The Ministry of Education’s new National Education Policy (NEP, 2020) has been implemented in the country. In the context of higher education, this policy has a blueprint for shaping India into a knowledge-driven society as well as an economic power, in light of the upcoming fourth industrial revolution.
This policy is important in the context of higher education, but it has some flaws that need to be addressed. One of them is the emphasis on places running multi-disciplinary courses, instead of single programme-based institutions. A significant number from our 51,000 higher education institutions focus on single programmes.
Most colleges offering bachelor’s programmes, engineering, law or management courses are single-discipline colleges. Both ancient Indian universities and modern universities tell us how useful multi-disciplinary teaching-cum-research institutions can be.
Another innovative recommendation in the NEP (2020) is to emphasize multi-disciplinary undergraduate education, rather than orienting education towards specialization. On the one hand, students studying humanities will be given the opportunity to also opt for courses in science or vocational subjects.
On the other hand, science and technology programmes, as well as vocational courses, will be integrated with humanities. This approach will be followed in engineering schools like the IITs. The discussion of knowledge of 64 arts in the ancient, Indian tradition gives one the same integrated knowledge.
These 64 arts ranged from music, literature and art to scientific disciplines such as engineering, medicine and mathematics. They also include workmanship and craftsmanship. Today, the liberal arts education at the graduate level is similar to this method.
Latest research also shows that such education, unifying humanities and sciences, has a positive impact on one’s creativity, high-level thinking, problem solving, teamwork, communication skills etc. A survey in the draft NEP (2020) cites that Nobel Prize-winning scientists are three times more likely to have artistic hobbies, when compared to average scientists.
A proposal to include community engagement, social service and development studies in the higher education system is also a part of the draft.
Furthermore, students will be offered internship opportunities with local industries, businesses, artisans and professors accustomed to equip them with theoretical as well as practical knowledge, to improve their productivity and efficiency. Such a system is prevalent in many a Western country.
The policy wants to eliminate individual entrance examinations for admission to undergraduate programmes. Instead, it recommends a single, common entrance exam conducted by the National Testing Agency (NTA). This will free students from worrying about different exams.
It will also save their time, money and energy. It is important to note that the marks of 12th standard won’t be overlooked. This is because the NTA exam will be designed in the multiple choice format, while 12th standard exams have subjective questions based on comprehension.
In such a situation, the balanced view would be to account for both the scores during admission.
Another point of contention in the NEP (2020) is that there is a confusion about whether the duration of a bachelor’s degree will be three years or four. Various institutions will run graduate courses according to their convenience. This will create a chaotic situation.
Whether we opt to stick with a three-year course like England, or a four-year course along the lines of USA, uniformity is necessary here. In my opinion, a four-year course is preferable as it is more research-intensive and lays a better ground for further, higher education.
There is a lot of emphasis on professional education in this policy. According to the 12th Five Year Plan, only 5% of the Indian workforce in the age group of 19 to 24 years, receives vocational education. This percentage is much higher in developed countries.
For instance, it is as high as 52% in the USA, 75% in Germany and 96% in South Korea. A major reason for this shortage in India is the focus on vocational education only during 8th to 12th standards.
There is also a provision for monitoring education, such that it is commercialized as per Indian values, in the NEP (2020). In private sector institutions, the determination of unbridled, increasing fees will be monitored. But, no clear road map has been given. In such a situation, it is preferable that a maximum limit (of fees) be arrived upon.
An important highlight of the NEP (2020) is the promotion of the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and other technology in teaching and learning. This will ensure that labour and resources are utilized optimally.
A new feature in the context of teachers is that, in addition to parameters like innovation, quality and the impact of research, their colleagues and students will also review their professional activity, for promotions and increments. Such a review by one’s peers and students is bound to be controversial, even though I think that it is theoretically appropriate.
If all the aforementioned limitations of the NEP (2020) are overcome, there is no doubt that it will prove to be a cornerstone in the creation of a new India.