It is perhaps a sheer coincidence that the entry of five Rafael fighter planes into Indian Air Force marked the announcement of National Education Policy, 2020 and both may usher a new era of immense possibilities and achievements in India. While these fighter planes are being projected as the game changer in South Asia particularly with respect India’s national security due to several state of the art and most lethal features that are not present in any of the available fighter planes in China or Pakistan, the Education Policy too has the potential to radically boost the present education system in the country so as to cater the needs and aspirations of the vast untapped human resource of Indian talents that has mostly been migrating, so far, to foreign institutions of higher learning and universities in search of quality education for the past many decades.
In fact, the National Education Policy, after being approved by the Indian Union Cabinet on 29th July 2020, has paved way for the significant transformational reforms in school and higher education sector in the country. The launching of the policy, is undoubtedly a long-awaited welcome move by the Indian government which after more than three decades focuses again at the primacy of education over human resource. This is why the hitherto working Ministry of Human Resources has been renamed as Ministry of Education after 34 years. Although human resource is inevitably important for the growth and welfare of any country in the world yet it is education that can only make the human resource worthy or capable to contribute to the service of society, the country and also the entire humanity in the true spirit of vasudhaiv kutumbakam.
The policy sets off sweeping changes in the entire education system in India with a view to universalise education to all along with prospective structural and institutional changes leading to forge a common formula at schools up to secondary level and credit based multidisciplinary three to four year undergraduate programme with multiple entry and multiple exit option with a view to facilitate learners. As a marked shift from the current 10+2 pattern of school education, the “new NEP advocates for a “5+3+3+4” structure corresponding to the age groups 3-8 years (foundational stage), 8-11 (preparatory), 11-14 (middle), and 14-18 (secondary).” This brings early childhood education (known as pre-school education for children of ages 3 to 5) under the scope of formal learning in schools. Also the ongoing “mid-day meal programme is to be extended to pre-school children as well.” The policy provides for mother tongue or regional language to be taught to students up to Class 5. The continuing 10+2 pattern in school education is to be modified with a new pedagogical and curricular restructuring of 5+3+3+4 covering ages 3-18. Presently, “the children in the age group of 3-6 are not covered in the 10+2 pattern as Class 1 begins at the age of 6 years. In the new 5+3+3+4 structure, a strong base of Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) from age 3 is also included.”The stress is also to be given more on practical or functional knowledge at school level.
The entire school curricula is to be revised to lay emphasis on national glory as well as glorious past of the country so that coming generations may imbibe those facts, hitherto missed or misinterpreted by the academics in the past, with considerable flexibility to ease the syllabus load upon students. Apart from“overhauling the existing curriculum”the policy lays thrust on “easier” Board exams, a reduction in the course contents to retain “core essentials” and emphasizes on “experiential learning and critical thinking”, in school education. As provided, the curriculum content is to be “reduced in each subject to focus on its core essentials, and make the much needed space for critical thinking”, instead of simply cramming the subject-contents and “more holistic, inquiry-based, discovery-based, discussion-based, and also analysis-based education”, thereby educating with a view to expand mental horizons and also to make knowledge seeking an inquisitive and interesting learning endeavour.
Further, higher education is also witnessing major reforms in the Education Policy where competition with foreign universities and digitalisation of knowledge with uniform syllabus in all universities of the country will be some of the significant aspects among many others things. There will be several major changes including permission to the “top foreign universities to set up campuses in India, a greater proportion of students getting vocational education” which will help-groom them to seek for jobs as per their interests and that can also prompt them to stand on their own vis-à-vis national as well as global competition in all over the world. Also the emphasis will be put on multi-disciplinary education even in the premier institutes of the country like IITs. This is why a university will emerge as a “multidisciplinary institution that has to offer undergraduate and graduate programmes, with high quality teaching, research, and community engagement.”As provided, the duration of the undergraduate degree courses will be of 3 or 4 year, with multiple exit options wherein a learner can exit after one year of study with a certificate, with a diploma after two years and with a bachelor’s degree after three years. The multidisciplinary Bachelor’s degree programme of 4 years may be a preferred option. Again, the M. Phil. programme is to be discontinued. The policy provides that all universities and colleges must aim to become multidisciplinary by 2040, and institutions offering single stream are to be discontinued.
Also, the UGC, NCTE and AICTE will be “dismantled and a Higher Education Commission of India (HECI) will be set up as a single overarching umbrella body for entire higher education, excluding medical and legal education. The HECI is to have four independent institutions vizNational Higher Education Regulatory Council (NHERC) for regulation, General Education Council (GEC ) for standard setting, Higher Education Grants Council (HEGC) for funding, and National Accreditation Council (NAC) for their accreditation. ”Though there is centralisation of hitherto existing different authorities under one roof to monitor the entire higher education system in India, except medical and legal education system, but that is necessary to streamline the entire higher pedagogy to face global competition with a view to project the Indian talents occupying prominent positions on the global centre stage. Again the nation is to stand fully confident amidst prevailing precarious scenario of rising fissiparous and separatist tendencies aimed at destabilising and disintegrating India at the behest of external hostile powers like Pakistan and China and many global terror networks.
Thus the NEP is to fully implement its entire provisions during a reasonable course of 20 years – up to 2040 – thereby rectifying the errors and demerits of the earlier education policies and also to prepare the nation suitable to the challenges and specificities of the modern world, over swept with globalization and liberalization and booming information technology with increasing prospects of AI (Artificial Intelligence) assuming prominent role, against the backdrop of the country’s ancient glory and rich cultural heritage. That will also underline social harmony, emotional integration and also project Bharat as a “global knowledge superpower” in the world with speedy digitalization of knowledge with digital contents and strengthening of online learning infrastructure in the times to come. This has already become very useful today when the conventional mode of teaching has been marred by the prevailing Corona crisis not only in the country but also in the whole world.
Note; References from the Hindustan Times, New Delhi, 30 July, 2020.