NEP202: Step in the right direction
Transforming and creating a dynamic education system is fundamental for the progress of any country. There have been rapid advances in Technology and science, and these advances have far- reaching and critical implications on almost all aspects of our lives. It is imperative that these changes reflect in our classrooms as well.
After more than three decades, to be precise after 34 years, India has a New Education Policy and it seems quite radical and encompasses all sections of the education system. There is a new school structure, vocational education from the age of 12, four-year degrees, flexible exam systems, a merger of UGC and AICTE, mother tongue as medium of instruction, no hard separation of arts and science. Let’s examine what are the implications and the impact..
New School structure
The replacement of the old school curriculum structure of 10+2 with the new 5+3+3+4 structure is a big positive step. The number of years of schooling remains the same while it brings in the play school period of 3–6 years under the formal education system. The four stages are, the foundational(3–8years), preparatory stage(9–11 years), middle stage (12–14 years) and secondary (15–18years).
The revised structure very closely mirrors the cognitive development of the child and hence the learning and adaptability of the child is far superior and robust, this would bring India at par with the leading countries of the world. A much-needed restructuring.
Vocational education from standard VI (age of 12 years)
Introduction of vocational education from standard VI is perhaps one of the biggest changes, this clearly ensures every child learns atleast one skill after completing school. This has big impact in addressing the huge skill mismatch between the workforce coming through the traditional schooling system and the Industry requirements of vocational skills and new age skills. Just to put it in perspective as to how important this is, have a look at these figures, Germany has about 86% of the workforce who have undergone any form of skilling as they join work, the figure of South Korea is close to 90% and Japan is at 96%, the figure for India stands in the vicinity of 8%!
Four-year degrees with multiple exits, No More Dropouts and Global equivalence
Under the NEP, Undergraduate degree will be of either 3 or 4-year duration with multiple entry and exit options within this period. This provides a huge flexibility to students who can complete a year of study get a basic certificate, go to work and come back again to start the second year with the necessary credits being given for the one year already completed, similarly one could complete two years and get the necessary credits for the same, go to work or take a break either voluntary or involuntary, come back start with the third year. This puts a stop to any loss of time for the period of study undergone earlier, very clearly prevents drop outs significantly and above all makes it possible and encourages people to pursue courses, subjects and vocation of their interest.
The four year courses bring the education system at par with most global systems and all students completing the UG courses can now hope to move seamlessly to any foreign university of their choice.
The four year degree courses are also a tremendous boost towards enhancing the employability quotient of the students passing out and creating a Job Ready work force. These courses with internships and application based modules which we frequently refer to as application based concepts and research, are what the industries require to drive productivity and not spend energies and focus on training manpower to make them job ready!
At Masters level, NEP proposes both one year and two year PG degrees, this will help Indian institutes gain educational equivalence in several countries, likely to promote two way students mobility. Will clearly benefit students who studied one year masters degrees abroad but never got an acceptance in India.
NO UGC, AICTE, NCTE
Multiple Institutions managing the educational system is now being brought under one overarching body of Higher Education Commission of India(HECI) for the entire higher education, excluding medical and legal education. An important step to bring about the uniformity, standardization of policies and a long term focus. The larger and more importantly in the rapidly changing environment we operate more and more on intersections of various fields be it science, technology, arts, fine arts or commerce, hence, it’s imperative to have a well-structured single Institution providing the policy support and adapting to changes in the macro environment. Over regulation a fall out of ‘license raj’ has been the bane of the educational system, we surely do not need an inspector raj, a better way to do this is through a system based checks and balances and self regulation. A regulatory system tends to shift the focus to adherence of activities rather than the outcomes which is producing enlightened and creative minds! This comes at the right moment to take the NEP mission forward.
Mother tongue as medium of instruction
The NEP puts focus on students’ mother tongue as the medium of instruction even as it sticks to the ‘three language formula’. A number of research studies have indicated that the ability to grasp in mother tongue is more in the formative years of a child’s life, and that the brain responds to the mother tongue better. The move to recommend the use of the mother tongue is well founded and the fact that the NEP only recommends the mother tongue as medium of instruction and does not make it compulsory keeps the flexibility of the policy intact which is at the core of the NEP.
No hard separation, Science, arts, commerce gets blurred
Under NEP 2020, there will be no rigid separations between arts and sciences, between curricular and extra-curricular activities, between vocational and academic streams. Students can select subjects of their liking across the streams. Vocational education will start in schools from the 6th grade, and will include internships. This gives a huge fillip to the entire learning process as it encourages and allows the students to express themselves creatively and follow their interests without any inhibitions. Straightjacketing students in the narrow confines of functional lines limits the learning possibilities and clearly overlooks the multidisciplinary aspects of learning evolving rapidly..
What are the challenges I see, well the policy is well rounded and certainly on a sound footing in terms of capturing the changing trends, aspirations of the youth and recognising the dynamics between the various stages of the educational cycle very well. The key as with most of the government initiatives will be the implementation and convergence of various stakeholders for a speedy execution, in short the intent needs to be matched with the execution. The budgeted expenses is ambitious hence mobilization of resources maybe challenging though not unmanageable. The budget allocation and the planned GER (Gross enrolment ratio) will need a close monitoring if we are to be anywhere near the targeted numbers — a 6% budget allocation and a higher education GER of 50% from a current 25.8% will need a lot more than strong intent…