States must seize initiative to make National Education Policy successful
- Education is a state subject and therefore the burden of effectively implementing NEP falls upon state governments.
The National Education Policy 2020 (NEP) aims to change the education landscape in India for the better, incorporating modern techniques like digital learning, revamping student evaluation, and curriculum in favor of skills that serve the fast-changing requirements of the job market.
Education is a state subject and therefore the burden of effectively implementing NEP falls upon state governments. State governments must view the implementation of NEP as an avenue for competitive federalism. They must seize the initiative to implement its provisions in letter and spirit so they can stake claim on having built the best education system in the country, one which can stand the test of scrutiny by throwing up exemplary data across key metrics.
On the operational front, NEP provides an opportunity for state education boards to make the decisive shift from education for all to ensuring quality education for all.
India's education sector is one of the world's largest, with 1.5 million schools, 8.5 million teachers and 250 million students. The sector was waiting for substantive positive intervention, and NEP is a definitive step in the right direction. The policy makes the right set of provisions with firm focus on multidisciplinary education, due emphasis on online modes of learning, rationalization of course fees and introduction of subjects like coding, artificial intelligence, financial literacy, and data science in school curriculum.
Some states have started making the right moves with urgency. The governments of Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, and Uttar Pradesh have taken the lead in implementing NEP. The Madhya Pradesh state administration has even directed the state’s private university regulatory commission to closely monitor the effective implementation of NEP and to focus on the quality of education and its delivery. The state administration has made it clear that attention must be paid to improving existing courses, research, and innovation in the context of the NEP.
Implementation of NEP in the state has brought to light some interesting results that have the potential to unlock the dynamism of students and serves as an example for other states. As an innovation in NEP, students in Madhya Pradesh have been given the freedom to choose optional subjects. If a student wants, they can choose a subject from any faculty other than their own. Students can choose from 27 subjects from the Arts faculty, 20 subjects from the Science faculty, five subjects from Commerce, apart from subjects like NCC, NSS and Physical Education, among others.
Subjects like Yoga, organic farming, and personality development have emerged as students’ favorites. All these subjects are governed under the state's vocational curriculum, and after two rounds of admission conducted by the Madhya Pradesh Higher Education Department, as many as 86,495 students have chosen Yoga as a subject. Over 80,000 students have chosen organic farming, 77,833 students have opted for personality development, 28,201 students have shown preference for information technology, 22,511 students have selected digital marketing and about 17,879 students have opted for tourism as a subject for vocational studies. Additionally, around 17,500 students have selected e-accounting and taxation with GST, while 14, 627 students have chosen to study medical diagnostics.
What’s more, state governments will find willing partners in civil society organizations to implement NEP in its truest sense as many of them have experience of working on the ground to increase access to quality education among a vast section of children – those from the marginalized sections of society. A case in point is Smile Foundation, a national level NGO engaged in educating 50,000 children in 22 states through its Shiksha Na Ruke initiative that provides access to continuous learning through alternate learning mediums. More state governments must come forward and work to iron out issues in implementing NEP. They could seek the central government’s assistance in easing their journey to effective implementation. NEP has a direct bearing on the future of our country. This reform was long awaited as the education policy was revised after a gap of 34 years to meet the changing needs of the international education system and the job market. India has only to gain if states implement the policy in its true spirit. State governments will, in this process, honor the spirit of federalism and enable India to truly reap its demographic dividend.
(Author Dr Sanjeev Kumar Tiwari is Professor and Principal, Maharaja Agrasen College, University of Delhi. Views expressed here are personal.)