The National Education Policy, also popularly understood as the New Education Policy (hereafter NEP) 2020 has emerged as one of the intensely deliberated policies. It is transformative and revolutionary in several ways, as it seeks to bring about a gamut of changes at school level and higher education. The idea of having an education policy had its genesis in the BJP’s manifesto in 2014 that took its final shape after consultations resulting from the TSR Subramanian Committee (2016) and Kasturirangan Committee (2019).
Broadly, the NEP includes bringing transformation in the structure of school education, higher education, emphasising “experiential learning and critical thinking”, development of vocational and skill-based education, multidisciplinary learning, and enabling multiple entry and exit options.
The NEP’s vision is to transform India into a vibrant and equitable knowledge society, and ultimately making it a global knowledge superpower. The policy has a detailed vision for future as it acknowledges the challenges posed in times of the rising pandemic. It outlines the necessity of developing alternative modes of quality education when traditional/face-to-face mode of learning is not feasible. The NEP calls for utilising the benefits of online and technology-enabled teaching platforms under challenging circumstances.
A substantial focus is laid on training and development of teachers to become effective online educators. At the same time, there is an acknowledgement of the limitations and challenges of digital learning. The policy talks about the difficulty in “conducting online examinations at scale”, network and power disruptions, and challenges in stopping unethical practice.
The policy highlights the necessity to invest in the creation of “open, interoperable public digital infrastructure in the education sector that can be used by multiple platforms and enable technology based solutions.” E-learning platforms including SWAYAM and DIKSHA will allow teachers to have user-friendly assistive tools to monitor the progress of students. Online classrooms are a reality in present times of pandemic and the NEP reflects upon its utility.
The policy offers wide-ranging solutions to deal with the pandemic-induced troubles in the country’s education system. It has recognised the role of technology in developing the sphere of remote learning. Assessment frameworks shall be designed and implemented by appropriate institutions like the proposed National Assessment Centre or PARAKH, and school boards. Another progressive idea endorsed under the NEP is that of “blended learning” where in-person learning is sufficiently recognised along with digital modes of teaching-learning.
An autonomous body, namely, National Educational Technology Forum (NETF), shall be established to allow free flow of ideas on the usage of technology in the arena of teaching-learning, planning and assessment of both school level and higher education. It shall also facilitate decision-making on the use of technology by providing to the various stakeholders, namely, educational institutions, central and state governments the “latest knowledge and opportunities to share best practices.”
Though the NEP has a futuristic plan regarding digital and online teaching-learning, it is not devoid of challenges. The challenge of digital divide stands as a hurdle for rural India. It was reported in 2019 in NSSO survey that only 14.9% of all rural households have access to internet as compared to 42% urban households. In times of digital education, students belonging to rural households are likely to have limited access. However, the policy of Digital India that was launched by the government in 2015 seeks to overcome the existing divide.
It remains to be seen how effectively the government can manage to implement the mission of digitisation for rural India. Further, the lockdown that followed the Covid-19 pandemic has necessitated every country around the world to advance the digital and online learning systems. Such necessity can be seen as an opportunity to successfully implement the mandate of the National Education Policy 2020. The third education policy’s content is, without a doubt, revolutionary under all parameters.