The Road Ahead to NEP 2020

Anusha Batra | Published On : October 8, 2021

National Education Policy, 2020 is a welcome amalgamation of a need-based policy, state of the art research, as well as best practices, in its progressive vision to provide quality education to one and all, paving the way for a New India.

Some of the most important provisions, which may turn out to be a game-changer for the Indian education system are:

  • Recognizing the importance of formative years of schooling:

The policy has acknowledged and recognized the importance of building a strong foundation and has laid the necessary emphasis on the formative years (ages 3 to 8) in shaping a child’s future, by suggesting a shift from the 10+2 model to the 5+3+3+4 model of schooling.

  • Departure from Silos Mentality:

Another central aspect of school education in the new policy is the breaking of the tight compartmentalization and rigidity in the higher secondary streams of education, namely arts, commerce, and science streams. This will bring a multi-disciplinary lens to education and shall aid in the holistic development of student’s personality.

  • Learning along with Skill development:

Another laudable provision is the introduction of vocational courses, along with apprenticeship and internship. An opportunity of hands-on training and learning by doing may incentivize the out-of-school population to enroll in these courses, as a means to securing an industry job. This is also in alignment with the Skill India Mission.

  • Making Education more inclusive:

The policy proposes to bring under the ambit of Right to Education Act, all children under the age of 18 years, from the previous age cohort of 6-14 years, so that not only primary education, but quality education, in general, becomes accessible and affordable to all. NEP proposes the extension of the Right to Education (RTE) to all children up to the age of 18. The policy also aims to make innovations in pedagogy and online learning to push up enrolment in higher education courses. 

  • Enabling Foreign Universities to come to India:

The new education policy proposes to enable the leading universities of the world, to set up campuses in India and bring Indian universities at par with the western quality of higher education. This will also help to widen the horizon of student’s understanding, by introducing them to cross-cultural perspective and make them competent globally.

  • Ending Hindi vs English Debate:

Lastly, and most importantly the national education policy has pacified the debate with regards the medium of instruction. Under the new policy, the emphasis has been laid on the mother tongue, the regional language or the local/vernacular language as the medium of teaching mandatory until class 5 and preferably until class 8.

While the policy includes much needed provisions for a structural overhaul of the education system, the real task lies in its effective implementation. One must not forget that the policy makers, i.e., the bureaucrats and those responsible for its on-ground implementation, i.e., the academicians and school staff must be on the same page, to bring to the ground, as was blue-printed on the paper.

For a thorough implementation of this policy, some of the below-mentioned challenges must be addressed beforehand:

Ensuring Cooperation from States:

Education lies in the concurrent list of the seventh schedule of the Indian constitution. So, any policy change requires a harmonious understanding between the central and the state government. In a federation, any reform, educational or otherwise can be implemented through achieving consensus between the centre and the states, and for the NEP 2020 too, this will be one of the most crucial factors to decide how far the real outcome is from the proposed plan.

  • Teacher Training & Upskilling:

Other factors include bringing in transparency to ensure a merit-based recruitment and selection system for recruiting teachers. A student is as good as a teacher, and therefore, necessary emphasis must be placed on teacher training and upskilling of the current teachers to make them adept at handling online education, as is the growing trend since the last two years.

  • Commensurate investment in infrastructure:

One of the major factors key to developing a world-class education system is investment in infrastructure. Not only in terms of school buildings and other teaching aids and amenities, government should also ensure access to safe and potable drinking water, quality-assured meals, as is promised, and most importantly, hygienic sanitation and female-dedicated toilet facilities to encourage female students from the rural areas to attend schools.

  • Lack of integration:

The policy document is replete with lags, both in terms of thinking as well as in the integration of technology along with the current pedagogy that is adopted in schools and higher education institutes. Technology-enabled learning systems necessitate not only adequate funds but also internet accessibility and affordability, especially in remote areas. Besides, there has been use of ambiguous phrases like “lifelong learning” and “social innovation”, which must be clearly defined as per the objective and how will the desired outcome be achieved.

A pioneering policy after a long haul of thirty-four years, the National Education Policy 2020, is a welcome step but is only ‘the first step’ in a long walk to educational freedom and equity. The success of the policy will also depend on how well this policy is integrated with the government’s other ambitious plans like Digital India, Atmanirbhar Bharat, skill India, Stand-up India to create a New India. Last, but not least, the progress will crucially depend on the political will to spend the promised figure of 6% of gross domestic product (GDP) on public education.