This anniversary is not about a pause, but about providing a collective push to a reform long overdue
By Ashok Pandey
The fight against the SARS-CoV-2 virus since March 2020 meant multiple battles against health and well-being, livelihood losses, a dwindling economy, and a dismantled social life. The acceleration in education, skilling and capacity building—all crucial to a thriving economy—took the worst hit.
Amid the pandemic uncertainty, we have completed one year of the announcement of NEP 2020, July 29. No policy announcement, since Independence, has attracted so much enthusiasm, curiosity and expectation as the one announced last year—an outcome of a massive consultative process, years of wait and against the backdrop of a nation’s resolve to be self-reliant. Skilling and reskilling the nation, creating an immense human capital and restoring character building at the core of education constitute the soul of NEP 2020.
The year-long, hectic, indoor preparations mark the rollout of the policy. Any policy of the scale and scope of NEP 2020 requires enabling legislation, framework, interdepartmental and interministerial dialogue at multiple levels. With the Prime Minister leading from the front, initiating discussions, addressing national conferences and encouraging theme-based task allocation, the implementation strategy is on course. The nation’s presence is affirmative, and the academia is euphoric—signalling two significant indicators that the buy-in for the change is working.
The policy’s success lies in its strategic implementation. Broad political consensus, people’s participation and resource mobilisation are crucial as we transition to the next phase. The pandemic poses additional challenges to the policy. The issue of digital equity, bridging the existing learning gap, and Covid-induced learning losses need remediation as a precursor to the policy rollout. Special attention is required to focus on six key affirmations:
1. The new vision for teaching and learning: While unifying all stakeholders, the policy gives direction, purpose and rationale for a forward-thinking education for the country. Equity and excellence for all is the central theme of NEP 2020. Creating exciting learning experiences, adapting learning modalities best suited to each learner, mindful and transformative embedding of technology will fuel student engagement.
2. Teacher agency: The policy asserts that teachers should have a voice in decision-making and implementation. The policy acknowledges teachers’ beliefs, values, understanding of curriculum, instruction and assessment as vital components in successful policy implementation. Effective integration of arts, sports, technology and professional learning will augment learning experiences.
3. Strategic leadership support: NEP2020 mandates that explicit encouragement and guidance to the staff through communication, resource allocation, growth opportunities and unleashing potential will be the significant drivers of success.
4. Reducing barriers to implementation: Providing adequate infrastructure, funding, digital equity, a culture of trust, and social capital will significantly reduce initial hurdles. A redefined public-private partnership will be helpful.
5. International benchmarking and obligations: India is committed to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Goal-4 (quality education and lifelong learning for all) is both a standalone target to achieve and an enabler to attaining all other goals. The policy reiterates a nation’s commitment made to the UN and other multilateral agencies.
6. Tertiary education and beyond: While universalisation of primary and secondary education is well on course, the enhancement of enrolment to tertiary education to 50% will need a gearshift in culture, pedagogy and structure. Nurturing graduates on their unique pathways and helping them find their North Star should be the primary goal.
A national policy document reflects the aspirations of the people. A nation’s commitment, character and preparedness are shaped in its classrooms. NEP 2020 has all the ingredients to revolutionise the curriculum, pedagogy, assessment and society’s outlook towards education. This anniversary is not about a pause, but about a collective push to a reform long overdue.
(The author is a Delhi-based educationist and director of Ahlcon Group of Schools, Delhi)