India recently replaced a 34-year-old national policy of education. The New Education Policy of 2020 aims at making sweeping reforms in primary, second and higher education, as well as reforms in teaching.
NEP 2020 was a welcome change amid all the doom and gloom news throughout 2020. The announcement was unanticipated the changes suggested were something that many educationists never saw coming.
In the higher education area, the policy offers a transformational road map by diagnosing the challenges in the field and a vision to overhaul and re-energise it.In a country, to have uniformity in education standards, an umbrella body was always a requirement. Higher Education Commission of India (HECI) will be constituted to oversee higher education in India, excluding medical and legal education. Public and private higher educational institutes will be governed by the same set of norms for regulation, accreditation and academic criteria. Its four independent verticals - National Higher Education Regulatory Council (NHERC), General Education Council (GEC), Higher Education Grants Council (HEGC), and National Accreditation Council (NAC) are believed to streamline the regulatory process.
If the proposed plan is implemented, uniformity and coordination for all institutions in this country will be much easier. Process changes will be easier to implement. The long-term plan as per the policy is to do away with the present higher education system of colleges affiliated to universities. Each college would become either fully integrated into a university or be converted into an autonomous and independent degree providing institution. Numerous existing tiny colleges that are pedagogically unviable and financially costly would be merged with larger higher education institutes (HEIs).
Each HEI would come to have a minimum of 3,000 students. The HEIs will have the freedom to choose a mix between research and teaching as per their strengths, with the sector eventually consisting of research intensive institutions at one end and a teaching intensive institutions on the other. This is broadly the structure prevailing within the US and UK. Another highlight of the proposal is to introduce a single university entrance exam conducted by the National Testing Agency (NTA). Earlier, to seek admission across various universities, a student had to go through the burden of multiple examinations plus the varied difficulty level of question papers across many central universities, which would no longer be the case under NEP 2020.
The policy also allows universities to set up offshore campuses; similarly, many foreign universities can now set up institutes in India. It will lead to competition, talent flow, and key practices from abroad, which will ultimately lead to a great deal of improvement in the country’s education standards. It will also provide real exposure to children, and probably there would come a day where students can afford global education within India, instead of spending lakhs in another country.
Under the NEP 2020, undergraduate degree will be of either 3 or 4 years with multiple options within this period to exit from the course. However, the colleges will be mandated to give certificate after completing 1 year in a discipline or field including vocational and professional areas, a diploma after 2 years of study, or a Bachelor's degree after a 3-year programme.
Government will also establish an Academic Bank of Credit for digitally holding the academic credits earned from different HEIs so that these can be transferred and counted towards final degree earned. India has a long tradition of holistic and multidisciplinary learning, from universities such as Takshashila and Nalanda, to the extensive literatures of India combining subjects across field.
The very concept that all branches of creative human endeavour, including science, mathematics, vocational subjects, professional subjects, and soft skills should be considered ‘arts’, is distinctly rooted within Indian origin. This notion of a ‘knowledge of many arts’ or what in modern times is often called the ‘liberal arts’ must be brought back to Indian education, as it is exactly the kind of education that will be required for the 21st century.
Mentioned 70 times in 66 pages, often in conjunction with the word ‘holistic’, the word multidisciplinary is like a ritual incantation in the NEP 2020. There will also be no rigid division between arts and sciences, between curricular and extra-curricular activities, between vocational and academic streams. Students can select subjects of their choice across streams.
Overall, the recommendations are about reimagining the system. A change in policy that hasn’t come about since 1965 is being debated among Indian educationists as the new policy aims at encouraging essential learning, critical thinking, and experiential learning. To take the Indian education to compete at global level, the government has increased the education budget from 4.46% to 6% of the GDP. It visualises to convert the current system into a ‘highly equitable and vibrant knowledge society’ by increasing the enrolment ratio.
Though challenges lie ahead as new students will keep entering the education system, it would require managing the allocated funds to ensure impeccable implementation to mark the change. The NEP 2020 is planned to support skill-based education and is believed to bring surreal effects on higher education that will draw a new learning method for the young minds. In the end, it is important to point out that these policies have all been proposed, and there is a long way to go before the implementation rolls out.