The National Education Policy 2020 is an ambitious and progressive document that aims to transform and revitalize school and higher education in the country. In its overall scope and in its details, the policy seems to bring together best practices from successful education systems across the world. However, does the policy entirely reflect the ground realities of our education system and overall socioeconomic situation?
The proposal to evolve the 10+2 system into a 5+3+3+4 system is a much needed revision. The new structure consists of 4 stages: Foundational, Preparatory, Middle and High school. The ‘play school’ has been included as a part of the system, adding the emphasis on a sound learning pedagogy during the foundation years.
Colleges and Universities will be reorganized under three categories of institutions: teaching, research and autonomous. Most Bachelors degrees will be four years long with options to earn a Diploma and exit after two or three years. This is a good step as it will bring Indian students at par with their international counterparts, by following the 16 year education system that is required by many prestigious masters programs globally.
Secondly, the introduction to the NEP 2020 states in no uncertain terms that…
Let us first accept that these are not new concepts but have been around in education systems in developed countries for well over a decade. At Collegify we have worked closely with students encouraging a multidisciplinary approach and creative problem solving, skills not taught in our education system.
While a few private schools are already following this structure, implementing it officially and across the board is a laudable effort on the part of the government to rethink the education system to reflect global best practices. Furthermore, it is a good step to propose that there be no rigid separation between arts and sciences, between curricular and extracurricular activities, and between vocational and academic streams. In India, we tend to be opinionated. An arts student will automatically be categorized as having less academic and employment potential. It is high time that such a hidebound mode of thinking goes away.
However, a reality check needs to happen.
Where are the teachers to take forward the spirit of such an ambitious multidisciplinary approach?
At present our education system is ailing because of a lack of qualified and motivated teachers. Enabling students to explore the journey of learning rather than learning by rote will require teachers with the skill sets to carry through such change not just in urban centers but in the remote areas of the country. Implementation needs to happen in phases and considerable progress needs to be made in creating a pool of equipped teachers before such a progressive system is rolled out. If the new system is rolled out all at once, we will be left with a confused mess of good intent and faulty or nonexistent implementation. It will be a great disservice to students with no access to quality education and all we will end up doing is perpetuating the wealth and socioeconomic divides.
A far more pragmatic approach would be one followed by governments in Singapore, Hong Kong, and even Russia. They send students to top International colleges with 100% scholarship under the condition that once they are done with their education, they come back to the country and contribute to its development. In this way governments retain talent instead of allowing brain drain to happen. In India, nanotechnology and biotechnology for instance are spaces that are yet to show any real progress. Will such a commitment to retaining talent not go a long way toward infusing new growth in these fields?
While the policy makes a great deal of Artificial Intelligence and 360 degree feedback and, we again need a reality check here. AI implementation is far from being a reality in India at present. The Ed Tech scenario including listed companies is focused on video-learning. Recorded lessons are disseminated across institutions. Let me state this categorically. Video learning is a failed concept. So if the policy professes to include an AI model, this needs to be first made a reality. Machine learning or any E-enabler is of course the only viable way ahead for a project of this scale.
Be that as it may, the NEP still seems to be a step in the right direction with its emphasis on multidisciplinary approaches, its focus on weaving life skills with education, its bold move to make board exams simpler and have an optional common entrance test for college admissions. As discussions around the NEP 2020 unfold, we will surely be forced to examine our deepest beliefs and faith in the country’s school and higher education framework.
Do students need to worry at present about how it might affect their future academic or professional careers? They need not, not at this early stage where things are speculative and not properly underway. Furthermore parents need to be confident that there will be no specific generation of students who will have to weather the brunt of the NEP. We can be confident given the pros and cons of the NEP and its overall focus that however the NEP develops and gets implemented in future, change is going to happen for the better.
Adarsh Khandelwal, Co-founder, Collegify
With more than a decade of experience, Adarsh has successfully mentored more than 5,000 students, guiding them towards their desired international undergraduate and postgraduate admissions, and scholarships. In 2018, Adarsh received the Stanford Teacher Tribute for excellent teaching & contribution in the education space