disabilities.  
•The policy also includes setting up of a Gender Inclusion Fund and also Special Education Zones for disadvantaged regions and groups. 
•Children with disabilities will be enabled to fully participate in the regular schooling process.
•Every state/district will be encouraged to establish “Bal Bhavans” as a special daytime boarding school, to participate in art-related, career-related, and play-related activities. 
•Free school infrastructure can be used as Samajik Chetna Kendras.
•Indian knowledge systems, including tribal and indigenous knowledge, will also be incorporated into the curriculum in an accurate and scientific manner.
Robust Teacher Recruitment and Career Path
•Teachers will be recruited through robust and transparent processes.
A new and comprehensive National Curriculum Framework for Teacher Education,NCFTE, 2021 will be formed by NCERT. Also, by 2030 the minimum degree qualification for teaching will be a 4- year integrated B.Ed degree.
•A common National Professional Standards for Teachers (NPST) will be developed by the National Council for Teacher Education by 2022, in consultation with NCERT, SCERTs, teachers and expert organizations from across levels and regions.
Standard-setting and Accreditation for School Education
•States/UTs will set up an independent State School Standards Authority (SSSA). 
Transparent public self-disclosure of all the basic regulatory information, as laid down by the SSSA, will be used extensively for public oversight and accountability. 
•The SCERT will develop a School Quality Assessment and Accreditation Framework (SQAAF) through consultations with all stakeholders.

Higher Education :

Gross Enrolment Ratio in higher education to be raised to 50% by 2035. Also, 3.5 crore seats to be added in higher education.
The current Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) in higher education is 26.3%.
Holistic Undergraduate education with a flexible curriculum can be of 3 or 4 years with multiple exit options and appropriate certification within this period.
M.Phil courses will be discontinued and all the courses at undergraduate, postgraduate and PhD level will now be interdisciplinary.
Academic Bank of Credits to be established to facilitate Transfer of Credits.
Multidisciplinary Education and Research Universities (MERUs), at par with IITs, IIMs, to be set up as models of best multidisciplinary education of global standards in the country.
The National Research Foundation will be created as an apex body for fostering a strong research culture and building research capacity across higher education.
Higher Education Commission of India (HECI) will be set up as a single umbrella body for the entire higher education, excluding medical and legal education. Public and private higher education institutions will be governed by the same set of norms for regulation, accreditation and academic standards. Also, HECI will be having four independent verticals namely,
National Higher Education Regulatory Council (NHERC) for regulation,
General Education Council (GEC) for standard setting,
Higher Education Grants Council (HEGC) for funding,
National Accreditation Council (NAC) for accreditation.
Affiliation of colleges is to be phased out in 15 years and a stage-wise mechanism to be established for granting graded autonomy to colleges.
Over a period of time, every college is expected to develop into either an autonomous degree-granting College, or a constituent college of a university.
Open and distance learning
•This will be expanded to play a significant role in increasing the gross enrollment ratio. 
•Measures such as online courses and digital repositories, funding for research, improved student services, etc will be taken.
Online and digital education
•A comprehensive set of recommendations for promoting online education consequent to the pandemic in order to ensure preparedness has been covered.
A dedicated unit for the purpose building of digital infrastructure, digital content and capacity building will be created in the MHRD to look after the e-education needs of both school and higher education.
•Students will begin classes on coding as well as vocational activities from Class 6 onwards.

Technology in Education
•An autonomous body, the National Educational  Technology Forum (NETF), will be created to provide a platform for free exchange of ideas on the use of technology.
Adult Education
•The policy aims to achieve 100% youth and adult literacy.
Financing education
•The central government and state governments will work together to increase the public investment in the education sector to reach 6% of GDP at the earliest.

Language issue

Provisions in the original draft: Language issues caused the most outrage at that time, because the original draft had called for mandatory teaching of Hindi to all school students.
Greater flexibility in the new policy:
•However, the final policy document makes it clear that no language will be imposed on any State.
•The three languages learned by children will be the choices of States, regions, and of also the students themselves, so long as at least two of the three languages are native to India.
Classical languages:
Sanskrit will be offered as an option at all levels of school and higher education.
•Other classical languages will also be available, possibly as online modules, while foreign languages will be offered at the secondary level.
Mother tongue
•Wherever possible, the medium of instruction until at least Grade 5, but preferably till Grade 8 and beyond, will be the home language/ mother-tongue/ local language/ regional language.
•According to the new policy, this will be followed by both public and private schools.

Significance of The National Education Policy, 2020  :

Coverage:  The policy seeks to address the entire gamut of education from preschool to doctoral studies, and from professional degrees to vocational training.
Acknowledges the 21st-century need:  It recognizes the need for mobility, flexibility, alternate pathways to learning, and self-actualization.
Recognizes the primacy of the formative years
•The 2020 policy attempts to break free from the shackles of the past. 
•By adopting a 5+3+3+4 model for school education starting at age 3, it recognizes the primacy of the formative years from ages 3 to 8 in shaping the child’s future.
•For the first time, early childhood education has been brought in the mainframe.
Recognizes the importance of learning in the mother tongue 
•The policy also recognizes the importance of learning in the child’s mother tongue till at least Class 5.
•Multilingual felicity could become the USP of the educated Indian.
New methodologies for attaining the GER target 
•The new policy envisages a 100% Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) in school education by 2030.
•NEP 2020 proposes a multi-disciplinary higher education framework with portable credits, and multiple exits with certificates, diplomas, and degrees.
•The role of our colleges in attaining the ambitious GER target is recognized by empowering them as autonomous degree-granting institutions, and phasing out the affiliated colleges.
•The policy also envisages to utilize the huge potential of online pedagogy and learning methodologies for attaining the GER target.
•NEP also lays particular emphasis on providing adequate support to ensure that no child is deprived of education, and every challenged child is provided the special support she needs.
A “light but tight” oversight
•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 favorable public perception will become a 24X7 pursuit for the institutions, leading to all-round improvement in their standard.
Higher Education Commission of India(HECI), a single body with four verticals for standards-setting, funding, accreditation, and regulation is proposed to provide “light but tight” oversight.
An ambitious target of public spending 
•All the targets in the field require enormous resources. The policy has also set an ambitious target of public spending at 6% of GDP.
Other benefits
•Provision of an energy-filled breakfast, in addition to the nutritious mid-day meal, to help children achieve better learning outcomes is a good step.
•The creation of ‘inclusion funds’ to help socially and educationally disadvantaged children pursue education.

Problems in the new policy :

•The problem with the new policy is that there is no clarity on how it is to be implemented and does not break-free from the pressures of the old education system.
•It is being said that the NEP is a poorly funded and highly regulated policy that has multiple regulatory bodies that will end up clashing with each other.
•In the last six years the education budget has actually reduced. Therefore, reaching the target of six percent seems difficult.
Needed more tangible and realizable targets
•There is a goal of a 50 percent gross enrolment ratio in higher education and 100 percent in secondary schools. However, it could be tough since it was currently 25.8% in high education & 68% in Class 9.
•The NEP should have offered more tangible and realizable targets for research
Total investment in research and innovation in India declined from 0.84% of GDP in 2008 to 0.6% in 2018. 
•There are currently only 15 researchers in India per 100,000 of the population, compared with 111 in China.
Burden on the existing school infrastructure
•The NEP 2020 had also left many unanswered questions on the upgrade of school infrastructure and shortage of qualified and trained teachers
•Placing the burden of pre-primary education on the overstretched, under-funded, and under-equipped anganwadis can be disastrous.
Centralizing tendencies
•It is being said that the policy is an attempt to lead to total privatization, commercialization, and over-centralization
•This may result in higher fees, attacks on the autonomy of universities, and no permanent jobs in teaching.
Not enough provisions for removing digital divide
•India’s digital divide that has been highlighted and deepened by the COVID-19 pandemic.
•Disparities between the rich and poor, urban and rural, show up strikingly in access to digital tools.
•The policy does not talk about how to improve government schools but encourages private ones.
•The new policy does not mention doing away with rote learning and moving to a continuous assessment model instead.
•The new policy is also completely silent on sports.

Way Forward :

Implementation of the new policy
Education is a concurrent list subject, also most states have their own school boards.
•Therefore, the state governments would have to be brought on board for the actual implementation of this decision.
•The idea of a National Higher Education Regulatory Council as an apex control organisation is bound to be resented by States. 
•Similarly, a national body for aptitude tests would have to convince the States of its merits.
•Progress on this crucially depends on the will to spend the promised 6% of GDP as public expenditure on education. 
•Among the many imperatives, the deadline to achieve universal literacy and numeracy by 2025 should be a top priority that will crucially determine progress at higher levels.

The National Education Policy 2020 provides the right ingredients and the recipe; what we make of it depends entirely on us. It needs to be realised that the real test of a policy is on the ground not just on paper.

Credit  : ASSOCHAM , TH , PIB , MoHRD

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