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Karthik Murlidharan, an economist and professor at the University Of California, writes in the book - “What the Economy needs now?” in his segment of ‘Fixing schools’ that so far the focus of policymakers in India has been directed more by ‘what’ to do, rather than ‘how’ to do it.

Education, essentially, was supposed to be a system to achieve full human potential by imparting knowledge, skills and shared concepts of identity and citizenship. However, over the years, what our education system has turned into is just a part of it, where we sort out the meritorious students very well in our premier universities. What we tend to overlook is the mitigation we provide for the much larger proportion of students, who are forced to turn their minds into makeshifts of mugging up past question papers and encouraging rote learning, making education more of a ‘filtering’ system than a ‘sorting’ system. What this provides, is a student with a gold star report card but rare practical knowledge.

The New Education Policy, 2020, acclaimed as one of the most remarkable policies, aims to counter some of the above problems. Following are the highlights of the policy: * Attain 100% Gross Enrollment Ratio by 2030; * Focus on foundational level education by improving numeracy and literacy of all students up to Grade 3; * Training, assessment, and upskilling of teachers by 2030. * Vocational Training of 50% learners by 2025; * Comparable Standards of learning in Public and Private Schools; * Restructuring the year-wise planning of education system by replacing the 10+2 system with 5+3+3+4 i.e. 5 (3 years of Pre Schooling & 2 years of Early Schooling) +3 (Primary Schooling of classes 3-5) +3 (Foundational Schooling of classes 6-8) +4 (Secondary Schooling of classes 9-12); * Providing freedom at secondary level of schooling by offering students a set of multidisciplinary subject streams.

The NEP also focuses to bring substantial changes to college UG level degree programs: * Admissions to be done through a common entrance exam conducted by National Education Agency; * Multiple exit plans to 3-4 years of under graduation and providing credentials at each point: - A certificate after the completion of one year in a discipline of vocational or professional course; - A diploma after the completion of second year; - A degree after the completion of the third year; - The 4-year multidisciplinary bachelor’s program would be a preferred option since it provides a more holistic approach to major and minor subjects.

The NEP emphasises to boost the research and development model with major flexibility provided. * The Master’s program: - A 2-year program, with the second year devoted totally to research for the students who have completed the 3-year Bachelor’s degree. - 1 year of masters for the students who have completed the 4-year bachelor’s degree in research. - The government also plans to integrate the Bachelor’s and Master’s degree programs. * Research: - Undertaking Ph.D. shall require a 4-year Bachelor’s Degree with Research and a proposal of discontinuance of M.Phil. Institutional Changes introduced under NEP include: * There will be an apex body, the Higher Education Commission of India (HECI), controlling all the higher-level education institutions, replacing the University Grants Commission (UGC) and All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE). * Establishing a State School Standard Authority (SSSA) which will provide accreditation and set standards based on basic parameters (safety, security, basic infrastructure, number of teachers across grades and subjects, financial probity, and sound processes for governance).

Teachers’ Training: One of the most important changes brought in the policy is the ‘Teachers’ Training Program’ which aims not just to upskill existing teachers’ skills but also to provide timely training to upcoming teachers. A common guiding set of National Professional Standard for Teachers (NPST), will be set up to constantly monitor teachers’ professional prowess and also a ‘Teachers Education Institute’ will be established.

The NEP accounts for some other important changes: * Foreign Institutions: NEP attempts to go global with the setup of an International Student Office at each HEI to provide competitive competencies in various fields of education, supporting the foreign students studying in India. There has also been an attempt to mobilize Indian Institutes setting up their branches in other foreign lands. * The Multilingual Approach: The new policy plans to impart education through local languages till the Preparatory School level. It has adopted the ‘3 languages scheme’ which will include one local language, one Indian language and English language (at least 2 native languages out of the three). However, there will be freedom for the students to choose as per their preference.

There are many elephants in the room that need to be discussed: NEP is indeed a much required policy to reform education, with the last ever policy reform in this sector (the Right to Education Act) being a decade old. Our education system was never perfect (no policy can be), be not just the fact that our education curriculum is made in a certain manner which discourages quality education, but there are also many elephants in the room that need to be addressed. After going through the policy highlights, one may see many revolutionary changes which may look luscious and even feasible at first, but we cannot go ahead with much pace without losing the knot we have tied ourselves up against over the years. The core issues which the policy seems to be missing out on completely, are: * The assignment of proper assessment schemes for the students. * The setting up of HEIs and provision for conducting a common exam for entries in universities feels stressed, as almost all the states possess their own state level issues & complexities. * Even the language imposition feels stressed which makes the whole policy turn. Languages are indispensable as they not only serve as a medium to communicate but also provide an added advantage that a pupil can use to look for jobs elsewhere in the country. * The policy promises to extend the government expenditure on education to 6%, however, it seems to be an over exaggeration as the central government has reduced spending on education from 4.14% in 2014-15 to 3.2% in 2020-21.

Considering all points which we have seen above, changes and additional schemes that the government has planned to bring in through NEP 2020, a substantial amount of information on important aspects seems missing. However on the brighter side, there have been considerable amount of changes through the policy, that promise to cause an imperative development.

All of this again brings us to the very first theme which is central to all policies and policy making bodies in India- We now know the ‘what’ of things but we will have to wait and see ‘how’ the things turn out to be.

Credits: Content- Kamal Shashwat Infographic- Mukul Kumar, Manvi Mittal

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