Jagranjosh.com Panel Discussion on NEP 2020 – Transforming the Indian Education System: Jagranjosh.com held an interactive dialogue on the NEP 2020 featuring stakeholders from the education and policy ecosystem. The webinar was planned as an exercise to decode and demystify the new National Education Policy 2020 that has been approved by the Union Cabinet and will soon be brought into the Parliament. During the webinar, academic experts discussed the vision that the policy document unfolds for the Indian Education system, right from school level to higher education.
National Education Policy 2020 decoded!
The discussion was thrown open by the moderator, Mr Parikshit Bhardwaj, Head – Content, Jagranjosh.com, with a welcome address to the panellists as well as the viewers. During the opening remarks, he noted that the NEP 2020 was only a policy, and not yet a law as it still needed to be presented in the parliament and then implemented. Nonetheless, there had been initial reactions from several quarters. JagranJosh.com chose to initiate the discussion only now so as to have an informed debate after everyone had the opportunity to go through the policy in detail.
Mr Bhardwaj welcomed the distinguished panellists including, Dr Abhay Kumar – Assistant Professor, CIET, NCERT; Dr Bhola Gurjar – Dean of Resources & Alumni Affairs, IIT Roorkee; Mr Ashok Pandey – Director, Ahlcon Group of Schools, New Delhi; Dr Kumar Ashutosh – Faculty-in-Charge, Dept. of Tourism, College of Vocational Studies, University of Delhi; Dr Pankaj Arora – Professor of Education, Central Institute of Education, University of Delhi; and Samarth Pathak – Communications Officer (South Asia) UNODC.
NEP 2020 – Salient Features
The panel discussion started on a participative note by each of the panellists sharing what they felt was the most salient feature of the NEP 2020.
Focus on ECCE
Dr Abhay Kumar – Assistant Professor, CIET, NCERT, noted that the NEP’s focus on Early Childhood Care and Education, i.e., ECCE was probably the most important aspect that will have a big impact on the overall system. He said that the policy emphasises upon inclusion of children between 3 to 6 years of ages in the formal school education system, thereby laying a strong foundation for them, going ahead.
Use of Technology
Dr Kumar also observed that the New Education Policy’s focus on technology was another important aspect that had been envisioned in the policy document as well as steps had been charted out for its implementation with the setting up on National Educational Technology Forum. This forum will facilitate research, help in the development of digital study materials and also look into innovative ways in which technology can be leveraged for the benefit of students.
Autonomy of Educational Institutions
Dr Bhola Gurjar – Dean of Resources & Alumni Affairs, IIT Roorkee, felt that the central theme of the National Education Policy 2020 revolved around granting more autonomy to educational institutions, especially those that are providing quality education to students. He said that the policy focuses on rewarding institutions that aspire towards excellence. He also said that setting up of ‘Institutes of Excellence’ in the fields of liberal arts, that the policy talks about, will also bring about the much needed change from focus on professional courses and lead to incorporation of a multidisciplinary approach in higher education.
Vocational Education as a Bridge
Talking about what he believed was the most salient feature of NEP 2020, Dr Kumar Ashutosh – Faculty-in-Charge, Dept of Tourism, College of Vocational Studies, University of Delhi, said that the policy aims to use vocational education to bridge the gap between the students who exit schools and those who are pursuing higher education. He also added that NEP 2020 will allow students to find their passion in a variety of vocations through the multitude of vocational courses without being restricted to the limited number of choices that Degree Colleges currently offer.
An Instrument to Break away from Macaulayism
Dr Pankaj Arora – Professor of Education, CIE, University of Delhi, said that the most important feature of the NEP 2020 was its attempt to break away from Macaulayism, i.e., old and compartmentalized English education system that was introduced as part of British Colonial Rule. He added that the National Education Policy 2020 worked as an instrument that highlights the gaps in the old education system while also showing the way in which we can address the needs created by the on-going 4th Industrial revolution for our future.
Focus on Teachers’ Training Programme
Another important aspect, i.e., NEP’s focus on Teachers’ Training Programme was highlighted by Mr Ashok Pandey – Director, Ahlcon Group of Schools, New Delhi. He said that the new policy talks about bringing in structured development programmes for teachers, i.e., for both, those which are currently undergoing training, as well as those who are in-service. He said that NEP provides space to the school administrators to incentivise good performance of teachers through rewards like a better salary structure.
Redefines Purpose of Education
Mr Pandey also observed that another defining characteristic of the NEP 2020 was that it redefined and provided a new purpose to education. NEP 2020 did not look at education as a mere tool to get a job or pursue a profession but as a personality development tool that aimed to include cognitive learning along with socio-economic learning, character building and overall building of compassionate and empathetic societies. This way, NEP also addressed India’s commitment to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of training students so they may have Global Citizenship Values.
Emphasis on Value-Based Education
From UNODC’s perspective, the key aspects of the NEP 2020 are the reiteration and strong emphasis on values-based education and the Sustainable Development Goals, with a focus on gender equality, inclusion and diversity. There is also an emphasis in the policy on nurturing creativity and critical thinking among students to encourage logical decision-making and innovation in the social space.
These are very important aspects, which are also closely aligned with UNODC’s flagship Education for Justice initiative, which also supports the implementation of the 2015 Doha Declaration. Working in this direction will essentially involve three things: One, actively engaging with youth and educators at the primary, secondary and tertiary levels on peace, justice, SDGs, and social issues through interactive, values-based and activity-based learning; Two, working with educators as well as students to co-create solutions, and three, nurturing responsible online and offline behaviours that promote the rule of law, SDGs and gender-equality. UNODC stands committed to support the Government of India and the Ministry of Education, in strengthening and implementing Education for Peace and Justice as envisaged in the National Education Policy 2020. We extend our support to the Ministry of Education, and the education fraternity, as well as funders, and look forward to working collectively on these very important aspects”.
Restructure of the School Education System
After the initial thoughts about NEP 2020, the discussion moved on to focusing on specifics. Talking about the restructuring of the school education system, Mr Ashok Pandey said that the policy aims to expand the ambit of school education by incorporating Early Childhood Care Education (ECCE) under the formal school education system. This would cover students in the age group of 3 to 6 years, which were earlier excluded. However apart from merely the structure, the NEP also talks about bringing about sweeping changes to the course curriculum, pedagogy and the assessment methodology that will have a big impact at the ground level.
To this, Dr Pankaj Arora also added that the restructuring of school education, primarily aims at bringing children between age of 3 to 6 years into the formal school education system and thereby providing them with the much needed foundation for the formative years ahead. He also added that in addition to the mere restructure of class system, NEP also relooks at the way school education is delivered and more importantly, how it is assessed. He said that the policy emphasises on the development of holistic personality of the students and shifts the focus from IQ based assessment to EQ based assessment.
3 Language Formula
With regards to NEP 2020, the much talked about 3 Language Formula that has been proposed as part of the policy has come under intense debate and even criticism from some quarters. Experts on the panel also decoded this.
Taking about the 3 Language Formula Dr Kumar Ashutosh, said that one of the key objectives of the NEP 2020 is to provide universal access to education. In order to achieve this ambitious goal, it is important for education to be more accessible and 3 language formula is a step in this direction. He also added that the 3 Language Formula is an internationally accepted and acclaimed policy that helps develop a sense of belongingness among the students and makes education more relatable for them.
Supporting him, Dr Abhay Kumar also added that several developed economies including Russia, Germany and even the US follow the 3 language formula and found it to be highly effective in ensuring that education reaches the grassroots. Talking about the controversy around the policy decision, he said that NEP 2020 doesn’t prescribe any specific language that has to be followed as part of the formula; so states or regions that have a problem with it are free to choose from any of the official languages followed to implement it.
No Rigid Stream Structure
Another aspect of NEP 2020 that has been in the limelight is its attempt to do away with the rigid stream-based education system and instead offer flexibility that can allow students to follow their passion in a diverse array of domains/subjects. This policy has been welcomed by almost everyone but at the same time questions have been raised about the challenges with regards to its implementation.
Addressing this concern, Mr Ashok Pandey said that NEP 2020 should be looked upon as a vision statement that provides an overarching purpose and goals. However, implementation for policy decision that are recommended will have to be done at the ground level by educators. He also admitted that there were some definite operational challenges but they will be resolved once the policy is ready for implementation.
However, he also pointed out that this policy is in part already followed by CBSE Board, which allows students to pick subjects irrespective of their streams. However, students, parents and even educators avoid choose diverse or multidisciplinary subjects as higher education at college level is based on rigid stream-based system. Therefore, while addressing this issue at school level, policy will also have to look at how it can be integrated at higher education level, so that students who opt for multidisciplinary subjects are not penalized for opting for them.
Single Regulator for Higher Education
Another aspect that has seen polarizing reactions from the academic community as well as students has been the introduction of a Single Regulator for Higher Education. While some have said that the move is aimed at cutting-down red-tapism, others look at it as an attempt to reduce autonomy of institutions.
Addressing the issue, Dr Bhola Gurjar said that NEP 2020 is a policy that keeps autonomy of institutions as its central theme. Therefore, the fears expressed by some with regards to a single regulator leading to diminished autonomy of institutions are misplaced. He said that NEP 2020 talks about integration of multiple education regulators that operate in the higher education space rather than centralization of it.
To this Dr Pankaj Arora added that the single regulator that the NEP 2020 talks about will take the shape of Higher Education Commission of India, which will be a body that will include multiple bodies and agencies such as National Higher Education Regulatory Council, NAAC, Grants Council, and several other Processional Councils. The integrated approach to higher education is aimed at reducing the red tapism and duplicity of efforts as far as the regulatory framework is concerned.
Addressing Digital Divide
One of the important aspect that the New Education Policy talks about in detail is addressing the Digital Divide among the students. On this issue, Mr Samarth Pathak – Communications Officer (South Asia), UNODC, said that the criticality of this issue has been brought to the fore by the COVID-19 crisis. He said that digital divide is a major issue not only among students but even educators who do not have the necessary resources or infrastructure to continue remote learning/teaching activities. He said in addition to providing resources and infrastructure, teachers and educators also need to be trained in using these digital platforms and technology solutions to deliver quality and meaningful education.
Dr Abhay Kumar also added that the challenge of digital divide is acknowledged in the NEP 2020 and it has also proposed some important policy remedies that will help bridge this gap, going ahead.
All in all, the dialogue proved to be an insightful and engaging discussion where the experts deliberated upon the fine print of the NEP 2020. They were successful in dispelling the common myths surrounding the vision document and making reasoned observations about the will and wherewithal that will be required to make the vision of NEP 2020 a reality.