In NEP, focus on critical thinking and creativity: Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’
Union education minister Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ speaks to Amandeep Shukla on the National Education Policy (NEP) . Edited excerpts:
What effect will the National Education Policy (NEP) have on the education system of the country in the short run and the long run?
With the NEP 2020 coming into effect, we are hoping to transform education and putting a significant thrust on learning about how to think critically and solve problems, how to be creative and multidisciplinary, and how to innovate, adapt, and absorb new material in novel and changing fields. The new curriculum will include basic arts, crafts, humanities, games, sports and fitness, languages, literature, culture, and values, in addition to science and mathematics, to develop all aspects and capabilities of learners, and make education more well-rounded, useful, and fulfilling to the learner.
The education system talks of providing quality education to children in schools as well as universities. However, there are lakhs of vacancies for teachers. What do you plan on this?
Teachers’ vacancies will be filled at the earliest, especially in disadvantaged areas and areas with large pupil-to-teacher ratios or high rates of illiteracy. A technology-based comprehensive teacher-requirement forecasting exercise will be conducted by each state to assess expected subject-wise teacher vacancies over the next two decades.
At higher education level, the policy states that leadership positions shall not remain vacant, but rather an overlapping time period during transitions in leadership shall be the norm.
One of the highlights of this policy has been its focus on mother tongue as a medium of instruction…
Young children learn and grasp nontrivial concepts more quickly in their home language/mother tongue. Wherever possible, the medium of instruction until at least Grade 5, but preferably till Grade 8 and beyond, will be the home language/mother tongue/local language/regional language.
However, there will be a greater flexibility in the three-language formula, and no language will be imposed on any state. The three languages learned by children will be the choices of states, regions, and of course the students themselves, so long as at least two of them are native to India.
Nowhere the policy talks about shedding the English language; instead it emphasizes on the importance of multilingualism which has great cognitive benefit for young children.
Will it be possible to make regional language the medium of instruction in centrally run Kendriya Vidyalayas (KVs) or Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas (JNVs)? What is the ministry’s view on this?
KVs and JNVs have students from all over India, not from a particular region or state. Therefore, NEP has proposed that wherever possible, the medium of instruction until at least Grade 5, but preferably till Grade 8 and beyond, will be the home language/mother tongue/local language/regional language. Thereafter, the home/local language shall continue to be taught as a language wherever possible.
From when does the policy become effective? Will its provisions apply in the coming session? Or will you make a timeline to implement various measures?
This policy is for the next 20 years. We are in a process of making the implementation plan.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, one major issue that came into focus was the digital divide. How do you plan to address the requirements of the underprivileged sections through NEP?
NEP 2020 recognises the importance of leveraging the advantages of technology while acknowledging potential risks and dangers. Given the fact that there still persists a substantial section of the population whose digital access is highly limited, mass media — such as television, radio, and community radio — will be extensively used.
The policy says children will be given a logical framework for making ethical decisions. How do you plan to teach ethics and morals to students?
Instilling knowledge of India and its varied social, cultural, and technological needs; its inimitable artistic, language, and knowledge traditions; and its strong ethics in India’s young people is considered critical for purposes of national pride, self-confidence, self-knowledge, cooperation, and integration as mentioned in NEP. At present, we have just come out with NEP. The formulation of a new and comprehensive National Curricular Framework for School Education, NCFSE 2020-21, will be undertaken by the NCERT (National Council of Educational Research and Training) based on the principles of this National Education Policy 2020, frontline curriculum needs and after discussions with all stakeholders. Based on this, parallel changes will be done in school textbooks.
NEP allows foreign varsities to set up campuses in India. How will you ensure that a foreign varsity does not indulge in profit-making from education?
India will be promoted as a global study destination providing premium education at affordable costs, thereby helping to restore its role as a Vishwa Guru. A legislative framework facilitating such entry will be put in place, and such universities will be given special dispensation regarding regulatory, governance, and content norms on par with other autonomous institutions of India. Credits acquired in foreign universities will be permitted, where appropriate as per the requirements of each higher education institution (HEI), to be counted for the award of a degree.
Multiple mechanisms with checks and balances will combat and stop the commercialization of higher education. All education institutions will be held to similar standards of audit and disclosure as a ‘not for profit’ entity. Surpluses, if any, will be reinvested in the institution. All HEIs — public and private — shall be treated on par within this regulatory regime.
There are institutes like IITs and IIMs which stand out in areas like technology and management. How advisable is it to turn them into inter-disciplinary units?
The IITs are already leading the path by introducing multi-disciplinary courses. The policy envisages a broad-based multi-disciplinary holistic education at the undergraduate level for integrated, rigorous exposure to science, arts, humanities, mathematics and professional fields.
NEP is an ambitious plan. It envisages setting up several new institutions, capacity building, modernizing infrastructure. It also calls for increasing budget spend to 6%. How easy or difficult is it to meet these targets?
The Centre and states will work together to increase the public investment in education sector to reach 6% of GDP at the earliest. This is considered extremely critical for achieving the high-quality and equitable public education system.
The academic session for 2020-21 has still not taken off. The Kuhad committee has suggested that the dates for commencement of the session be postponed to November-December…
The higher education institutes will be opened based on the directions of the ministry of home affairs guidelines.