On 20th July 2020, the Union Cabinet approved the much-awaited New Education Policy (NEP) which aims to transform the education system of the country, in sync with the needs of the 21st century.
The introduction of the New Education Policy which was drafted by the Kasturirangan committee, is all set to bring in several core reforms and fine changes which are focused at improving the education system of the country which was last tweaked 28 years ago. The policy sets ambitious goals, including its aim to increase the Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) which is presently 6% to 50%, creating an additional of 35 million seats in colleges and providing a major increment in the education budget of the country from the current 4% to 6%. The Cabinet has also renamed the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) as the Ministry of Education.
The policy pushes for primary education in local languages, facilitation of entry to foreign universities in India, creation of a single higher-education regulator, among many other reforms. The policy also aims to make the Indian education system more contemporary and skill-oriented which is the need of the hour in the ever-changing dynamic modern world of the 21st century.
The NEP also aims to make all the Higher Education Institutions (HEI) multidisciplinary in nature by 2040, and also emphasizes over the creation of Special Education Zones (SEZ) in backward districts.
There are several other initiatives that the policy takes on to overhaul and remould the country’s education system which pertain to all levels of education from the pre-school level to higher education as well as research.
KEY TAKEAWAYS FOR SCHOOLS:
The policy has emphasized on various reformative measures and changes in the school level. A major one being, that the mother tongue, local language, or regional language should be used as medium of instruction in schools at least up till 5th Grade, but its use is encouraged even beyond. Emphasis has also been given to teaching of the ancient Indian language Sanskrit at all levels of school and higher education.
“The policy makes it clear that mother tongue should be the preferable medium of instruction wherever possible. However, there is not going to be an imposition of any language. It will be for the states to decide,” said a senior HRD Ministry official as reported by the Hindustan Times.
Another fundamental change the policy is set to bring about it the replacement of the 10+2 structure of school with a 5+3+3+4 curricular structure designated to the age groups 3-8, 8-11,11-14, and 14-18 years respectively.
The NEP also consists of conduct of examinations for students from grade 3rd onwards. All students will be required to take examinations in grades 3,5 and 8 which is to be conducted by an appropriate authority. The policy also focuses on recognizing, identifying, and fostering the unique capabilities of each student, sensitizing the teachers and parents to promote each student’s holistic development. For this purpose, the board examinations for grades 10th and 12th (which are to be continued) will be redesigned with holistic development as the aim.
In an age of considerable amount of societal pressure and anxiety upon the students, the NEP can come as a saving grace as it has suggested the implementation of certain measures to make examinations stress-free. The policy elucidates that school boards can provide the choice to students between the touch and easy version of a subject’s examination.
REFORMS IN HIGHER EDUCATION:
In a bid to improve the Gross Enrolment Ratio, the NEP has aimed to add around 35 million seats to higher education institutions by 2040. The policy has also set in motion its objective of incentivizing and encouraging popular Indian institutes to establish its campuses abroad and vice-verse. This is to be done through a different legislation in the near future.
Another core reform that the policy aims to bring about is the breaking down of the subject and course barriers existing in our education system, by making all institutions including the renowned IITs, multi-disciplinary institutes which will provide greater pliability and fluidity to students who will be offered with a greater amount of subject options. The Four-Year Graduation programmes make a comeback but will have greater flexibility due to provision of multiple exit options and appropriate certification.
The NEP also aims at setting up Multidisciplinary Education and Research Universities (MERU) which will be at par with the well-known IITs. A single regulatory body- Higher Education Commission of India (HECI) will cover the entire higher education sector except the medical and legal education sector.
Provisions will also be made to encourage the merit of students coming from the socially disadvantaged SC, ST and OBC and categories, among others. Private institutes will also be incentivized to provide greater amount of scholarships to students belonging to disadvantaged social backgrounds.
Although the main motive behind the New Education Policy is to overhaul the education system to make India a knowledge super-power of the 21st century, the policy has received mixed reactions from the educational fraternity and stake holders.
On one hand, it has received the praise of many stakeholders of the system, it has been criticized and opposed against by others due to some of its provisions and proposed reforms.
“The NEP 2020 advocates major reforms in higher education- holistic and multidisciplinary education, flexibility of subject choices and programme durations, etc. The concept of Multidisciplinary Education and Research University (MERU) will find resonance in our young campus. I am particularly appreciative of the forward-looking common norm for public and private HEI’s,” said Rupamanjari Ghosh, Vice- Chancellor, Shiv Nadar University, Greater Noida as reported by the Hindustan Times.
On the other hand, the Students Federation of India (SFI), has accused the Central government of making the Pandemic situation a “Golden Opportunity” to implement all its “anti-people” policies.
“Massive protests and criticism from across the country had erupted over the draft of the new education policy. The anti- democratic nature of its content, its centralized nature and its recommendations for radical privatization were questioned. People from various walks of life demanded that such an education policy not to be implemented and that more extensive discussions and consultations be held,” said the SFI in a statement.
Opposition has also come from the Delhi University Teachers’ Association, for several provisions including the proposal to dismember universities and handover every higher educational institution to a Board of Governors, who they accuse, will enjoy “unfettered” powers in matters of setting educational goals, students’ fees, etc.
“The DUTA takes serious exception to the news that the Union Cabinet has adopted the New Education Policy amidst a Pandemic. We call upon the Government to desist from bulldozing changes which will have grave consequences for our country and instead engage in a dialogue with the academia,” said the DUTA in a Press Release.
The NEP has also been criticized by the Academics For Action and Development (AAD) who exclaimed in their opposition in a Press Statement, expressing that the NEP 2020 will take education sector far away from social justice and inclusiveness and push it into the “lap of private players of national and international level”. The AAD has also criticized the policy calling it one with “tall ends with little means” emphasizing on the policy’s objective of increasing the Gross Enrolment Ratio to 50%. Further, the AAD has also expressed their concerns regarding the direction of the NEP which they exclaim is towards shifting from “grant-based” to “loan-based” and promoting private players and foreign universities which they say will turn out as a huge hindrance in taking quality education to the grassroots level accessible to the SCs, STs, OBCs, PwDs, and EWS.
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