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Mainstream, VOL LVIII No 43, New Delhi, October 10, 2020

Highlighting Demerits of New Education Policy 2020 | Anil K Kanungo

Friday 9 October 2020

The recently launched new National Education Policy (NEP) approved by the Union Cabinet aims to usher in a new era of education that promises to make India globally competitive, holistic, more productive, and forward looking. This is the first education policy of the 21st century that replaces the thirty-four-year-old National Policy on Education (NPE) drawn in 1986. The policy overall looks quite ambitious and futuristic but much of its success will depend on what it proposes to achieve.

While it is laudable to notice the new policy promising a gamut of activities that will be output driven and will help India to achieve all-round development, yet certain glaring demerits can be noticed when one analyses the policy in greater deal. The idea is not to criticise, but to highlight the areas of improvement which require immediate attention.
No one undermines the significance of higher education and so much so that once recognised as millennium development goals (MDGs) by UN has been reincarnated as a sustainable development goal (SDG) to attain education for all by 2030. Through this active education, India wanted to improve its human development index, a prominent measure to indicate country’s overall achievement in its social and economic dimensions., yet we still perform abysmally registering 129th position out of 189 countries conducted by UNDP in 2019. This means education as one of the three criteria in judging HDI, is stilling lagging far behind in fulfilling objectives. But with the new policy 2020, what is the guarantee it will be improved. Apparently, no mention of HDI in the policy.

Second, there has been a significant feeling about delinking of degree from jobs. This has been an issue of fervent debate in the past among the academic and policy circles, but no such headway has been made to capture and correct this dimension in new policy. Especially at a time when world economy is moving towards becoming a knowledge-based economy, more and more young Indians would like to become an integral part of that movement. This aspiration quotient is missing. It is important they are motivated to pursue a career in higher studies which optimally matches skills required to justify the nature of job they do. For example, in current situation an engineer is selling toothpaste in the market, clearly delinking of degree from job that one notices.

Third, providing flexibility to the candidate to pursue a four-year graduation program is justifiable as this program allows multiple exits and entries. Idea behind this is after obtaining certain skills in the first two-year the candidate gets some employment. But such employable sectors are not much visible now in Indian economy as India is still a developing economy where its global supply chain is not so strong and wide. In a poor country like India where employment for all is still a distant possibility if some candidate finds a job in between, he/she may not come back easily to complete the course. Hence percentage of people finishing graduation level may drop.

Again, somebody who is doing graduation with 4 year has to do 1 year of master to become a masters in any discipline. In that case somebody opting for 3-year graduation and 2-year masters may have different intensity in terms of learning and teaching. Such flexibility towards finishing coursework alongside multiple entry and exit points for higher studies will remain unresponsive and unproductive.

Fourth, privately run HEI will provide more scholarships to students; in that case all these institutions are going to increase the fee. In that case a large and deserving section may not get higher, technical, and professional education because it becomes unaffordable for them. India is a country which is aiming for 5 US$ trillion economy, then, needs to assure that middle and lower-middle level of higher technical and professional education are the key to India’s success in the forthcoming techno industrial based economy where AI and robotics will play a big supporting role.

Fifth, education being in the concurrent list, where state and centre can make laws on that, coordination to have a unified well-rounded educational objective will be difficult to achieve. Because many states are underdeveloped compared to other states and allocation of financial resources vary immensely which is key to education sector.

Sixth, dropping M. Phil degree is going to cause some rupture in the research front. As this is a pre-testing degree for advanced and quality research that a candidate can have, is going to demotivate and limit horizon of research. India needs strong research base to develop its IPR. Students who have joined this integrated course will be at a loss to move forward. Ph. D being a higher degree require more time and resources to accomplish. Rate of completing this degree is still low.

Seventh, if the Government is proposing to open the education sector to outside service provider especially attracting FDI, then it needs to put in place adequate rules and regulations. A strong regulatory watchdog is necessary.

Eighth, Higher education will prove quite costly and expensive for the students to pursue. For developing country like India, middle level technical and higher education should be public supported. This does not seem to be the intent of NEP. NEP also fails in checking the growth of profit for education organizations.

The growing emergence of epidemics and pandemics will also call for collaborative research in infectious disease management and development of vaccines. This heightens the need for multidisciplinary learning. The government therefore need to see how it can leverage education to take care of health.

The author is currently Professor & Area Chair, Dept. of Economics, LBSIM & former senior faculty, Indian Institute of Foreign Trade (IIFT), New Delhi.

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