NEP 2020: Silver lining for the Indian education sector

Prof. Dr. Muddu Vinay
Vice Chancellor
ICFAI University, Dehradun, Uttarakhand, India
Co-authored by:
Ms. Preeti Bhaskar
Faculty, Ibra College of Technology, Oman Research Scholar
Dehradun, ICFAI University, Uttarakhand, India

Dr. Amit Joshi
Academic coordinator IBS ICFAI
University, Dehradun


The college canteen has suddenly transformed into a Barista outlet with Grande or Venti instead of plastic glasses, and brown sugar, or caramel cream substitute the over-sweet tea with samosas: Welcome to New Education Policy 2020 with a global outlook.

The Indian education sector has been recognized as a “Sunrise Sector” for investment in recent years. In the Union Budget 2020-21, the government’s allocation comes with Rs 99,300 crore for the education sector in 2020-21 and about Rs 3,000 crore for skill development. India has become the second largest market for E-learning after the US and is expected to reach US$ 1.96 billion by 2021 with around 9.5 million users. So most of the businessmen find this sector lucrative because of its never-ending demand, easy availability of teachers (population and unemployment) at less cost, and social recognition. The total amount of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) inflow into the education sector in India stood at US$ 3.24 billion from April 2000 to March 2020 according to the data released by Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT).

The government kept on imposing policies in the education sector in bits and pieces from time to time with an aim to boost the growth and development of education sector. For instance, In May 2020, the government launched PM eVIDYA, a programme for multi-mode access to digital/online education. Other initiatives to be launched include Manodarpan, New National Curriculum and Pedagogical framework, National Foundational Literacy and Numeracy Mission. The government has also proposed apprenticeship embedded degree/diploma courses for 150 higher educational institutions. In order to boost the Skill India Mission, two new schemes, Skills Acquisition and Knowledge Awareness for Livelihood Promotion (SANKALP) and Skill Strengthening for Industrial Value Enhancement (STRIVE) have been approved by the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA). The Government of India, with an outlay of Rs 6,655 crore (US$ 1.02 billion) will be supported by the World Bank. The Ministry of Human Resource Development has started a campaign “The Ek Bharat Shreshtha Bharat (EBSB)” to increase engagement between states, union territories, central ministries, educational institutions and general public.

Structure of Indian Higher Education Sector

Higher education is referred to that education which is imparted after the 12th standard. There are three principal levels of qualification within the higher education system in the country: Graduation level, Post-graduation level, and Doctoral degree. The structure of Indian Higher Education Sector comprises of tertiary education, technical education, and vocational education. All education entities are regulated by competent autonomous bodies like University Grants Commission (UGC), All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI), Council of Architecture (COA), Distance Education Council (DEC), Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), Bar Council of India (BCI), Directorate General of Training (DGET), and the National Council for Vocational Education and Training (NCVET) etc. In order to maintain high standards and quality in higher education, the regulatory bodies have made it mandatory for universities and institution to get assessed and accredited by the respective authority or council such as National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC), National Board of Accreditation (NBA), and National Accreditation Board for Education and Training (NABET) etc.

New Education Policy 2020: Transforming higher education

The policy disdainfully projects the concept of opportunity and choice: a person can study botany and architecture together and become an architect, botanist, or even a physicist. It’s an immensely passionate thought not unlike having hot chocolate fudge. In 1986 the first National Education Policy was framed and later it was modified in 1992. Since then the noteworthy transformation in all aspects has happened in India and on the world-stage at large. The 21st century was demanding the Indian education sector to gear itself and assimilate the worth in the citizens.  On 30th of July 2020, the New Education Policy of India was announced. Its center of attention was on quality, creativity, and research to make India a knowledge superpower.

New Education Policy 2020: Academic Structure

Four-year graduation program is proposed after 12th standard, with an exit point after every year. The fourth-year includes research work along with in-depth knowledge on one’s subject of choice. Master’s degree programs will continue to function, however, students have an option to complete one year or two years. The second year of the program is devoted to research. Candidates who have completed 4 years of graduation will be required to complete one year in post-graduation and only if three years graduation is complete will the student will be eligible to complete two years of post-graduation. Another salient feature of the policy is the multi-disciplinary approach. According to the draft an Academic Bank of Credit (ABC) would digitally store the academic credits earned from recognized HEIs which can then be transferred and counted as a part of the final degree. Value-based education, environmental education, credit-based courses and projects in the areas of community engagement and service will be an important part of the curriculum of HEIs. It is generally said that one can “either convince a person or confuse them” because with so many choices it seems the student will be more confused rather than convinced.

Another pertinent question is if “the Universities and colleges have the required facilities and infrastructure” to work under the guidelines of NEP”. Moreover, the purpose of the choice is not defined. Why must a student choose a particular subject, is an important factor that should have been addressed. Breaking the continuity of education is further going to reduce the knowledge base. Until now students were compelled to complete five years of higher education, but now after every year chances of leaving the course will be a distinct possibility which may increase dropout ratio. What will be the utility of one year or two years of graduation as compared to three and four years? It seems that the draft bids legitimize and validate dropouts while boosting numbers on paper. The reasons and remedies for dropouts should have been addressed.

New Education Policy 2020: Research and Development

According to the new education policy of India, 2020 it is proposed to discontinue the degree of MPhil which will be replaced by a four year graduation program instead of the conventional three years. Earlier, if anyone was interested to do research, the minimum qualification was post-graduation. M.Phil.was considered as a bridge between graduation and research. It gave the basic integrities for good research and in turn prepared students for a doctorate. The one year of Master of Philosophy (MPhil) is now merged with four year “multi-disciplinary” Bachelor’s program. So now the students opting for Ph.D can either complete their three-year graduation and two years post-graduation or four years of graduation.

The draft thus enhances research and discourages cramming mode of learning. The New policy incorporates the research component in the fourth year of graduation and a Master’s degree is touted to become more research-oriented as a basis to apply for research, thus increasing the quality of research. The policy claims the student will be in a better position to decide during graduation whether they want to opt for research or not. This is a little unprecedented. If after four years of graduation, a student can opt for Ph.D. will this justify the quality of research remains the big question. It remains doubtful if making research as a mandatory component is going to enhance quality.

Conclusion

NEP2020 was required for some time, and the changes are revolutionary though some issues have been brushed under the carpet. The most important issues include lack of infrastructure, shortage of teachers, and the alarming rate of student dropouts that are not being addressed. One important aspect that is being overlooked is the industry-academia interface. On what basis will a student be inclined to choose a subject? Is it only the interest of the student or will it be based on the demand of the industry? Does the industry really need to combine physics with fashion designing? Does the Indian economy require jack-of-all-trades and masters of none? The academic structure seems good but what about the course structure? How will the students be made employable? The unanswered questions and the glaring infrastructural deficiencies in Universities and colleges will defy the objectives of the policy. It may so happen that the policy may finally result in a mere line drawn on water. The success of any policy is based on its implementation. If all the socio-economic factors along with state and central government are brought into one line, the policywill be implemented in its true sense. The policy will be a silver lining in the dark cloud of the education sector converting India to a knowledge superpower.

 



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