The Higher Reaches Of Academia

A close look at the National Education Policy 2020 which overhauls a 34-year-old system of learning and strives to turn India into a global knowledge superpower.

The National Education Policy (NEP) 2020, approved by the Union Cabinet on 29 July, unhinges the framework of formal education in India from a model that has been in force since 1986, to bring standards of education on a par with the best in the world and bring Generation Next in step with the 21st Century. It envisions India as a global knowledge superpower. The Cabinet approved a draft prepared by a panel headed by former Indian Space Research Organisation chief K Kasturirangan, that had been presented to Union HRD Minister Ramesh Pokhri­yal in 2019. 

The National Education Policy 2020 strives to over­haul the entire system of education in India, making it more inclusive, holistic, participatory and experiential. The NEP brings pre-school infants within the frame­work of formal education and extends the mid-day meal programme to them. It compels institutions of higher learning, like the Indian Institutes of Technology, to turn multi-disciplinary, enabling a student of engineering, for instance, to also study music. By 2040, all higher educa­tion institutions (HEIs) will become multidisciplinary, with greater inclusion of arts and humanities subjects for students of both streams. Each HEI will aim to have 3,000 or more students and every district in the country should have at least one HEI by 2030. 

The NEP opens up the world to students in India by allowing foreign universities to set up campuses on In­dian soil. At present foreign universities can at best offer distance learning programmes or partner with Indian universities to share faculty. The policy envisions enticing selected universities from among the top 100 varsities in the world to bring their campuses to India.

In the process of this metamorphosis of the education system, the NEP discards some programmes and struc­tures like the M.Phil degree, the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) and the University Grants Commission (UGC). The AICTE and the UGC will be re­ placed by the Higher Education Commission of India.

Education being a Concurrent List subject, the Union government proposes to set up committees to deliberate on the NEP 2020 with members from the relevant min­istries of both the Union and State governments. It is a model framework that the states will be encouraged to adopt. Academics and heads of institutions BW Educa­tion spoke to, gave full marks to the New Education Pol­icy and seem eager to see it implemented.

The Highlights 

The new National Education Policy ushers in a slew of changes that should, when implemented, not just trans­form

the system of education but also the country, by en­suring a higher gross enrolment ratio (GER) in institu­tions of higher learning. The aim will be to increase the GER in HEIs, including those for vocational education, from 26.3 per cent in 2018 to 50 per cent by 2035. 

Perhaps, what is even more significant is the effort the NEP makes to extend formal education to all strata of society right from the formative ages of a child. It strives to build character, scientific temperament and encour­age creativity and a spirit of service, abandoning prac­tices that have encouraged rote learning so far.

The Formative Years

The NEP proposes to make the mother tongue or a re­gional language the medium of instruction till the fifth standard and preferably till the eighth. It recommends that the pedagogical and curricular structure of school education be 5+3+3+4, ie. three years at the Anganwadi or pre-school and 12 years in school. 

Children aged between three and eight years (or those at the foundational stage) will be given access to free, safe, high-quality Early Childhood Children Education (ECCE) at the Anganwadis, pre-school institutions or Balvatikas. At the foundational stage, children will be encouraged to play, discover and have activity-based and interactive classroom learning. Children in Middle School (aged between 11 and 14 years) will have experi­ential learning in the sciences, mathematics, arts, social sciences and humanities.

At the secondary stage (for children between the ages of 14 and 18 years), education will be multidisciplinary, encouraging critical thinking. Students will have the flexibility to choose subjects. Beginning with mathemat­ics, all subjects will be offered at two levels. School stu­dents will have ten “bag-less days” during which they will be taught a vocation of their choice.

School examinations will only be held at three levels, for classes three, five and eight. Board exam­inations will continue but these will be designed for holistic devel­opment. A new national assessment centre, PARAKH (Performance Assessment, Review and Analysis of Knowledge for Holistic Development) will be estab­lished. Students will be allowed to take board examina­tions twice during any given school year, first the main examination and then, another for improvement.

Standing tall: The most significant change perhaps is the vision to shape young minds right from infancy

Higher Education 

Beginning 2022, the National Testing Agency will con­duct a common college entrance examination twice a year. The Bachelor’s degree will be of four years with exit options, the first after a year, which will earn the student a certificate and the second after two years, which will entitle the student to a diploma. Mid-term drop-outs will have the option to complete the degree after a break.

Bachelor’s degree programmes will be multidiscipli­nary, with no rigid separation between the arts and the sciences. Indian arts, languages and culture will be pro­moted at all levels. The system of affiliated colleges will be phased out in 15 years and colleges will be given greater autonomy and power to grant degrees. The deemed university status will end.

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