Implementing National Education Policy

National Education Policy (NEP-2020) was announced by the Central Government on July 29, 2020. The Government had taken six years to finalise it. It is now in the process of being implemented. As per the Secretary, MHRD there are more than 150 action plans that are required to be prepared and executed for its successful implementation. A number of Task Forces have been constituted by the Government to suggest measures to give effect to NEP-2020. The reports of the Task Forces are still awaited. Once received, these will be analysed before any action is initiated. In the meanwhile, more than 19 months have passed since NEP-2020 was promulgated and not much progress has been made.

A peep into recent history of our higher education system could be revealing. Radhakrishnan Committee that was set up in 1948 gave its report in 1949. Interestingly, its major recommendations were in congruence with those that have been spelt out in NEP-2020. National Education Policy, 1966 was formulated based on the recommendations of Kothari Commission (1964). Thereafter, National Policy on Education (NPE-1986) was formulated. It took the Government six years to decide on the mode of its implementation and that was specified in Plan of Action, 1992! However, NEP-1966 and NPE-1986 failed to fully achieve their respective objectives and, thus, the country is saddled with a dysfunctional higher education system that is churning out unemployable graduates. No wonder, Indian HEIs figure very low in international rankings. Most of the recommendations to improve the quality of education in Indian HEIs have been repeated ad infinitum by various committees and Policies without any concrete results.

It would be prudent for the Policy planners to find out the reasons for the failure of successive governments to implement the earlier Policies. That would help focus efforts to remove the lacunae in the policy implementation process. Otherwise, there are chances that the old mistakes might be repeated. Somehow, our policy planners don’t seem to be keen to learn from the past.

NEP-2020 has recommended that our HEIs should switch over to a system of liberal education. It involves introducing major changes in concepts of curriculum development and shift in pedagogy with emphasis on experiential learning, problem solving and critical thinking skills. Today, many of our faculty members, including senior academic leaders, are not familiar with the nuances of liberal education. Thus, they are unable to conceive relevant curricula, adopt suitable pedagogies and guide junior faculty members to implement the new system. There are more than 15 lakh faculty members employed in about 1100 universities and 55,000 colleges in the country. Obviously, capacity building of the faculty is a mammoth task. The curricula and pedagogy need to be in conformity with the learning styles and preferences of  Generation-Z. There is a sociological bias against vocational education and training. No serious effort has been made to educate the masses to remove this bias. Moreover, accountability needs to be built into the system wherein regulators, managements and faculty should be held accountable to achieve the laid down objectives.

Poor quality of research is another major challenge. There is a need to take steps to usher in a research-culture in HEIs, to organise research and boost infrastructure – both intellectual and physical – for research. Indian HEIs need mentor professors. These are not available in the required numbers. The country may have to attract qualified NRIs by adopting a concept of Brain Gain.

The Government needs to accord priority to the education sector. The mere fact that it took more than six years to formulate NEP-2020 and subsequent slow-paced measures to implement it are indications that the desired changes may not come about soon.

Education sector has not received much support of successive governments at the Centre and in the states. Numerous studies have recommended that at least 6% of the GDP be allocated to the education sector. But the sector has almost always received less than 3% of the GDP. Even during the recent pandemic Government had announced stimulus packages amounting to more that Rs 20 lakh crores to bail out various sectors but the education sector was left out in the cold. Countries in Europe and the USA had instituted measures to help their respective education sectors. USA provided a stimulus package of US $ 14 billion as financial assistance to its educational institutions and also instituted numerous student support and other legislative measures. Indian Government would do well to recognise the challenges faced by the education sector and provide necessary help.

Our national discourse on NEP-2020 does not indicate any sense of urgency to revamp the higher education landscape in the country. Time is running out. We do not have the luxury to adopt policies involving a gradual change. A transformation that is akin to a surgical action is required to ensure that the country reaps the benefits of its demographic dividend. A moot question that begs an answer is, “Are we really serious about bringing about the desired changes in our higher education system?”

4 thoughts on “Implementing National Education Policy”
  1. Well researched blog. It will be great if you can help with ITI or equivalent courses/ skill development avenue open for students who are not able to go through the academics upto 10th or 12th, under this new Education Policy.

  2. Thank you for sharing. There is definitely an urgency to address NHI in a meaningful way.

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