Higher education enrolls 235 million students globally, a figure that has doubled in the last 20 years and is expected to double again in the future decade. With such expectations, it is more important than ever to provide high-quality higher education that is relevant to today’s issues. The UNESCO World Higher Education Conference took place from 18 to 20 May 2022 in Barcelona, Spain, and was attended by 2,000 participants from 139 countries. The conference focused on the goal of reshaping ideas and practices in higher education. The extensive discussions at the conference on dealing with challenges posed by the COVID-19 crisis and the diverse viewpoints and innovative ideas that came out of it was an appropriate opportunity to reflect on India’s National Education Policy 2020.
Interactions with global experts on education present at the conference and mutual knowledge sharing left me convinced that India’s NEP marks a paradigm shift in the country’s education sector. I have no doubt that the NEP remains a world-class document that is in sync with the emerging global consensus on education.
The NEP provides a broad framework for guiding the country’s educational growth. It was written with an emphasis on learning and delivery in mind, with a focus on a knowledge-driven economy. Earlier the national education policies focused on access and equity but NEP-2020 thrives to work upon the quality of education and access for all.
Every country must have a well-defined, well-planned, and progressive education policy since education is the foundation of economic and social advancement. It is critical for India to emphasise its NEP-2020 initiatives at the global level, particularly at a time when the entire world is debating higher education policies.
In this article, I highlight six aspects of the NEP which make it a landmark policy document.
Indianisation of Education System
The remaking of the National Education of India strives to bring back the rich heritage and culture of India so as to inspire the youth by making them proud of their country and set a befitting example for the rest of the world to adapt to the ever-changing society and staying connected to its roots and values at the same time. The concept of ‘Indianisation’ has been introduced to the new education policy to incorporate the rich heritage of Ancient Indian Knowledge with education. The rich legacies of Takshashila, Nalanda, Vikramshila, and Vallabhi are not just meant to be preserved but, researched and enhanced to utilise and put to new uses. Thus, contributing to the world heritage. Besides the sacred ancient texts, life stories of the prominent figures of India like, Devi Ahilya Bai Holkar, Raja Bhoj, Vikramaditya, and so on, will also be included in the curriculum to adept children with the knowledge of the Prominent figures of India.
Equitable and Inclusive education
It’s also worth noting that NEP-2020, while not being an inclusive document, was developed with the inclusion of all segments of society in mind to ensure that no child loses any opportunity to learn and excel because of the circumstances of birth or background. It has sought input from academic professionals as well as the general public in order to better comprehend society’s desire for higher education. NEP suggests a number of policies and programmes, including targeted scholarships, conditional financial transfers, and bicycles to encourage certain populations like SCs and STs which are grossly underrepresented in current educational systems. It has also done well in suggesting a number of commendable measures, such as education SEZs, to solve the structural issues of schooling in inaccessible areas. The document laid strong emphasis for the students from the marginalised sections that they are made ‘aware’ of various targeted opportunities to enter and excel in the educational system.
Academic Bank of Credits
The ABC will give higher education institutions an opportunity to collaborate and build a system that can handle the millions of students who will enter the varsity system in the coming years. Students will profit from this integration since they will gain standardised, updated, and epistemologically globalised knowledge. If he or she takes a hiatus in the third year for a period determined by the Higher Education Commission, the credits stored in the digital locker can be used whenever they want to return. A multidisciplinary education strategy can be used to obtain credits.
Regional language as a medium of instruction
One of the most important aspects of NEP 2020 was the development of all of India’s official languages where no particular language will be imposed on the children. It was suggested that ‘Foundational and Preparatory education in mother tongue’ for a better understanding of the syllabus and clarity in thoughts is a prerequisite for the education system. Students have the choice of studying in their mother tongues at schools and higher educational institutions.
Multidisciplinary and Multiple entry and exit options
Multidisciplinary streams have begun across institutes, with holistic education being one of the primary goals of NEP 2020. It makes the college degrees more ‘Flexible’. This means that engineering colleges will provide courses in commerce and humanities in addition to technical studies. In schools and higher education institutions, NEP 2020 envisioned a system in which students may pick and choose subjects based on their interests and aptitudes. Changes like PARAKH (Performance Assessment, Review, and Analysis of Knowledge for Holistic Development) will modify assessment and systemise the education boards across the country and beyond.
NEP 2020 encourages India’s top 100 institutions to offer online degree programmes in order to make them more affordable and accessible. As a result, online platforms are partnering with institutes to offer a variety of courses. This will indirectly help India in improving its Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) which is the chief target of the new education policy.
The new NEP is the first step towards adopting education 4.0, with a variety of key developments, worldwide shifts, and demands such as student population growth, increased inequality, and a clearer strategic roadmap. It is the desired learning strategy that coincides with the fourth industrial revolution’s developing concentration on smart technology, artificial intelligence, and robotics. The 5+3+3+4 curricular structure for the first time extends government outreach to pre-schooling, which includes nursery education and kindergarten levels. For this, the NCERT will shape a National Curricular and Pedagogical Framework for Early Childhood Care and Education (NCPFECCE)
This policy cab serves as a role model for the world due to its inclusive and holistic nature. It will not only teach the countries to be respectful of their own culture but also emphasises reverting the positive impact of the other cultures of the world thereby making the world more tolerant and fulfilling the long-standing objectives of Vasudeva Kutumbakam.
Being the world’s largest democracy, India will have the highest youth population in the world over the next decade and one of the youngest countries with the largest population pursuing higher education by 2030. Its ability to provide high-quality education to such a large population will make the country capable of advocating its education policy globally and would motivate world leaders to take steps toward revamping their education system.
Dr. Ramanand is the Director of Center of Policy Research and Governance (CPRG). He was an adviser on NEP to the Government of India. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent the stand of this publication.