NEP can make India a knowledge superpower | Opinion
With its focus on access, equity, learning infrastructure, governance, the policy is just right for the countryUpdated: Aug 02, 2020 18:38 IST
The National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 comes a staggering 34 years after it was last revised. With this comes the possibility of historical educational reform. Timely and progressive, it marks a monumental milestone in the country’s education system. In fact, the document iterated over the last few years is an exemplar of how public policy should be framed — factoring in voices of every single stakeholder.
While the systemic reform agenda has gained ground in recent years through initiatives such as the NITI Aayog’s School Education Quality Index (SEQI), the Sustainable Action for Transforming Human Capital in Education (SATH-E) and even the Aspirational Districts Programme, NEP will drive change in alignment with the system’s need to focus holistically on the most critical tenets of access, equity, infrastructure, governance and learning.
First, with an extensive focus on universalising access from early childhood to higher education, integrating over 20 million out-of-school children, and concerted efforts for the socio-economically disadvantaged groups, the policy ensures last-mile delivery, embodying antyodaya.
Second, through a convergence of efforts, erasing traditional silos in workflows, early childhood care and education will be delivered with a new curriculum which features activity-based joyful learning.
Along with a dedicated national mission for foundational literacy and numeracy, NEP 2020 will bolster the most critical phases of learning, building the strongest foundations of education.
Third, NEP marks a departure from archaic practices and pedagogy. The dismantling of the rigid distinction between curricular, extracurricular and co-curricular subjects in school, and the provision of multiple entry and exit options in higher education brings in the much-needed fluidity and flexibility for students to hone their skills and interests.
Revamped curriculum, adult education, lifelong learning and the vision to ensure that half India’s learners have exposure to at least one vocational skill in the next five years is characteristic of the shift from rote to applied learning. Through a skill-gap analysis, practice-based curriculum and internships with local vocational experts, NEP 2020’s Lok Vidya reflects Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi’s call of being vocal for local.
Fourth, it is heartening to see the establishment of a national assessment centre called PARAKH (National Centre for Performance Assessment, Review and Analysis of Knowledge for Holistic development).
Continuous tracking of learning, flexible board exams, conceptual assessments and Artificial Intelligence-enabled data systems will be critical to orienting the entire organisation around outcomes (as opposed to the traditional excessive focus on inputs), providing a systems-health check, as well as steering the right reform and course corrections.
Fifth, teacher education is re-imagined with a new comprehensive curricular framework, multidisciplinary programmes and stringent action against substandard institutions, bolstering education through bold reform.
Propelling SEQI’s vision for teacher adequacy and transparent systems for merit-based selection and deployment, the institution of online systems for teacher transfer and planning will be of the essence to ensure the right teachers in the right institutes.
Sixth, the creation of an academic credit bank, the impetus to research, graded autonomy, internationalisation and the development of special economic zones are vital to rebranding India as a desired higher education destination. Further, multilingual education and efforts to enhance knowledge about India could restore the country’s educational heritage. A system that’s modern yet rooted, and at the threshold of the old and the new.
Seventh, NEP marks an overhaul of the governance architecture from over-regulation and complex, diverse norms to a simplified and cogent structure. School complexes and clusters will bring about efficient resourcing of delivery structures; common standards and norms will boost the quality of institutes across all levels; a single regulatory body for higher education will serve as a template for minimal, essential regulation and maximum, effective governance. Outcome-focused accreditation will be critical to leapfrogging India’s journey towards quality education, the fourth goal of sustainable development.
NEP 2020 is a welcome step in the right direction, signalling the “new normal” in education with its pivotal focus on critical thinking, experiential learning, interactive classrooms, integrated pedagogy and competency-based education. Inclusive digital education features as a cross-cutting component through all reform areas, powering India’s journey towards the fourth industrial revolution. It’s truly a multifaceted policy made in India, by India and for India.
As with every other policy, the real test will be in its translation from policy to action. Backed by expeditious and effective implementation in sync with its spirit, NEP will shape the lives of India’s future generations.
Through a robust education system leveraging the full potential of its demographic dividend, India has taken a major step towards establishing itself as a true knowledge superpower.