New Education Policy 2019 – A Discourse

  • The Draft National Education Policy 2019 submitted by the Committee under the Chairmanship of Dr. Krishnaswamy Kasturirangan and has been uploaded on the Ministry’s website
    http://mhrd.gov.in/relevant-documents

    The ministry requested comments on the same, with a provision to upload the comments/ recommendations at
    https://tinyurl.com/feedback-nep2019

    The following are summary overview comments, categorized under relevant heads.

    School Education

    Some of the key challenges that are seen in the current School Education are:

  • Lack of infrastructure, including availability of toilets
  •  Under prepared teachers, and no continued education program to keep them updated
  •  Outdated curriculum, which are not updated over a significant period of time
  •  Language challenges – when instructors are familiar with the local languages, or the course contents are not localized
  •  Low level of motivation, high levels of absenteeism of both the staff and the students
  • Weak pedagogy and evaluations resulting in poor outcomes, as demonstrated by ASER surveys every year

    A series of steps has been suggested in the NEP 2019 to address these areas, covering recruitment of teachers, improving quality of teacher training schools, two part early education program, board examinations to test only core concepts, skills and higher order capacities, concept of school complex, long term deployment of the teachers, no non-teaching activities during school hours, continuing professional development programs, School Management Committees in unaided schools, and focus on teaching the core and reduce rot learning are some of them.

    Some of the other areas where more details are needed will be:
    – How to overcome the resistance of the vested interests in some of the reforms that are proposed. There should be some principles which will explore the possibility of partnerships with the existing players rather than confrontations.
    – How to ensure the current set of students, who are already in the system, and have accumulated a backlog of under developed competencies, and needs to be brought to acceptable levels to extract the democratic dividends
    – The issue of budgetary constraints have been addressed at the policy level, however the areas like efficient use of the current infrastructure and the available funds to be deliberated in the detail
    – While RTE has opened up opportunities for millions of underprivileged students, without a robust bridging model the potential benefits are not fully realized

    Higher Education

    India has built a number of world class institutions in the years following the independence, but over a period time the initiative have largely moved to the private sector. While it is a welcome trend, it has also added to the challenges that the sector is facing today. Some of the key areas are:

  • Ensuring the uniformity of the standards and acceptability of the academic institutions across the public and private segments
  • Increase in Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) while not compromising the intake quality. Rather, we need to have a model for significant interventions at the entry level to improve the faculties of the current batches of the school education for the time the interventions in school system shows results
  •  Quality of the faculty, specifically given the standards of PhDs are of increasing concern, and the same being a gating criteria for almost all academic positions
  • Avenues to augment the financial resources for the institutions so that they can make significant investments for capacity building
  • The regulatory compliance, lack of clarity at times, and significant time and energy expended to ensure that an institution is not in violations

    NEP 2019 makes a significant number of recommendations to address many of these areas. Some of the significant ones are proposals to set up the National Higher Education Regulatory Authority (NHERA) – which will limit the role of all professional councils to setting standards for professional practice, the role of the University Grants Commission (UGC) will be limited to providing grants to higher educational institutions, separating NAAC from the UGC into an independent and autonomous body, that higher education institutions could be allowed to be set up through a Higher Education Institution Charter from NHERA, restructuring the institutions into three categories – research, teaching, and only undergraduate, allowing private institutions to open campuses in other countries etc.

    The policy also looked at the lack of growth path and continuing education for the faculty members. However it does not adequately address the issue of lack of fundamental academic capabilities being absent in a significant number of faculty members, and how to address that in a mode of “refuelling while on flight”.

    Education Governance

    Some issues of the governance have been highlighted in the previous section. A significant challenge is the complexity, at times rigidity, and the time taken for approvals. Compliance is still largely physical and time consuming.

    A good number of measures have been suggested, including creation of a National Education Commission or Rashtriya Shiksha Aayog, as an apex body for education. The Draft Policy reaffirmed the commitment of spending 6% of GDP as public investment in education. However this is a goal which with some variance is present all through post-independence, but issue of how to make that a self-sustaining model could have been deliberated in detail.

    Adoption of technology

    India had been the seat of IT revolution, but it is a tragedy that technology still plays a very limited role in our education system. This spans both the adoption of technology for better learning, as well the faculties available to take the students through the frontier subjects.

    The technology adoption of Indian academic institutions suffers from many challenges – budget, infrastructure, connectivity, mobility, terminal devices. However the biggest challenge is the lack of the strategic intent. So most cases the policy makers and implementers both are not thinking incorporation of the technology as a building block. The low awareness and adoption of MOOCs for example is an instance to note.

    NEP 2019 suggests some measures – like setting up a National Repository to maintain all records related to institutions, teachers, and students in digital form, as well a mission to encompass virtual laboratories that provide remote access to laboratories in various disciplines. However this needs a much bigger involvement of the technology industry leaders, as well academicians exposed to next generation tech-enabled learnings, for incorporation of the relevant content.

    Vocational education

    NEP 2019 observes that less than 5% of the workforce in the age-group of 19-24 receives vocational education in India, and suggests all school students must receive vocational education in at least one vocation in grades nine to 12. It also proposes that the Higher Education Institutions must also offer vocational courses that are integrated into the undergraduate education programmes.
    While these are noble thoughts, the integration of the vocational skills with the jobs needs to be worked in greater detail. As our experience in the IT industry has shown, when there is an opportunity, capability building happens because organizations become active partners. A much deeper deliberations, including the possibility of the adoption of a similar model, can be looked into.

    Adult Education

    While we are building the next generation through the School and Higher Education, bringing at least the functional literacy among the adults who are not educated, and outside the academic years, is a critical component in building a just and inclusive society.

    NEP 2019 proposed establishing an autonomous Central Institute of Adult Education (as part of NCERT) will develop a National Curriculum Framework, developing relevant courses for youth and adults will be made available at the National Institute of Open Schooling, development of a cadre of adult education instructors and managers, as well as a team of one-on-one tutors etc. It also proposed that the Adult Education Centres will be included within the proposed school complexes – which, if implemented can be a revolutionary idea.

    Education and Indian Languages

    The three language formula, which was always there, has come under much criticism, and there is a need to deliberate and build consensus around it. However the idea to promote to promote Indian languages, establishing a National Institute for Pali, Persian and Prakrit is a commendable thought. Also the goal that all higher education institutes must recruit high quality faculty for at least three Indian languages, in addition to the local Indian language.