India's ambitious New Education Policy: A Revolution?
Ms Anwesha Pathak
Aug 08, 2020
The National Education Policy (NEP) has laid out a grand vision about what education in India should be like over the next 50 years. Most of the commentary about NEP 2020 has focused on the many changes to teaching, learning and regulatory framework of primary, secondary and higher education. As far as higher education is concerned, consolidation of regulators at the central level, more academic and administrative freedom for colleges and universities, and a more liberal education system would be welcome reforms. The New Education Policy, as announced by the Government, has the potential of revamping the way the youth of our country are skilled to take up global roles. The Education Policy has maintained a delicate balance between the traditions and the interdisciplinary approach, which is the need of the day.
The new policy aims for universalisation of education from pre-school to secondary level with 100 per cent Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) in school education by 2030 and aims to raise GER in higher education to 50 per cent by 2025.
The NEP in 1968 envisaged investing 6% of GDP in education. However, public expenditure on education in India was just around 2.7% in 2017-18, falling far short of expectations. In contrast, Bhutan, Zimbabwe, Sweden, Costa Rica and Finland spent around 7%, while the U.K., Netherlands, Palestine, Malaysia, Kenya, Mongolia, Korea and USA spent around 5% (OECD & UNESCO, 2017). It is universally agreed that India, with a huge youth population, needs a substantially larger expenditure on education. In spite of this, the NEP has not put forward any critical analysis as to why public education has not been provided with adequate funding even after years of political commitments.
The NEP 2020 can be a silver lining for education in India during the COVID-19 crisis. I heartily welcome the NEP, which is a concrete step towards reforming the Indian Education Framework. The decision to let go of the streams in 11th and 12th and creating a multi-disciplinary approach is a welcome reform. Now, students can pick and choose subject combinations and do not have to stick to Science or Commerce or Humanities. It has been noticed that a substantial number of students change their ‘streams’ or subjects after high school.
In colleges across the country, one can see a big percentage of students studying a subject which they did not study in high schools. Science students can be seen studying economics or law or English. But sadly, the reverse was not true where a Humanities or Commerce student could apply for Science-based subjects like engineering or medicine. But things should change for the better after this new approach is implemented for class 11 students from the academic year 2023-24. However, few people realise that CBSE has never created any ‘subject streams’ like PCM or PCB or Commerce with Math, etc. CBSE always gave all the students the choice to choose from the subjects available. CBSE gives you options from tens of subjects but it is ultimately up to the schools to decide which subjects will be offered to students. For easing operations, reducing costs, and catering to the general demand from parents, schools limited themselves to 3 major streams with optional subjects.
The NEP is not a law in itself; rather, it is more of a framework for creating laws. The government will need to pass legislation to enable various aspects of the NEP, and lawmakers will need to strongly consider how private funding of education can be improved. They can either allow for much greater flexibility for institutions to raise, invest and create a corpus fund that can be used for research and educational purposes, or they should consider allowing private for-profit investment in education. Only then we can be closer to realising our goals of better quality education for all.