The New National Education Policy 2020 is a Bright Bulb

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The New National Education Policy(NEP) 2020 approved by the erstwhile HRD Ministry is an important transformational step in the right direction for Education in India. For the longest time, we have all heard people whining, rightfully so, about the inadequate and outdated status that the education system enjoys in our country. That the time had come to overhaul the education system shouldn’t come across as a surprise. Fortunately then, amidst the endless chaos that exists in the current times, this fresh NEP comes as a sigh of relief.

The NEP 2020 is a bright bulb. But as it is in case of an electric bulb that depends upon electricity to fulfil its utility, the NEP’s efficacy will depend upon its implementation to fulfil its well-intentioned promises.

Many points in the policy are welcome changes. However, there’s one important piece of the Jigsaw puzzle of Education that the policy missed out on. More on that later.

Coming to the gripes that we usually have against our education system. Well, there are many personal ones, but I have tried to pen down some of the complaints that have been commonly accepted as some of the major problems in our education system.

  • Rigidity:- Students are often compartmentalized in 11th and 12th into science, commerce, or arts. There are stern rules in place to choose subjects often lacking flexibility. X cannot for instance choose Accounting, Physics, Maths, Economics, and Political Science. This has punctured the students’ space for exploration.
  • Evaluation & Assessment:- Our education system is good fodder for the meme world. I didn’t add much here. Just that, holistic assessment is missing. It puts tremendous pressure on young minds and as a result, we give birth to more herd mentality than original and creative minds.
  • Pedagogy:- Rote learning and learning in closed classrooms is inadequate. Real-world, practical, case-based learning is hardly seen. Students are not encouraged to ask questions. The teacher maintains a one-way equation with students.
  • Research Mindset/Scientific Temper:- It is often the case that the students’ curiosity is stifled and negated as useless.
  • Society:- Society at large, including parents, is obsessed with marks and doesn’t value holistic learning. After all, we get what we ask for. The schools are doing exactly that! Giving us more of what we want- students who have scored grades.

I am sure the above-mentioned list is in no way exhaustive. Feel free to add your own points. The crux of the matter remains- our education system needed a change, and the change has come in the form of NEP 2020. The NEP 2020 addresses most of the shortcomings of our education system. It has made a tectonic shift from standardized to customized learning; from rote learning to practical, real-life learning; from rigidity to flexibility.

I am sure some of you must have gone through the highlights of the NEP 2020. For the uninitiated, here’s a quick glance at the major policy points. Writing about all of them doesn’t serve any purpose. So, I am going to focus mostly on two broad points:-

1. Flexibility in Higher Educational Institutions(HEIs)

Now undergraduate programs of 3-4 years duration will have multiple entry and exit options. For instance, if you have studied the first year and chose to not continue, you’ll have a certificate using which you can re-enter college again. You can choose to discontinue after 2nd year, in which case, you’ll be getting a diploma. Three years will be equivalent to a Bachelor’s Degree and four years will include a Bachelor’s Degree with Research. Not only this but the UG degrees will also be multidisciplinary in nature so as to increase the employability of our youth. An ‘Academic Bank of Credits’ will be maintained. Using these credits, you can actually transfer institutions much more smoothly. The college affiliation system will slowly be phased out in the next 15 years as a result of which we will have only autonomous degree-granting institutions or constituent colleges of a university. Also, more HEIs will be using the mother tongue as a medium of instruction to promote accessibility to many Indians thereby leading to a higher Gross Enrollment Ratio(GER) in HEIs.

2. The Revamped School Education System

The playschool years will now fall into the ambit of formal education. The 10+2 structure of schooling will now be 5+3+3+4. The number of years overall won’t change. What’s the 5+3+3+4 structure?

The restructured school system will have foundational stage — in two parts that is, three years of Anganwadi/pre-school + two years in a primary school in Grades 1-2. Both together covering ages 3-8 will have flexible, multilevel, activity-based learning.

Preparatory Stage (Grades 3-5, covering ages 8-11) will see the introduction of experiential learning across the sciences, mathematics, arts, social sciences, and humanities.

The Middle stage covering Grades 6-8, (ages 11-14) will have a subject-oriented pedagogical and curricular style.

And the Secondary stage (Grades 9-12 in two phases, i.e., 9 and 10 in the first, and 11 and 12 in the second, covering ages 14-18) will have greater depth, greater critical thinking, greater attention to life aspirations, and greater flexibility and student choice of subjects, and option to exit at grade 10 and re-enter at a later stage in grade 11, the HRD Ministry said.

https://www.livemint.com/education/news/how-to-understand-structural-change-in-school-education-in-new-education-policy-11596040615014.html

Internships, vocational training and coding will be introduced from class 6th onwards.

A new curricular framework is to be introduced, including the pre-school and Anganwadi years. A National Mission on Foundational Literacy and Numeracy will ensure basic skills at the Class 3 level by 2025. Students will begin classes on coding as well as vocational activities from Class 6 onwards. Indian knowledge systems, including tribal and indigenous knowledge, will be incorporated into the curriculum in an accurate and scientific manner, said the policy.

https://www.thehindu.com/education/new-education-policy-4-year-ug-courses-in-mphil-out/article32225828.ece

Multilingualism is being promoted as schools can now use the mother tongue as their standard medium of learning.

“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 … This will be followed by both public and private schools,” said the policy.

https://www.thehindu.com/education/new-education-policy-4-year-ug-courses-in-mphil-out/article32225828.ece

Some of the other changes can be best understood from these tweets:-

About evaluation and assessment of students in schools, there’s much to be applauded. NEP 2020 reads ‘The progress card will be a holistic, 360-degree, multidimensional report that reflects in great detail the progress and the uniqueness of each learner in the cognitive, affective, and psychomotor domains’.

“Boards may over time also develop further viable models of Board Exams, such as – annual/semester/modular Board Exams, two-level exams for all subjects including mathematics and two-part exams, with objective and descriptive type questions,” a press statement said.

https://www.thequint.com/news/education/new-education-policy-2020-boards-to-be-easier-move-away-from-rote-learning

The Missing Jigsaw Piece

All good news then? Well, one major aspect has been ignored. Education in India comes under the not-for-profit model. The rationale behind the same is that the fundamental purpose of education is to educate and not make profit. However, under the garb of not-for-profit, it is a well-known fact that private educational institutions do garner profits. All in all, this leads to a corrupt system washed in black money that no government is ready to acknowledge.

The charade under which the sector has been operating is now being questioned. A growing lobby of school founders and owners of school chains is urging the government to declare the sector as for-profit because everyone is earning a profit out of it in any case. This would help to channel more funds into the sector and clean up the system as well. School owners are also pushing for more autonomy to fix fees. Currently, private education in India generates a significant amount of black money. It is an open secret that school owners make money — at times hand over fist — but maintain that they are not for profit.

As a paper submitted to the government argues: “The present structures drive adverse selection. The general human need is to make a return on investment. Thus, while there are many genuinely service-minded folks in the sector, on average, the people who will come into the education sector will be willing to break laws to make an under-the-table profit.”

The proposal to declare school education a for-profit sector is likely to meet with resistance also because there is a deep ideological schism over the issue. There are those who strongly argue that quality education should be publicly funded and free for all. They say that if private education is given free rein, there will be no incentive for the government to improve its own offering.

https://www.business-standard.com/article/education/declare-education-for-profit-educationists-private-schools-urge-govt-120012801670_1.html

Education under the for-profit private sector can in fact help the cause of NEP 2020. One of the goals of the policy is to achieve a 50% Gross Enrolment Ratio for Higher Education by 2035 (which is currently about 26%). This can be actually realised quite seamlessly if we allow the private players to invest in education with for-profit motives, as only then the private powerhouses with deep capital pockets have an incentive to enter education.

If indeed there’s an opportunity to have education under for-profit models, then how do we go about implementing it? Well, here’s a good solution proposed in an opinion piece that I came across while researching on the topic.

For-profit models to incentivize the investments can be a game-changer if executed. The private investments will meet the industry demand and bring better access to education. Private capital is required to expand the sector and the market forces will care of the rest of the things, as the case with other industries. Competition among institutions would verify tuition fees and foster a culture of quality. For-profit does not guarantee excellence and efficiency.

Hence, the introduction of a credible industry regulator such as TRAI (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India) for telecom, IRDAI (Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India) for insurance; could be a step in the right direction. Similar to College Navigator in the US, setting-up of a high standard national database may further improve the transparency and assist students in making informed decisions.

The icing on the cake will be the taxes on profits from educational institutions, which can be used for further development in the sector, such as research grants or scholarship programs for underprivileged students.

https://www.businesstoday.in/opinion/columns/india-must-consider-allowing-for-profit-education/story/219549.html#:~:text=Traditionally%2C%20education%20in%20India%20has,educate%2C%20not%20to%20make%20profit.&text=Currently%2C%20about%202.2%20million%20students%20attend%20for%2Dprofit%20colleges.

The Conclusion

NEP 2020 is indeed a transformational change. As I mentioned earlier, it is a bright bulb whose efficacy will depend a lot on timely and proper implementation. I talked about some of the key changes that the policy envisages to bring in. However, the execution will depend a lot on institutions and various regulatory bodies and at the end of the day, these places are as good as the people running them. Hence, if we are able to keep politics, corruption and any sort of inefficiency at bay, this bright bulb will dispel a lot of bleak aspects of our education system.


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