NEP 2020: Changing The Course Of Education To World-class

The NEP 2020 paves the way towards a regime of less regulation and more autonomy for institutions through an effective ‘light but tight’ self-regulatory framework.

On 29 July 2020, the Government of India, through its renamed Education Ministry (erstwhile MHRD), launched the National Education Policy 2020 (NEP 2020), the first education policy of the 21st century, based on the foundational pillars of access, affordability, equity, quality, and accountability, and aligned to the aspirations of the citizens of the era. The sentiment of the NEP 2020, expressed through the above pillars, will surely pave the way for harnessing the potential of its citizens to make India a developed nation and among the largest economies in the world soon.  

Quality is a key characteristic of education. The NEP 2020 is committed to the quality of education in terms of content, delivery and intended learning outcomes. As providers of education, schools and universities have to shoulder the accountability of outcome-based education. A society subsidizing education has expectations from every institution and learners. Quality education lies in its practicality, and the ability of the graduates to apply the knowledge gained. So, action-based teaching and research play a dominant role. All practical applications are multi-disciplinary in nature since human problems never come in neat discipline-based packets. The policy’s emphasis on flexible, multi-disciplinary and holistic education are welcome steps towards bridging the thought-action gap in learners, right from childhood.  

The NEP 2020 aims at setting up at least one large multidisciplinary institution in or near every district by the year 2030, offering programmes with high-quality teaching, research, and community engagement. Consolidation of educational resources is a crying need of the sub-optimal fragmented Indian education system. This provision will also benefit students with increased flexibility and choice of subjects across various streams of arts, humanities, sciences, sports, and other vocational subjects, building mindful individuals as desired by Swami Vivekananda, who exhorted educational institutions to render ‘man-making’ and ‘life-giving’ education, not bookish and theoretical knowledge alone! New knowledge through research germinates at juxtapositions of domains.  

The NEP 2020 paves the way towards a regime of less regulation and more autonomy for institutions through an effective ‘light but tight’ self-regulatory framework, based on transparent public disclosure, extensive use of technology, etc. Over-regulation has always been counter-productive, and the NEP 2020 accepts it with humility. The Ivy League institutions of the western world believe in and practise self-regulation and a model of collegial governance. The policy envisages gradual autonomy through suitable accreditations for all higher education institutions (HEIs) - a path-breaking idea.  

The Academic Bank of Credit (ABC), established to digitally store the academic credits earned, will obviate internal record keeping in institutions requiring large spaces, creating a singular database with no duplication or security threat to academic data. The new policy will bring a slew of changes in terms of internationalization of education, too.  

However, in the recent past, access has been the most fiercely debated fallout of the move to online education due to the pandemic, COVID-19. While blended learning has surely increased access for many beyond the four walls of the classroom, it is humbling to recognize the digital divide that India suffers from, among many such discriminations. There are still parts of India which remain about a century behind the other developed parts, and one cannot afford to lose sight of this section of the society. The quality of digital infrastructure hampers the spontaneity of educational delivery. Though educational institutions consciously are focusing on having a sizable component of their study material delivered through asynchronous mode, this does not take away the infrastructural handicap. True access is taking care of all the barriers between sections of the society, including the digital barrier. Also, educational institutions must ensure that no deserving student is left behind due to lack of financial resources. This must be a guiding principle while deciding on the pricing of educational products and programs. High-priced programs degenerate any meritocracy to a situation where students self-select themselves, and somehow the programs lose the intellectual, leave aside social or public, appeal and the institutions turn into clubs that one can pay to be a member of. 

The NEP 2020 has come in the most opportune moment for us. Though the impetus for the change might have been influenced by the global pandemic, the fruits of the new way of thinking and doing will surely usher us into a new world, where aligned to the forward-looking NEP 2020 of the Government, educational institutions can take advantage of the changed mindset and perspective, and can embrace a new world of education with access, affordability, equity, quality and accountability. The Government on its part must ensure proper implementation of the policy covenants, since any plan is as good as its implementation, and India hopefully will do a better job in this most important endeavour of nation-building. 

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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