The National Education Policy (NEP) 2020, released by the Government of India in July 2020, the third NEP in the history of independent India, by the current government headed by Prime Minister Sri Narendra Modi, is a comprehensive framework that outlines the vision and roadmap for the transformation of the education system in India.
The first NEP was promulgated by the Government of India under Late Prime Minister Mrs. Indira Gandhi in 1968, the second by Late Prime Minister Sri Rajiv Gandhi in 1986.
The NEP 1986, the last time it was envisaged, 36 years ago, was when the late prime minister shri Rajiv Gandhi ushered in the era of computerization and telecommunication revolution in the nation. The first wave of purposeful program was undertaken to transform the nation using the confluence of these two technologies. I have been a beneficiary of that wave, as a generation of highly informed and educated computer literates emerged and that enabled the nation to take off in the IT and IT-enabled services sectors, today contributing almost two-thirds of nation’s GDP.
The NEP 2020 aims to make India a global knowledge superpower by providing quality education to all its citizens and developing the country’s human capital. The world has transformed in these last 36 years, from basic desk-top and mainframe number crunching, pre-internet days in 1986 to, in-palm smart phones with apps, driven by AI and Machine learning crunching big data in the fast inter-connected world.
With COVID hitting the humanity in 2020, the whole world had no choice but to jump on to the technology bandwagons to keep the world going, and that includes the transformation of the education and learning arena. What COVID did, especially, to the education spaces – classrooms in schools and universities – the best of the faculty taking sessions remotely with engaging interactions using myriad digital resources of learning – no other intervention could bring such transformation, even though all the technologies used during COVID have been present in the marketplace for over two decades.
So, it is time to look at education in the new light, and hope NEP 2020 as it is envisaged and implemented has a few answers to the challenges the world of learning is facing…
Salient Features of NEP 2020:
1. Holistic and Integrated Education: The NEP 2020 envisions a holistic and integrated approach to education, which will focus on the overall development of the students. The policy emphasizes the importance of early childhood education and aims to provide a strong foundation for children through play-based and activity-based learning. It also proposes a flexible curriculum that allows students to choose their subjects of interest as they progress to higher classes in the school.
2. Universalization of Education: The policy aims to provide universal access to education from pre-school to higher education for all students irrespective of their socio-economic background. It aims to achieve 100% Gross Enrollment Ratio (GER) by 2030 and increase the public investment in education to 6% of GDP.
3. Emphasis on Skill Development: The NEP 2020 lays emphasis on the development of 21st-century skills such as critical thinking, problem-solving, creativity, and digital literacy. It also proposes the integration of vocational education in the school curriculum to promote skill development and employability.
4. Technology-Enabled Learning: The policy proposes the use of technology for teaching and learning, including the development of digital infrastructure and the use of online platforms for delivering education. It also proposes the creation of a National Educational Technology Forum (NETF) to facilitate the use of technology in education.
5. Multilingualism: The policy recognizes the importance of multilingualism and proposes the use of mother tongue or regional language as the medium of instruction in schools up to class 5. It also aims to promote the learning of at least two languages other than the mother tongue.
I have experienced the advantages of such a system, as both of our children studied in a school, Sardar Patel Vidyalaya, where till class 5, all subjects except English, are taught in Hindi Medium only. It does create a strong grounding for children in their mother tongue. Every child emerges stronger in multiple languages, including in English, as at homes reading gains importance and exposure to varied interests enable children to blossom. Of course, educated parents can add a lot of value. The question is how many homes have educated elders.
6. Flexibility and Choice: The NEP 2020 proposes a flexible and student-centric approach to education, which will allow students to choose their courses and subjects of interest. But this certainly demands a certain amount of knowledge, maturity, and facilitation from parents. The NEP also proposes the creation of a National Academic Credit Bank (NACB) to facilitate the transfer of credits between institutions. For such a thing to happen, the institutions have to evolve and be more open to accept their flaws and lacunae, to allow students to opt for courses from programs from other institutions.
7. Teacher Development: The policy emphasizes the importance of teacher development and proposes the creation of a National Mission for Mentoring Program (NMM) to provide continuous professional development for teachers. It also proposes the creation of a National Curriculum Framework for Teacher Education (NCFTE) to standardize teacher education across the country. This is a herculean task and will demand change of mindset towards continuous, lifelong learning – both from the teachers towards learning, as well as government to introduce such possible learning spaces and channels.
8. Higher Education Reforms: The NEP 2020 proposes a range of reforms in higher education, including the creation of a single higher education regulator called the Higher Education Commission of India (HECI). It also proposes the integration of vocational education into high school education as well as higher education and the establishment of multidisciplinary universities. This integration of vocational education is very critical, as has been experienced in countries like Germany, where explosion of industrialization happened with over 95% of those who got educated actually chose to undergo vocational education as they progressed beyond schooling.
9. Research and Innovation: The policy recognizes the importance of research and innovation in the development of the country and proposes the creation of a National Research Foundation (NRF) to fund and promote research in all areas of knowledge. Instilling of spirit of research in every child as he or she progresses into higher education becomes very critical for the nations to solve challenges that it will face. The nation needs problem solvers.
IMPLEMENTATION and EXECUTION
The aim of the National Education Policy (NEP) is to transform the country’s education system to meet the challenges of the 21st century and provide access to quality education to all. As they say, the taste of the pudding is in eating. The successful implementation of the policy requires the involvement of all stakeholders – the governments (Centre and states, in most cases are at loggerheads), educators, change-makers, thinkers, parents, and students. In this section, we will discuss the various ways of implementing the National Education Policy 2020 successfully.
1. Implementation of the policy in a phased manner:
The NEP 2020 recommends that the policy be implemented in a phased manner over the next 10 years. The policy provides a roadmap for the implementation of various recommendations, and the phased approach allows for a gradual and systematic transformation of the education system. Since education is in concurrent list now (since 1976), the governments (Centre and states) need to work together and should prioritize the implementation of the recommendations that have the greatest impact on improving the quality of education.
2. Strengthening infrastructure and resources:
The successful implementation of the NEP 2020 requires a significant increase in the availability of infrastructure and resources. The government should invest in the construction of new schools and the renovation of existing schools. Additionally, the government should ensure that all schools have access to basic resources such as electricity, water, and sanitation facilities. The availability of technology, textbooks, and teaching materials should also be increased.
The Govt of Delhi, has taken education and health as priorities and have been sincerely working towards bettering the infrastructure and also resources needed to make these thriving and enabling institutions. In its annual budget for 2022 worth ₹75,800 crore, out of the total budgetary allocation, the Delhi government allocated ₹16,278 crore for the education sector which amounts to more than 20% of the budget. And the trend has been such for over the last few years.
Every state government must allocate significant part of their budgets to education and health for at least 10 years to see the real transformation.
3. Promoting teacher training and professional development:
The NEP 2020 emphasizes the importance of teacher training and professional development. The government should invest in the training of teachers to ensure that they are equipped with the necessary skills to implement the new curriculum effectively. Additionally, the government should provide opportunities for teachers to engage in professional development activities, such as workshops and training programs.
Here again, the govt of Delhi has shown the path of how to invest in training the trainers, the teachers. The cluster schools of excellence established with best of the teachers. The teachers get to train with the best institutions across the world. And the result, many teachers from government schools of Delhi are now rated among the best teachers in the country, winning the national awards for best teachers, year after year, presented by the President of India during the Teacher’s day celebrations.
4. Encouraging parental involvement:
Parents play a critical role in the education of their children. The NEP 2020 recommends that parents be actively involved in the education of their children. The government should encourage parental involvement by providing opportunities for parents to participate in school activities, parent-teacher meetings, and decision-making processes.
As a chairperson of schools in the last couple of decades of my association with schools, I have noticed that there is a vast pool of capable talents among the parents and grand parents whose capabilities and experiences can be harnessed by every school. Schools must proactively engage with parents and make them critical stake holders to contribute to the excellence of the learning in their institutions.
5. Promoting the use of technology in education:
The NEP 2020 recognizes the importance of technology in education. The government should invest in the development of digital infrastructure and provide access to technology for students and teachers. Additionally, the government should promote the use of technology in teaching and learning processes. The environments compelled by COVID19 have amply demonstrated what such an integration can do to the learning eco-system, with the best of the resources engaging with learners.
6. Promoting vocational education and skill development:
The NEP 2020 recommends the promotion of vocational education and skill development to prepare students for the workforce. The government should collaborate with industry partners to develop vocational education programs that provide students with hands-on experience and practical skills.
Vocation courses need to be integrated with the school curriculum as children progress beyond middle school as they enter grades 7 and beyond. Youth will emerge with skillsets that could be of great value in the industrial evolution of a nation and that enhances employability, even if the youth drop out of the conventional, regular higher education institutions.
If governments can establish higher education institutions in the skills space, then universities can create programs to cater to the specific needs of the industries that are in the vicinity industrial clusters. This will facilitate the nation to develop many industrial clusters within every state that in turn helps for the development of the hinterland of the country and stop the migration to the larger cities that are already dying due to dearth of resources.
7. Emphasizing on student-centered learning:
The NEP 2020 emphasizes the need for student-centered learning. The government should promote the use of innovative teaching methods that focus on the individual needs of students. Additionally, the government should ensure that assessment methods are fair and transparent. With technology being omni-present, both, learning spaces can be tailor made as well as assessment methods fair enough for every learner.
8. Collaboration with stakeholders:
The successful implementation of the NEP 2020 requires the involvement of all stakeholders, including the government(s), private sectors including industries, educators, change makers, parents, and students. The government should collaborate with these stakeholders to ensure that the policy is implemented effectively. Additionally, the government should create a platform for stakeholders to provide feedback and suggestions for the implementation of the policy.
CHALLENGES AND PITFALLS TO WARD OFF
The NEP 2020 aims to bring about a fundamental transformation in the education system of India and provide a more holistic and flexible learning experience for students. However, there are several challenges and pitfalls that must be addressed to ensure the successful implementation of the NEP 2020.
Challenges and Pitfalls:
The NEP 2020 proposes a significant increase in public investment in education, from the current 4.43% of GDP to 6% of GDP. However, funding remains a significant challenge. While the government has committed to increasing public investment, it is uncertain whether it will be sufficient to meet the ambitious targets set out in the policy.
What will a nation achieve with most states having only 2-3% of budget allocated to education sector. As shared, the Delhi government has been consistently allocating over 20% of their budget to education year after year. If we must realize anything that has been envisaged, at least 9-10% of allocation, year on year, for a decade is the minimum need.
The government will have to find new sources of revenue to fund education, such as through taxation, public-private partnerships, and foreign aid.
One of the biggest challenges in implementing the NEP 2020 will be at the state level. Though Education is in concurrent list, still predominantly a state subject, and the implementation of the policy will require the cooperation and coordination of all state governments. This will be challenging, given the diverse political and socio-economic landscape of the country. The central government will have to work closely with the states to ensure that the policy is implemented effectively.
3. Teacher Training:
The NEP 2020 places a significant emphasis on teacher training, with a focus on continuous professional development and the integration of technology in teaching. However, the current teacher training system in India is inadequate and will need to be overhauled. The government will need to invest in the training of existing teachers and the recruitment of new, qualified teachers to meet the demands of the policy.
There is a dire need to create public-private partnership in training and development, to not only garner financial resources for creating infrastructure, but also to integrate learning to develop skillsets that are needed in this fast changing 21st century learning and skill landscape.
The NEP 2020 envisions the establishment of new institutions, such as multidisciplinary universities and research institutes. However, India’s current infrastructure is insufficient to support these new institutions. The government will have to invest in the development of physical and technological infrastructure to support the policy’s goals.
Here too, I see a great role for the private enterprise to build infrastructure and also train youth with skillsets needed for the evolving industrial and services landscape.
5. Curriculum Design:
The NEP 2020 proposes a shift away from the traditional rote learning model to a more holistic and student-centric approach. However, designing and implementing a new curriculum that is relevant, engaging, and effective will be challenging. The government will need to involve experts and industry from different fields and engage in extensive consultations with stakeholders to design a curriculum that meets the needs of students.
Another challenge I see in the curriculum design is, the vagaries of philosophies of the dominant parties in the government. We need to put the NATION FIRST and see that knowledge and skillsets are objective and purposeful for the evolution of well-informed, balanced and skilled youth who will be invaluable to the growth of the nation.
The NEP 2020 places a significant emphasis on inclusion and the education of disadvantaged groups, such as girls, children from economically weaker sections, and those with disabilities. However, there are significant barriers to the inclusion of these groups, such as socio-economic inequality, discrimination, and lack of infrastructure. The government will need to address these barriers to ensure that the policy is inclusive and equitable, without worrying about bringing in policies that will benefit their electoral political outcomes.
7. Monitoring and Evaluation:
Monitoring and evaluation are critical components of policy implementation. The NEP 2020 proposes the establishment of a National Education Commission to oversee the policy’s implementation. However, effective monitoring and evaluation will require the development of clear indicators and benchmarks, the establishment of an effective feedback mechanism, and the involvement of stakeholders in the process.
The NEP 2020 is a landmark policy that aims to transform the education system in India and make it more inclusive, flexible, and relevant to the needs of the 21st century. It proposes a range of measures to improve the quality of education, increase access to education, and promote skill development and innovation.
The implementation of this policy will require concerted efforts with a comprehensive approach from all stakeholders, including the governments (both centre and states), educational institutions, change-makers, thinkers, teachers, students, and parents.
However, the successful implementation of the policy will require the overcoming of several challenges and pitfalls. The government will need to address these challenges through effective planning, coordination, and investment. The involvement of stakeholders will be critical in ensuring that the policy is implemented effectively and brings about the intended results.
The government should prioritize the implementation of the policy in a phased manner, invest in infrastructure and resources, promote teacher training and professional development, encourage parental involvement, promote the use of technology in education, emphasize vocational education and skill development, promote student-centered learning, and collaborate with stakeholders. The implementation of these measures will ensure that India’s education system is transformed to meet the challenges of the 21st century.
If implemented effectively, the NEP 2020 has the potential to transform the education landscape in India and make it a global leader in education.