India/July 29, 2021/By S Vaidhyasubramaniam/Source: https://www.newindianexpress.com/
The NEP 2020 is a policy response designed to not only vaccinate all stakeholders against antiquated symptoms, but also provide a permanent cure to India’s education problems
Ancient wisdom and modern science still continue their mystic and mutual exclusivity, adding two more to their famed wish list of universal solvent, elixir of immortality and transmuted metal (gold)—driverless car and academic freedom. The driverless car seems to have fired its four-stroke single cylinder engine to approach its reality milestone. Whether academic freedom can be achieved through another single cylinder multi-stroke New Education Policy (NEP 2020) engine is the question of the day as it completes its first anniversary. Here are some answers.
When the NEP 2020 was announced last year on 29 July 2020, it was hailed as a transformational policy with its own share of critical reviews just as any tectonic policy would have. I also wrote that it’s India’s education Pokhran, with huge potential to leave indelible footprints in the global eduscape. However, the success of any policy is not only from its potential but also from its implementation and action plan. The preceding timeline, birth and the long shelf-life of NEP 2020 are significant dimensions in its operationalisation. NEP 2020 is India’s third educational policy—the first, in 1968, was when education was on the Union list and the second, in 1986 (and PoA in 1992), was after it moved to the concurrent list through the 46th Constitutional amendment in 1976. NEP 2020 is hence a sandwiched response to an eventful 34-year educational reform and the next generation’s aspirational targets. The 1986 to 2020 edu-policy scripted its own success stories that ensured India’s rise in various parameters—school and gross enrolment ratio, role of private players for public good, leveraging the IT-Biotech boom, research capacity building, etc. Though left behind when compared to global peers, we have made a good start and reached this far. NEP 2020 is the much-needed catalyst to accelerate the reform process without losing the gathered steam. Whether the steam will disappear into thin air or will rain opportunities depends on the action and implementation plan.
The cusp of NEP’s first anniversary seems to shine with a MIDAS golden touch transition with critical elements of Modularity, Interdisciplinarity, Diversity, Accessibility and Sustainability. This MIDAS touch is a gold mine of opportunities if and only if the agencies like the UGC, AICTE, NCTE or their new avatars like the Higher Education Commission of India (HECI), National Research Foundation (NRF), etc., broaden their policy and action thoughts. The forerunners to NEP 2020—the TSR Subramanian Committee Report, the Education Quality Upgradation and Inclusion Programme (EQUIP) drafted by 10 thematic committees (I was a member in one), the unprecedented response to the massive crowd-sourcing effort of the Kasturirangan Committee, etc., were all symptomatic of a successful trial run. The Cabinet approval and announcement of NEP 2020 signalled the arrival of a blockbuster drug for India’s educational problems.
Since the announcement of NEP 2020 during Covid times, there has been a series of first policy vaccination dosages aligned with the MIDAS golden touch. The multiple entry and exit options find a place in a pilot effort through the proposed UGC’s Academic Bank of Credits that provides mobility with modularity. The AICTE’s and UGC’s efforts in updating and upgrading the learning outcomes and curriculum framework for various degree programmes have the right raw material mix for interdisciplinarity. The AICTE’s effort to offer technical education in 11 regional languages other than English and its attempt to blend Indian knowledge systems with modern education have to be appreciated for their diversity. The National Educational Alliance for Technology (NEAT) initiative of AICTE and the UGC’s ODL/Online Regulations (requiring further refinement) are clear accessibility multipliers, offering empowerment to the marginalised and disadvantaged. The proposed HECI with its four pillars for regulation, norms and standards; accreditation and financing; the NRF; and other such structural reform agents are the elements for sustainability with short-, medium- and long-term approaches. These are the first dosages of the NEP vaccine delivered by various committees of the Ministry of Education, AICTE, UGC, etc., to ensure that the policy’s golden shine is not just an illusionary optical mirage but a visionary and transformational canvas.
We are at a crossroads after the first policy vaccine dosage and the success of NEP lies in the administration of its second dosage, which predominantly comprises the various implementation and action plans. At a time when various stakeholders have begun their second dosage efforts, it is essential that it needs unprecedented levels of continuous, assured and indiscriminate policy oxygenation along with progressive support from various statutory and regulatory bodies. Akin to the Covid’s second vaccination dosage that cannot suffer from long time gaps or unavailability, the NEP implementation and action plans cannot suffer from delayed take-off or turbulent flying after having commenced its taxiing.
Just as the Covid pandemic has taught us in many ways the need for a new normal even after vaccination, the NEP 2020 is a policy response designed to not only vaccinate all the stakeholders—policymakers, regulators, education providers and participants—against antiquated symptoms, but also provide a new normal as a permanent cure to India’s legacy education problems. Moving forward, the post-vaccination success rests on the sustained scaffolding, fool-proofing and future proofing of India’s eduscape by the new-age policy fountainhead, HECI and its pillars of support with other ministerial and statutory agencies as progressive catalysts of change. In this future approach lies the success of NEP 2020, India’s edu-policy vaccine.
(Views are personal)
S Vaidhyasubramaniam, Vice-Chancellor, SASTRA Deemed University, (firstname.lastname@example.org)