Governance

Shaking up the system

The National Education Policy 2020 with its long-term vision seeks to lay the foundation for a new India and for that some revolutionary changes are required By P. Narahari P Narahari
Enter Vol.14 ISSUE 4-6 JULY-SEPT 2020

With calls for ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ and ‘Vocal for Local’, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has launched a national movement for a new India. At the heart of the movement lies the quest for excellence in every walk of life. In order to make India quality conscious, we have to begin with revolutionary changes in the education sector. Only a high-quality education can make a man truly self-reliant. Through education, one receives the adequate skills to face any challenge in life. Our level of skills determines our standing in any competition. Only quality can raise the eligibility of a candidate.

In order to bring fundamental changes in education, the government has dedicated the framework of the third National Education Policy to the nation, after a gap of 34 years. The new National Education Policy (NEP-2020) is a vision document that will provide the base for the curricula of primary, secondary and higher secondary as well as technical and other education. The final document will be prepared after many deliberations between stakeholders. This policy will undoubtedly usher in wide-ranging changes in educationawaited for decades.

The new National Education Policy is a vision document that will provide the base for the curricula of primary, secondary and higher secondary as well as technical and other education

The task of bringing all-round changes to the education infrastructure is so extensive that the government has set a target of 20 years to implement the policy. This long interval will see two generations pass through. It will be a challenge for the governments to reduce this interval. Another facet of the new policy is that bringing about social change through education will be a challenging and long drawn process. That is why its implementation will require amendments in many laws. States will have to reach a consensus over diverse issues.The status of teachers will have to be accorded a high place in society as the responsibility of successful implementation of the new policy lies on their shoulders.

Besides addressing the shortcomings that have persisted for decades, the new education policy should aim to break the vicious cycle of privatisation and commercialisation of education

The new education policy needs to address social differences. We have to resolve to bring uniformity in the different qualities of education available to different sections of society. The most disastrous consequence of the old education policy is the commercialisation of education. Besides addressing the shortcomings that have persisted for decades, the new education policy should aim to break the vicious cycle of privatisation and commercialisation of education. Curricula and local language as the medium of instruction need a fresh infusion of ideas. Only then can we move towards ‘siddhi’ or success in education.

Under the NEP, we have to move towards a scenario where we either break the stranglehold of English on our education system or make sure everyone gets the same level of instruction in English. I believe the policy makers will work out a way to address this huge inequality through the new policy. The education system runs on government funds in all the developed nations of the world. Without government intervention, it is impossible to dream of uniformity in education. Privatisation of higher education in the United States has led to a situation where every youth is under debt. This has led to demands for bringing higher education back under the government’s purview. Today, when we are dreaming of uniform education for all after 72 years of independence, we must usher in sweeping changes through the new policy irrespective of the time it takes.

The commitment of the NEP towards the weakest sections of society has to be strengthened further. The reason is obvious. How can the children under the care of anganwadi workers in villages ever compete with their counterparts in cities taught by trained teachers? In general, government teachers are paid poorly, whether they are primary teachers or teaching in universities. The level of education also varies for different students. While some have access to the best private tuitions and coaching, others simply have no teachers sometimes. Because both sections have to compete equally in life, there’s a demand to give special attention to the under-served sections of society in the NEP. Only then will we be able to enrol more and more children in primary schools and increase the participation of women in education.

The Prime Minister has stressed upon the fact several times that a large portion of the weakest sections of society lack quality education and nutrition. The thought behind this is clear. Without giving special attention to these sections, the dream of self-reliance cannot be realised. More than giving opportunities to the weaker sections, our goal should be to empower them. If they are not empowered, how are they going to make the most of the opportunities? Whereas if they are empowered, they will not depend upon opportunities thrown their way but create those opportunities themselves. An educated and skilled person can earn a living anywhere in the world and build his own path to success. The NEP takes all these aspects into account.

The New Education Policy has a goal of making higher education available to 50 per cent of the population by 2035. At present, the number stands at 26 per cent. In other words, the Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) is sought to be doubled in 15 years. India has about 1,000 university-level institutions at present. Doubling the GER would require adding an equal number of universities and equal proportion of resources for students in the next 15 years. The Prime Minister has emphasised that only these steps will help retain Indian talent in India who can then work for the betterment of the coming generations.

The targets set by the Prime Minister in the NEP for the next 15 years equal the achievements of the 72 years of independence and the British rule before that. Thus, the NEP is an epoch-making step that reflects the government’s vision and commitment towards education. The fundamental principles of NEP—increase women’s participation in higher education, turn skill development into a national mission, make education employment-oriented and increase the number of world-class educational institutions—are the need of the hour. Besides highlighting the needs and challenges of the future, the NEP also provides a roadmap for giving the present education system a new direction. All that is needed now is an efficient workplan to implement it.

In India, the quest for quality can be made into a people’s movement only through research and development. The success of the call—‘vocal for local’—also depends upon it. However, one cannot make advances in R&D overnight. It takes generations of hard work to develop cutting edge technology and systems. Quality

education, scientific temper, a culture of questioning set practices, debates and reasoning are needed to help strengthen R&D. The NEP shows a clear thinking in this regard. Hopefully, we will soon start learning about the steps in that direction and the benefits accruing from them.

Quality in research and development is directly linked to financial resources. That is why the NEP talks of allocating 6 per cent of the GDP to education. Everyone is hopeful that under the Prime Minister’s visionary leadership, a solution to this challenge shall be found. Only with the right budget and efficient implementation of the policy can we achieve world class quality education for all. The Prime Minister has appealed to the people to collectively work out ways to implement the NEP. He believes it is a ‘mahayagna’ that will lay the foundation for a new India. g

(The writer is an Indian Administrative Services Officer of 2001 batch of Madhya Pradesh, Managing Director, Madhya Pradesh State Cooperative Marketing Federation, Commissioner, Technical Education Department, Govt of Madhya Pradesh, Bhopal)

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