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NEP-2020 and higher education

On 29th July 2020, the Union Cabinet approved the long-awaited National Education Policy (NEP), after a gap of 34 years.

NEP

Sentinel Digital Desk

Dr Shikha Jyoti Deka

(The writer can be reached at shikha84deka@gmail.com)

On 29th July 2020, the Union Cabinet approved the long-awaited National Education Policy(NEP), after a gap of 34 years. It is the first education policy of the 21st century. The NEP, 2020 aims at providing a comprehensive perception and all-embracing framework for both school and higher education across the country. To create a new system, this policy proposes the emendation and remoulding of all aspects of the educational structure, including its regulation and governance. The proposed system is based on India's traditions and value systems and also aligned with the desired ends of 21st-century education, including Sustainable Development Goal 4.

Individual achievement and edification, fruitful and conscious public engagement and constructive contribution to society are possible only with the existence of a quality higher education. Education must enable citizens to lead a meaningful and satisfying life; deliver a productive work environment and acquire economic independence. Therefore, it is essential to include an identified set of skills and values at each stage of learning, from pre-school to higher education. Hence, numerous rectification and improvements are introduced by NEP to bring a pragmatic and enduring impact on the higher education environment of the country.

Transforming higher educational institutions (HEIs) into large multidisciplinary universities and HEI groups is the most significant recommendation of NEP, 2020. This will end the fragmentation of higher education. This move refers to the ancient Indian universities namely, Takshashila, Nalanda, Vallabhi, and Vikramshila, which had thousands of students from India and the world studying in a vibrant multidisciplinary environment that demonstrated great success. This transformation is crucial towards getting back the value of the great Indian tradition to create skilled and ingenious human beings. Through appropriate resourcing, incentives and structures, HEIs will also support other HEIs in their betterment, contribution to various fields of practice, community service and participation, faculty development for the higher education system etc.

NEP, 2020 attempts to establish a holistic and multidisciplinary educational system in the country. India has a long tradition of holistic and multidisciplinary learning. Multidisciplinary learning must be brought back to Indian education, as it is exactly the kind of education that will be required for the 21st century. A holistic and multidisciplinary education would aim to develop all capacities of the individual in an integrated manner. Such an education will facilitate the all-round development of human beings in all fields across arts, sciences, languages, humanities, social sciences, technical, vocational fields; an ethic of social engagement; soft skills, such as communication and meticulous specialization in chosen fields.

NEP, 2020 proposes that holistic education will be the approach of all undergraduate programmes, including those in professional, technical, and vocational disciplines. Institutions, such as IIMs, IITs, will move towards more liberal arts. Even students of arts and humanities will focus on acquiring knowledge of more science and will make an effort to incorporate more technical and vocational subjects and soft skills.

'Multidisciplinary Education and Research Universities' (MERUs) will be set up for holistic and multidisciplinary education. These public universities will seek to reach the highest global standards in quality education along with the highest standards for multidisciplinary education across India.

Effectual quality learning and specified learning outcomes require relevant and updated curriculum, engaging discourse, continuous decisive assessment and adequate student support. The evaluation procedure must be empirical, designed to persistently improve learning and test the application of expertise. Therefore, NEP, 2020 recommends several initiatives that will make learning environments more supportive and engaging and will provide all students with the means to succeed.

The institutions and faculty will have the autonomy to design the curriculum and pedagogy that assures an exhilarating and engaging learning experience for all students. All assessment systems shall also be decided by the HEI, including those that lead to final certification. The Choice Based Credit System (CBCS) will be remodelled to bring flexibility and mutation. The high-stakes examinations will be replaced by more continuous and comprehensive evaluation.

Universities and colleges will be required to set up high-quality support centres for motivating and uplifting socio-economically disadvantaged students. These centres will be given adequate funds and academic resources to stimulate the needy students effectively.

Open Distance Learning (ODL) and online education stimulate access to quality higher education. To strengthen its potential thoroughly, ODL will be recommenced through collaborative endeavour towards expansion while corroborating standards of quality. ODL programmes will aim to be equivalent to the highest quality in-class programmes available. In the long run, the prime objective of all curricula, pedagogy, classroom teaching, online teaching, ODL modes will be to accomplish the quality of global level.

Ingress into quality higher education paves way for prospects that can elevate both individuals as well as communities out of the cycles of drawbacks. Therefore, providing the platform of quality higher education accessible to all individuals must be among the prime concerns. NEP, 2020 visualizes ensuring equitable access to quality education to all students, with a special emphasis on Socio-Economically Disadvantaged Group (SEDGs).

Vocational education is discerned to be menial to mainstream education and meant predominantly for students who are unfit to get through the latter. This negative perception is highly responsible for the choices students make. It is a consequential matter; hence the best possible way to resolve this concern is to readdress how vocational education is offered to students in the future.

The NEP, 2020 is a welcoming change. It is, undoubtedly, a move in the proper direction towards an exhaustive shift in the education disciplinary system to bring ascending transformation. This is going to be a game-changer for the future of the Indian education system. The policy paves the way ahead for many young aspiring students to be equipped with the right adroitness. The limelight on arts, humanities; mandating all institutions to provide a holistic and multi-disciplinary approach to education; the focus on research will certainly ensure that our young people gain expertise in life skill and actively engage with the practical side of their learning and thus further improve their employability.

It is important to point out that these policies have all been proposed and there is a long way to go before the implementation rolls out. The New Education Policy looks quintessential on paper. But its massive benefits would depend on how they are approached and implemented. Its proper implementation will be the key to its success. Now it's the accountability of the education fraternity to execute it rigorously and bring the needed changes that this policy envisages.


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