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Analyzing India's National Education Policy 2020: Opportunity and Impediments

Updated: Dec 15, 2020

The genesis of changing world and domestic dispositions of knowledge landscape, innovation and research orientated education is very much visible and utmost important. With the scientific advancement and rapid innovations in artificial intelligence, machines, space exploration, data, digital economic developments and other disruptive developments, the threat of unskilled workforce being replaced by machines is very much possible in the coming years. However, this could be the best time to transform and transcend the learning experiences for all by creating more skilled workforce, research rich academia, innovation based economy and sustainable growth for future, which can contribute to reduce poverty, unemployment, hazardous climatic changes, depletion of resources etc. India being a developing nation with the second largest population of 1.3 billion people had failed in providing it's youth and citizens the learning experience and quality education with equity and inclusiveness that would have transformed the economic and knowledge base of the country. India since independence is void of coherence and determination to match the standards of education that we witnessed in other developed countries and this was partly because of policy dilemmas. In 1986, India implemented it's first national education policy dealing with accessibility of education to masses and Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009[1]. National Education Policy 2020 (NEP 2020), drawing inspiration from agenda for 'Sustainable Development Goal' of 2030[2], that India adopted, envisions to transform the character and ecosystem of Indian education. It lays emphasis on revamping all educational structure, gender equality, achieving foundational literacy, multidisciplinary education, inclusive curriculum and equitable learning. From multilingual language curriculum, teachers training, 'tight but light' framework, technology based education, no hard separation between subjects, ancient knowledge base of learning to creating 'Special Education Zones'. National Education Policy, 2020, proposed to uplift the disadvantaged communities and provide them equal opportunity to sustain and thrive in Indian education system. Change in pedagogical and curricular structure, regulations and governance, increase in investment for making education viable, equitable and sustainable for the citizens are the primary focus of this policy.

National Education Policy, 2020, envisage a holistic and multidisciplinary approach towards national education. The policy, starting from changing the spectrum of pre school education, focused on modification of existing pedagogical structure of 10+2 to 5+3+3+4, which covers the age group of 3 to 18 years as a structural change. The proposed design divides the existing structure into two Foundational Stage-3 years of Anganwadi and 2 years in primary school(1-2 Grade), Preparatory Stage(3-5 Grades), Middle Stage(6-8 Grade) and Secondary Stage(9-10 and 10-12 Grade). This design will be based on pedagogy of Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) in primary education supported by NCERT[3]. Reduction in content for each subject is emphasized for making learning more creative, well rounded and to provide ample space for debates, problem solving and experimental activities. Overall learning experience for school education is to be 'light and tight' as mentioned in the policy. Inclusiveness in education for a nation is as vital as free market opportunity for any capitalist economy or for that matter any economy. Multilingualism provided in the policy sounds promising for our diverse communities to participate and compete on the basis of equity and sustainability of education. NEP 2020 recommends to provide textbooks in home language or mother tongue for every subject possible. Local languages will be formulated in the Foundational Stage, as children are more prone to cognitive development and learning languages. Both central and state governments to collaborate for developing teachers pool in all regional languages mentioned under the Eight Schedule of the Constitution of India with vehement technological support in language learning. Continuation of three languages with no imposition of particular language on states is intact with importance emphasized on 'Sanskrit Knowledge System', offered at all levels of school and higher education as a symbol of our ancient knowledge base that India contains, as an important option for schools to adopt. This effort to narrow down the gap of language barriers in our education system is very prominent and desired for masses to access quality and sustainable education in nation building. The other practical and logical approach of this policy is to consider to curb dropout rates in schools at all levels. Gross Enrollment Ratio(GER) data shows that enrollment for Grades 6-8 was 90.9% with 56.5% for Grades 11-12, a sharp decline which is very much visible, painted on the canvas of unaffordable, unsustainable, ineffective education of India. The 75th, NSSO survey submitted in 2017-18 that the number of dropouts school children between 6-17 years is 3.22 crore[4]. This sharp dropout rate from schools paints a dark picture of the educational system that is in place at the moment. In no way this scenario is going to ensure a sustainable future for India as it has been regularly propagated to achieve. NEP,2020, recommends how to curtail the dropout rates[5]. First, effective infrastructure should be built to provide suitable sustainability in campuses. Government schools to re-establish their credibility as they contribute a large chunk of enrollments, also enhanced engagement with civil society for ensuring dropout students to be retrieved back to schools. Second, restarting the enrollment process in a wider perspective, considering the marginalized to provide them equitable and inclusive education, while engaging with departments of Social Justice and Empowerment to create mechanisms to help eradicate inequality in gender representation in schools. Socio-Economically Disadvantaged Groups (SEDGs) need special care to broaden the education base in India. Negation of the largest part of our society from educational equality in any means is antithesis to our constitutional principles in spirit. The initiative of State Open Schools will be expanded, as mentioned in the policy, for people not able to attend a physical school for any reasons.

Malevolence of mind will be in pursuit of chaos. Yang and yin, a famous Taoist symbol, two serpents from head to tail[6], vehemently represents the conditions of teachers we have and teachers we need. In NEP 2020, deliberate efforts are given to raise the standards of teachers education comprehended with their training, salaries, job satisfaction and facilities that they were exempted from till date. Consider the Justice J.S. Verma Commission (2012), which reported that the majority of Teachers Education Institutions (TEIs) are corrupt and involved in selling degrees for a price. Corruption is not shocking though. However, there is an urgent need to revitalize the training programs for teachers and end the ills that persist in the system of education. Teaching profession is a noble one which pretty much dictates the future outcomes for any nation, thus teachers are architects of nation building. The NEP 2020, emphasized on new parameters of recruitment by instituting 4-year integrated B.Ed. programmes, strengthening of TETs for inducting variants of test materials and similar standards of qualifications in private and public schools through TET. Service conditions in any profession is a strong variable which constitutes standardization in it, with contributing in its efficiency and improvement. In this direction, NEP 2020, recommends better service conditions at schools, working toilets in public schools where it is in deficit, recreational resources, libraries and gender neutral standards for appraisals, appointments and inclusiveness. To make such initiatives successful, collaboration of teachers from small schools will be formulated to share experience and best practices to improve the process of learning and also teachers with Continuous Professional Development (CPD), will be offered 50 hours of CPD to develop their professional skills and interests. For standardizing the teaching profession, National Standards for Teachers ( NPST) is to be developed by 2022 under NCERT, General Education Council (GEC) and Professional Standards Setting Body (PSSB), to equalize the competence of teachers for every stage of schooling. Overall development in teachers training will be proven very beneficial for core educational leap to mach global standards or in some ways to set a standard for others to achieve. The proposed policy is a holistic vision to reimagine our teaching profession as it was in ancient Indian, where teachers were placed at top of the social hierarchy. Rejuvenating the excellence and competence in our teachers can only be achieved when we place them, with respect and dignity, on top of the hierarchy which countries like Sweden, Finland, Norway, Germany and others have established with due diligence and inclusiveness based on the fundamentals of egalitarianism as a model.

With jettisoning the oblique nature of Indian educational culture a bright future shall be envisioned. However, the circumstantial evidence on matter is not in consonance with the vision that youth of India have. The social hierarchy and cultural norms are catalysts for educational policies to not optimize their ability properly. The proposed policy, NEP 2020, with adherence to reform Indian educational culture, emphasized on socio cultural and economic indifferences that exist. As said in the policy that inclusion and equitability of quality education for disadvantaged Indians is 'essential goal in its own right', have cleared the agenda and ambition forwarded by NEP 2020. In India, though it has achieved significant success in eradicating differences between groups of all kinds in providing equitable and inclusive education, still disparities prevails in the majority of groups, particularly for Socio-Economically Disadvantaged Groups (SEDGs). This group consists of students from Scheduled Tribes, Scheduled Castes, OBSs, minorities, disabled, migrants, orphans, victims of trafficking, women and students from low household income to rural villages. SEDGs are subjected to circumstances where sustaining education becomes least important due to various factors such as historical under representation, socio-cultural identities and malevolent economic conditions. U-DISE data confirms that, about 19.6% of SCs students at primary level comes down to 17.3% at the higher secondary stage, 10.6% to 6.8% for STs and 1.1% to 0.25% for differently-abled[7], hence we can understand the reason for dropout rates now. The NEP 2020 recommends ways to reduce the differences and make education more inclusive by targeting specific groups as per their needs and demands, for example creating mechanisms for Children With Special Needs (CWSN), targeted scholarships, incentivizing parents to send their children to schools by cash transfers, providing transportation etc. There has been emphasis to increase female participation in our educational system by organizing cycling and walking groups, due to insecurities of parents, which have shown great positive results in terms of female participation and change in psychological barriers. Also, NEP proposed to constitute a 'Gender-Inclusion Fund', which will be used by center and states to provide equitable learning opportunities for female and transgender children by creating adequate infrastructures and to propagate more gender neutral and egalitarian doctrines. Furthermore, extension plans for Kendriya Vidyalayas, Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas, Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalayas has also been proposed to facilitate the intake of SEDGs, especially female children's in. The development of Special Education Zones (SEZs), aspirational districts and areas can be proved as a strong variable in future for better inclusive and equitable education for all, as it specifies the needs of particular disadvantaged areas to tackle and improve its standard of educational reach and participation. In Higher Education Institutions (HEIs), it is recommended that the government will take initiative to ensure less obstacles in opportunities and more freedom for excellence. The NEP suggests government funds for SEDGs, gender neutrality in admissions, developing for HEIs in SEZs and aspirations districts, outreach programs on scholarships for SEDGs, multilingual or bilingual programs for tribals, anti-harassment laws, decreasing the cost output in higher education and development of Institutional Development Plans. These suggestions could help to reach towards the goal envisioned in the policy provided that it gets financial assistance from ministries responsible.

Taking care of 21st century demands in education and learning, innovation and academic research is to be given special attention. Dr. Subramanian Swamy in his book Reset: Regaining India's Economic Legacy said,'India missed the Industrial Revolution in the nineteenth century, and then lost out in the race for globalization in the twentieth century due to the adoption of the command economy framework, and now is faced with the threat of missing the knowledge and innovation revolution of the twenty- first century too'. The statement is clear, either we develop our own innovation base in India or we perish again in midst of unfortunate and paralyzed policies. But fortunately with the National Education Policy 2020 we can manage to attain the unattained in past centuries. For this, the National Research Foundation is to be set up, as research and innovations are the most important variables for sustainability of a vibrant economy and employment generation. We exactly know how innovation has changed the world economy, with that it's world order, in past centuries. India, as a growing economy of the world should heavily invest in academic research and innovation which will in return provide it's unemployment rates to shrink and exports to substantially increase. In comparison, the USA invests 2.8% of its GDP in R&D and Israel 4.3%, whereas India only invests 0.69% of its GDP. Addressing these challenges, NEP advised to form multidisciplinary research centers across fields of subjects, financing the projects and making school education more about discoveries and innovation rather than cramming facts. These initiatives can only be achieved through new regulations, governing bodies and debureaucratization in educational institutional hierarchy. For this, policy recommendation is to set up four vertical independent bodies to look after funding, academic standard setting, regulations and accreditation which eventually will lead to better transparency in the system and enhance the credibility of educational institutions where students can participate and compete on the global level for innovation and research developments. All four governing bodies will be under the Higher Education Commission of India (HECI). Once all voids are filled in governance, the storyline of R&D in India will be an example for the world to witness.

Mark Twain said,' It's not what we don't know that gets us in trouble. It's what we know for sure that just ain't so', these words sums up exactly what we know and what we don't, about the NEP 2020. Although, it takes into consideration the irregularities and malpractices that are domineering in the educational culture of our country, the proximity to purge the remnants of the ills into it is a matter of time to get discovered. From funding for scholarships, building infrastructure, promoting equitable education, pedagogical changes to research based education and innovation lead development, all is under the cover of uncertainty of implementation. It is emphasized in the policy that the implementation will be in phased manner with unnecessary haste. For this the recommendation is to take civil society into confidence and build the chain of awareness that can reduce the burden from public machineries and address the lack of sensitivity of the issue, language politics among states, stereotypes against female education and others. Prioritizing the areas where the changes are required with immediate effect, like gender representation and infrastructure, will be ensured with bridging states consensus on matters which are complicated and under state mandate. The proposal to improve education in India is based on one fundamental ground- financial freedom for institutions. Raising expenditures on education to 4.43%- 6% of GDP is a huge burden on government expenditures and looking at the larger picture of Indian economy it is almost suicidal, until we don't eradicate our economic misadventures. Implementation will be a major obstacle for the government as they will need a synchronized system to make this policy more easy to adopt and void of all political uncertainties and repercussions. If India can manage to keep up with the idea behind the National Education Policy 2020, it will be a game changing event, not only for India but for the world who look at us and our talented youth to contribute towards better future and more equitable and just society in terms of wealth and education.

[1] National Education Policy 2020, Ministry of Human Resource Development, Govt Of India, p.g. 4 [2] National Education Policy 2020, p.g. 3 [3] National Education Policy 2020, p.g. 6 and 7. [4] NEP 2020, p.g. 10 [5] Ibid [6] Jordan B. Peterson, 12 Rules For Life- An Antidote To Chaos. [7] NEP 2020, P.g. 25

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