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Critical Evaluation of nation Educational Policy, 2020

India is a country with the largest youth population in the world. According the United Nations Population Division, India has the world’s highest number of 10 to 24-year-olds, with 242 million-despite having a smaller population than China1. Such a large number of young people highlights the importance of imparting good education to these young minds for not just improving their lives, but also to develop the country as a whole.

Education is the key to bringing about the changes this country desperately needs- be it the changes in terms of social development, poverty eradication or gender equality, or the developments in technological sphere and financial literacy- education is the one area to rely upon. Therefore, it is immensely important to understand how significant a role good education is going to play not only in the lives of the youth, but also in the future of this country.

India, being a poverty-stricken developing country, needs a robust mechanism to boost the educational levels of its people and at the same time, provide the youth with enough job opportunities that they won’t have to go to other developed countries looking for them. For achieving this, our country’s education policy has a very consequential role to play. It is the education policy of any country that shapes its young minds and provides them with the skills to survive and grow in this increasingly competitive world. If the education policy is not in tune with the changing and technology driven world we live in today, it is going to hamper individual as well as national growth and development.

Today, as a nation with young and bright minds, we require an education system that makes people more skillful and trains them in areas that are becoming increasingly important like- Artificial Intelligence, Coding and App development, Environment Protection and its related laws, Robotics etc. To enhance expertise in these areas, a new, modern day, state-of-the-art education policy is needed that caters to modern needs and problems. This is exactly what India is trying to achieve with its newly introduced National Education Policy, 2020, also known as NEP, 2020.

The first education policy of India- i.e. National Education Policy, 1968 was based on the recommendations of Kothari Commission and made education compulsory for all children up to the age of 14 years. This policy was updated next in 1986 with the National Education Policy, 1986 which was modified in 1992 and introduced exams like JEE and AIEEE. Now, it is after 34 years that the policy of 1986 is being replaced by the new National Education Policy, 2020. The long period of 34 years has seen a lot of changes in the Indian society and its requirements and thus highlights the need for this new policy.

This article aims to critically evaluate this new policy, while weighing both- its pros and cons.

National Education Policy, 2020: A Critical Evaluation
The National Education Policy, 2o2o, also known as NEP 2020, is India’s third education policy, was approved by the Union Cabinet of India in July, 2020 and is in line with India’s vision for a new and enhanced education system that is more comprehensive and targets the growing young population of India. It is based on the recommendations of the committee led by Dr. K. Kasturirangan. This policy aims to bring about reforms in both- schools and colleges and hopes to make India a global knowledge superpower. Apart from introducing many changes in the system, this policy has also renamed the Ministry of Human Resource Development to Ministry of Education.

Some salient features of the new education policy are as follows:
  1. The government aims to achieve a Gross Enrolment Ratio (GRE) of 50% in higher education by 2035 and 100% in primary and secondary education by 2030- Though the goal itself is laudable, it remains a cause of concern and many doubts linger with respect to the said target as the current figures show Indian GRE in higher education at 26.3%2 and that for secondary education at 73.79%3. These figures are worrisome and make one wonder about how realistic they are. Besides this, it is also important to acknowledge that many students drop out from schools either due to gender disparity or financial issues. These issues are more evident in some particular states like Bihar. This goal of high GRE does not take into account these issues.
     
  2. The policy proposes to increase the ambit of Right to Education to include children in the age group of 3-18 years from the current age group of 6-14 years- Again, the goal is laudable, if achieved. But here too, we see issues like students from more humble backgrounds being unable to get access to private schools. Private schools are often reluctant to accept children from poor families or even disabled children even though 25% seats are reserved for such children in these schools. It remains unclear as to how the government plans to encourage private schools to accept such children and what incentives it intends to provide to these schools, if any.
     
  3. NEP also states that wherever possible, students will be taught in their mother tongue/regional language till Class 5- The move is based on the idea drawn from various studies that show that young children understand things best when they study them in their mother tongue. However, this move is bound to create more problems as a single school has many students speaking many different mother tongues and this new policy will create problems in imparting education at the lower level itself. Besides, Supreme Court in a case4 held the imposition of mother tongue as a medium of instruction in schools as unconstitutional, going against Article 19 (1)(a). Also, this policy totally disregards children whose parents have transferable jobs.
     
  4. The government aims to increase public investment in the education sector to 6% of the GDP from the current 4.6%- Most of the developed countries in the world spend somewhere around 6% of their GDPs on education. These nations include- Norway (6.5%), New Zealand (6.4%), United Kingdom (6.2%), USA (6%) etc.5 But when it comes to India, the first question that comes to mind is- How India plans to invest so much in education especially amidst the great economic crisis that our nation is facing due to the COVID-19 pandemic? Where is the government planning to get all this money from? Will the central government be able to fund this investment or will the states bear the burden? Answers to these questions remain unclear and unless they become clear, it is quite early to say how effective this decision will prove to be.
     
  5. NEP will establish a National Research Foundation (NRF) to promote a strong research culture and build the research capacity among Indian students- Research abilities is a prerequisite in any field or career. Modern education relies heavily on the research abilities of students that enhances their knowledge and skills. Promoting a strong research culture is thus an important requirement in India. However, India’s spending in terms of percentage of GDP has been stagnant at 0.6 to 0.7% in the last 20 years and is much lower than other nations like- US, China, South Korea etc.6 India has 216.2 researchers per 1 million inhabitants as against 1200 in China and 4300 in the US, according to the report released by The Brookings India. Such figures point towards overly ambitious goals.
     
  6. The center has decided to continue with the three-language formula, initially proposed in 1968, in NEP, 2020 as well- In the draft NEP released in 2019, it was suggested that teaching and learning Hindi will be mandatory in non-Hindi speaking states out of the three languages to be taught in schools. But this clause was dropped after protests by some states like Tamil Nadu. Now, the choice of the three languages is left to the states and students but it is necessary that at least two out of these three languages are native to India. Despite the removal of the previous clause, there continues to be a fear among non-Hindi speaking states about imposition of Hindi on them.
     
  7. The emphasis on the setting up of Gender Inclusion Fund and Special Education Zones to promote access to education to disadvantaged groups- This move was long overdue. Access to education in India is extremely unequal. It is not gender inclusive and we see a lot of disparities in access to education in terms of gender and financial status. This move by the government is aimed at solving this problem which is one of the greatest setbacks in Indian education system. However, it remains to be seen how effectively the government is able to implement this policy as one of the greatest problems in India is implementation of laws and policies.
     
  8. The policy will replace the 10+2 structure with the new 5+3+3+4 structure- The 10+2 structure followed the system of 10 years of primary and 2 years of secondary education. This system will now be replaced by the new 5+3+3+4 structure which will involve 5 years of foundational stage, 3 years of preparatory stage, 3 years of middle stage and 4 years of secondary education. This structure will also involve more flexibility in a student’s choice of subjects and the clear distinction between streams- science, commerce and arts/humanities- will be done away with. This is a good move as it will stop the three streams from getting pitted against one another and students will get a larger number of choices in subjects.
     
  9. NEP has also brought changes in teacher hiring policy and has set up national professional standards for teachers- By 2030, the minimum qualification required for teachers will be a four-year B.Ed. Course. Also, interviews will become an integral aspect for hiring teachers. Specifying minimum qualification and making interviews necessary for hiring is a great move to ensure that educational standards are maintained and are not compromised in any way. It was found in the data7 compiled by National University of Educational Planning and Administration (NUEPA), Delhi, that 48.87% of school teachers in Karnataka were not even graduates. This shows the poor condition of the teaching staff in Indian schools. This new policy will hopefully bring about a positive change in this regard.
     
  10. NEP will set up national level bodies like National Higher Education Regulatory Council (NHERC), National Accreditation Council (NAC), National Educational Technology Forum (NETF), Higher Education Grants Council (HEGC) etc.

The aim behind setting up these bodies is laudatory but setting up of these bodies suggests more centralization of education in India. The need of the hour is to allow more decentralization or at least consider the inputs of different states in the area of education as per their needs as India, being a diverse country, has differences in the needs of the people of different states. This fact has not been taken into consideration while framing this policy.

There are many other areas in which the government needs to clarify details like the reason behind phasing out of affiliation of colleges in the next 15 years and what benefits it will bring or the reason for the discontinuation of M. Phil courses. These and many other such questions need to be clarified before we accept this policy as a harbinger of change in the Indian educational system.

Conclusion
Modern day education is far from being all about rote-learning. It is much more than that. Education in today’s time encompasses both knowledge and skills. Thus, the emphasis on vocational education under NEP, 2020 is a praise-worthy move. This policy is therefore expected to create many new avenues for development.

The vision of this new National Education Policy, 2020 is commendable but we should not forget the fact that simply envisioning a policy on paper and actually implementing it in a large country like India are two different things and as a nation, India has always faced the problem of implementation of its policies.

Excessive privatization of education, a strong bureaucratic control and large-scale corruption, digital divide, lack of infrastructure and overall mismanagement in education are only some of the many issues currently confronting India. Unless these issues are addressed and resolved, any real positive change in the education system seems like a distant dream.

References:
  1. World Population Prospects: The 2015 Revision Population Database of UN Population Division
  2. As per All India Survey on Higher Education (AISHE) 2018-19
  3. World Bank collection of Development Indicators, 2019
  4. State of Karnataka & Anr. v. Associated Management of Primary and Secondary Schools and Ors.
  5. As per National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) quoting OECD, Online Education Database
  6. Economic Survey of India 2017-18
  7. District Information System for Education (DISE), NUEPA, Delhi 2015-16 provisional data
Submitted By: Kanishka Kansal - Institution- Manipal University Jaipur

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