The Union Cabinet approved the New Education Policy (NEP) 2020 on 29th July, 2020, amid the shockwaves of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Subsequently, the MHRD has been renamed as the Ministry of Education, which shows the resolve and dedication of the Government to consider education the most crucial element of human resource development. It would be worthwhile to mention here that this is the first education policy of the 21st century to replace the old National Policy on Education that was formulated in 1986. Built on the five foundational pillars of sustainable development — Access, Equity, Quality, Affordability and Accountability — the NEP is aligned to the long-term vision to transform India into a self-reliant and global knowledge superpower by 2040.
As part of a major reform in education, the NEP 2020 proposes some radical changes that will bring a much-needed relief from the narrow vision of education and provide a unique opportunity to students to explore beyond the range of curriculum as per their choice, passion and competency. One of the major reforms pushed by the NEP is the multidisciplinary approach of education across schools and colleges. This approach will empower students to choose any subjects at the secondary and higher education level with a provision of credit transfer facility across institutions.
This will dissolve the very notion of streams such as Arts, Commerce and Science in future. The new approach will boost students to free themselves from the clutches of the narrow vision of education and they’d be able to work on the best of their talents and skills. Further, the multidisciplinary-based approach and freedom to students to choose subjects would also lead to greater critical thinking and flexibility. It will make education more interesting and make students more employable in the long run.
As a second major reform, the NEP prioritises the use of local or regional languages as the medium of instruction in all schools, at least till Class 5. This reform, if implemented in a well-planned manner across the country, may yield excellent results and will be a boon for children who come from communities with a minority language, whose mother tongue is different from the medium of instruction in schools.
Apart from this, teacher resource enforcement and training are other areas where the right words have been used in the newly framed policy. As envisioned in the policy, the transformational changes will be planned and teachers will be prepared for the new digital era keeping the need, aspiration and demand of society in mind. There are many other things that the NEP rightly addresses, such as the focus on teacher training for schools, the fund for educating girls, and new school education formula, i.e. 5+3+3+4, among others.
However, the most interesting change in the NEP is the real name ‘Parakh’. This aims to redesign assessment and standardise 60 educational boards across the country. This is first being done via a voluntary test for university admission, which is a great way to get data to calibrate board outcomes. This, combined with the other proposed changes in assessment, is the key that will transform education to make it relevant, consistent and therefore, usable.
Though there are buckets full of new ideas and propositions, the execution of the same remains an area of great concern. The NEP has emphasised on the use of mother tongue/local language/regional language as the medium of instruction till at least Class 5, but it does not address the position of the State boards that primarily impart education in their respective regional languages.
Perhaps, we need to await the outcomes that are set to come within the next 3-4 years. By that time, all such ambiguities would be cleared. And whether the State boards will agree to the proposed language policy is something interesting to see in the coming future.
The toughest criticism that the NEP may face from academia and implementation bodies is that it is idealistic in nature and lacks clarity on the role of respective State governments in the entire discourse. The vision, as elucidated in the policy and tasking, will need more than an action plan and implementation strategy — it will need real practitioners to define and absorb the vision goals to give clear outcomes.
Further, the post COVID-19 situation will unfold a great number of challenges for educationalists and administration to implement the promises made by the NEP and execute the same without much dilution. Despite all the apprehensions, this policy needs real champions who can take it forward. Without the champions and support from every concerned quarter and departments, all the good envisaged in the visionary document will get diluted or will disappear by the time it reached the point of delivery.