National Education Policy 2020: Roadmap for smooth implementation of reforms
With the roll out of the National Education Policy (NEP), 2020, India’s education system truly ushered into the 21st century. The last education reform had come in 1986, 34 years prior to this one. Thus, NEP 2020 is being hailed as the much necessary re-imagination of the Indian education system.
However, the implementation of the policy needs the active participation of all stakeholders and a clear roadmap. Acknowledging this, the Ministry of Education invited suggestions from school teachers, principals, and other people involved on the implementation of the NEP 2020.
So, here are a few suggestions that will help in smooth implementation of NEP 2020:-
Greater Spending: The NEP 2020 largely hits all the right chords but for the perfect symphony, the implementation must match up to the policy on papers. For starters, the spending on the education sector should increase substantially for the right implementation of the NEP 2020. The policy claims an expenditure of 6% of our GDP but it must also be kept in mind that the Kothari Commission had suggested the same over 50 years ago.
While the rich Western states are likely to emerge as fast adapters, the Eastern states may struggle financially in implementing the policy in letter and spirit.
National Education Council: In a bid to bounce over this issue of inequality among states, the Centre can set up a National Education Council on the lines of the GST council. This council can have representation of every stakeholder (public and private) along with state education ministers.
The Government of India is the policy maker, the regulator, and also the implementer in the education sector. This makes for a highly politicized situation. Some changes will probably be unanimously accepted, while some may face problems due to issues ranging from cultural to political. The formation of a National Education Council, as suggested above, will be crucial in dealing with such issues and ensuring a smooth road for the implementation of the reformative policy.
Private Schools: Yet another prerequisite for the success of NEP 2020 is focus on private schools. In India, every education reform is brought about while keeping the government schools in mind. However, a policy as ambitious as NEP 2020 is unlikely to truly benefit the nation without the active participation of private institutions.
The NEP also lays great emphasis on technology. In order to solemnize the association of education with technology, the tier II and tier III cities must have a better digital infrastructure. Further, there is a cost associated with providing digital classrooms, AR/VR tools, well-equipped laboratories, and others.
However, a significant percentage of state-run schools and ‘budget private schools’ lack the infrastructure that is necessary to offer multidisciplinary subjects and extracurricular activities that the NEP envisions. In such a case, the well-equipped schools must take the lead in implementing the reform. Meanwhile, the small institutions must be supported in every which way to penetrate the maximum number of students.
Replicating successful models: India is not far from achieving its goal of providing universal access to elementary education. However, an individual cannot acquire any work skill from it. Therefore, the focus needs to shift to secondary education. In this process, we can replicate the model of successful government and private schools. The common factors behind the success of these schools include — well-trained teachers, excellent academic and co-curricular infrastructure, and active participation in academic and co-curricular activities, among others.
A good example would be Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas (JNV) which has been instrumental in promoting talented students, predominantly from rural areas in India. The results posted by JNVs have consistently been better than other Central and state-run schools. More such schools will be the key to better implementation of NEP 2020. In fact, the Uttarakhand government has already given a nod to setting up model Atal Utkrisht Schools in all 95 blocks of the state.
For India to match up to the level of education in developed Western nations, the country also needs more Institutes of Excellence. A budgetary provision was also made for the same when Late Arun Jaitley Ji was the Finance Minister of India. Such institutes will provide a platform to students to not just excel in education but also in research and innovation.
Elaborate Strategy: The slew of educational reforms mentioned in the NEP 2020 needs the backing of a policy framework. For instance, a strategy is crucial for converting the existing 10+2 model to 5+3+3+4 structure covering children from ages of 3-to-18 years. Similarly, the NEP 2020 underscores the menace of drop out but doesn’t elaborate on how will the government solve issues — like poverty, availability and accessibility — which are the major causes behind a child leaving education mid-way.
In several states, committees are being set up to implement the policy. Just recently, two panels were constituted in the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand to prepare a roadmap for the implementation of the NEP 2020.
Battling Covid-19: The outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic is probably the biggest challenge in the path of the implementation of the NEP at present. Suffering heavy losses, the institutions are struggling to even provide the level of learning they used to provide in previous years. Many private schools have not been able to pay full salaries to their teachers as fee payments have reduced massively. Thus, there is an urgent need for the state governments and the Centre to reach out to not just state-run schools but also private schools so that no student is devoid of quality education.
Last but definitely not the least, the success of NEP 2020 can’t be an instant one. It will take years of successful implementation to transform the education sector of India and prepare the ground for more skilled and efficient professionals in the future. The adoption of NEP 2020 is certainly a coming-of-the-age reform; all it needs now is sustained execution.
(Author Bharat Goyal is founder, director of Bhartiyam International School. Views expressed here are personal.)