The National Education Policy lays down a transformative vision for education in the country. But its real impact will be judged from the implementation on the ground.
The National Education Policy announced by the Government of India on July 29, 2020 comes nearly three decades after the previous policy was notified. During this time, the world has changed, and so has India in terms of youth aspirations and the workplace. Keeping with the need to change with time and align India’s education system to contemporary practices followed globally, the new policy brings in transformational changes in school and higher education.
The policy’s primary focus is on standardising the quality of education across the country, provide requisite flexibilities to students in charting their careers and aligning education with the needs of the workplace of the future.
In school education, there is a structural change from the current 10+2 system to a 15-year cycle starting with the formal inclusion of early childhood care education. The new structure follows five years of foundational learning, comprising pre-school & grades I & II; three years of preparatory classes comprising grades III, IV & V; three years of middle school comprising grades VI, VII, & VIII, and four years of high school comprising grades IX-XII. The structure takes cognisance of a child’s developmental journey during their formative years while trying to imbibe critical abilities required in the contemporary world like knowledge-seeking, logical-thinking, problem-solving, apart from social skills like communication, teamwork, etc.
It is proposed to introduce vocational training from grade VI to integrate vocational education within the formal schooling system. This measure may help in removing societal reservations on vocational education, and allow students make an informed choice on their education and career path based on their aptitude and competency.
In higher education, too, a student’s options and choices on academic flexibility have been addressed in the policy, through the multiple points of entry and exit. A student can enroll in a 4-year under graduate programme, and have the option to exit with a certificate at the end of 1st year, a diploma at the end of 2nd year, or a degree at the end of 3rd year. Even on exit without completing the full duration of the programme, students will have the option to reenter the programme from where they had left, at the same or a different institution.
A system of credits will enable tracking of the student’s higher education journey, for which an academic credit-bank database is proposed to be set up to maintain credits digitally. This kind of flexibility gives students enough options in planning their careers, while taking care of life events that may require them to discontinue their studies temporarily at any juncture.
Another key change, which is expected to benefit students, is allowing higher education institutes to offer multidisciplinary courses. This measure give students the flexibility to study a combination of subjects based on their interest, which may differ from the typical combination of subjects we are familiar with. Such choice and flexibility will help match youth aspirations and enable innovations expected in the workplace of the future.
While the transformational changes stated in the policy are the need of the hour to revamp the educational system, implementation on ground is likely to be challenging. Significant investments will be required in infrastructure, technology, and teachers’ training to implement the policy measures. For example, the shift in school education to the new format will require teachers to be trained in new pedagogy, as learning methodology transitions from rote to conceptual learning.
In the case of higher education, the move to offer multidisciplinary courses will require investment in expanding infrastructure and facilities as well as recruiting teaching staff for new subjects to be introduced. Effective implementation of the new National Education Policy is likely to play a critical role in helping India achieve its economic and development aspirations.