National Education Policy 2020: What’s In The Store For Indian Education System?

A notable feature of the NEP is the emphasis on critical thinking and experiential learning through a focus on etiquette and behaviour, ethics and play-based learning.

The Union Cabinet has approved the National Education Policy(NEP) 2020 that aims to reform the education system in line with Industry 4.0(a phenomenon that refers to the emergence of new technologies disrupting the Indian industry) after a long gap of 34 years. The policy is a breath of fresh air amidst the economic uncertainty due to coronavirus outbreak and recognizes the role of the education system in "making India a global knowledge superpower". It proposes some revolutionary changes such as a unified regulator in the field of higher education, elimination of M.Phil programme and exit system in university education that indicate the intent to overhaul the archaic structure.    

A notable feature of the NEP is the emphasis on critical thinking and experiential learning through a focus on etiquette and behaviour, ethics, play-based learning, storytelling-based pedagogy and inter-disciplinary approach. The move to do away with strict compartmentalization based on subjects at the school level will ensure that no career option is restricted to students due to subject specialization. Today, we can see many paradoxical combinations like students who studied engineering but are instead working in completely unrelated fields like journalism, cookery and marketing and many more. Hence the skills for which were never taught to them but instead had to be acquired separately. The NEP removes this challenge. The idea of topic-based clubs and circles will be a great beginning to equip students to choose the career of their choice rather than blindly jumping onto the bandwagon of engineering or medical career options. The adoption of three and a foreign language as a subject at the secondary level is commendable. It will widen the mental horizons of students and ensure their mobility across the globe.   

However, there are a few challenges that require deliberation. The government has, time and again, reiterated its commitment to scale up the expenditure on education to 6% of GDP. However, how it is to be achieved and in what timeframe? Devoting 20% of all public expenditure to education over 10 years will inevitably imply a trade-off among various education components such as learning resources, safety and well-being of resources among others. The autonomy and spirit of inquiry to higher educational institutions are also welcome measures. However, one needs to draw a line and demarcate what is acceptable and what goes beyond the purview of this right. Similarly, the stress on research is too aspirational. The measures outlined in the policy to encourage research temper are not a radical departure from the existing system. They fail to attack the root of the problem- the dearth of funding avenues and lack of incentives among students to pursue it as a career.  

The emphasis on vernacular education and installing appreciation of Indian culture among students is laudable, however, it should not be distorted to imply the dilution of English as a medium of instruction. English has played an instrumental role in making us global citizens and serving as a vehicle to connect with the outer world. Another trend is the proliferation of emerging technologies which has been acknowledged by the policy. However, it stops short of instituting a proper standardization and accreditation framework for online programmes to clear ambiguity and facilitate informed decision-making by students.  

The issue of women's education is largely unaddressed and requires a clear strategy to address the inequity vis-a-vis male counterparts in rural areas.  

Undoubtedly, the NEP 2020 attempts at opening vistas of opportunities for the Indian education sector. However, much will hinge on the on-ground implementation, and making transparent and prudent decisions in the allocation of public expenditure among various components of education.   

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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