NEP – Fillip for Education

A question that’s often asked as a counter to ‘What’s wrong with India’s education system’ is: “What’s right with our education system?” With the Union Cabinet giving its green signal to a New Education Policy for the 21st Century, the scenario is set for a major overhaul. Criticism of the new policy will undoubtedly follow but change in the philosophy and delivery of education is overdue. That it took 34 years for the idea of educational reforms to translate into action, speaks of the apathy of the political and bureaucratic class and the laggardly pace at which policy-making happens in this country.

One important change is the renaming of the Human Resource and Development Ministry into the Education Ministry. The special features of the new policy include teaching in the mother tongue up to Class V; a single regulatory authority to oversee the entire higher education institutions other than those in the medical and legal fields. There will be common entrance examinations for courses in universities across the board. Notably, high-ranking foreign universities will now be allowed in – something that was being pleaded for long to upgrade standards of Indian universities too. There are quite a few privately funded universities, which are bound to compete with the foreign universities on home ground. Old, established universities have long ceased to become centres of excellence.

What is encouraging is that funding for education will go up from the present figure of 4% to 6% of the GDP. Another salient feature of the education policy is that vocational education could start from class VI and not from Class X as is the present case. A National Technology Education Forum too is to be created to push growth in this sector and enhance technology-related competence of the nation. Also the rigid separation between arts, sciences, curricular and extra-curricular will now be melded to provide a more holistic education.

A policy may look good on paper but a lot depends on implementation and the quality of the teaching staff. The education standard of a nation is judged, among other parameters, by the kind of knowledge that the new generation acquires that is experiential and adds to the social capital Indians, despite the 1.35 billion population and tall talk about its Nalanda and Takshila of the past, rarely qualify for a Nobel or any such top international recognition other than those Indians who went to the US or the UK and did research work there. Indian universities are rated at the middle or bottom of universities around the world in international rankings. Big talks will not win a nation laurels. The hope is that NEP will bring in both competition and also provide the academic ecosystem of the best of the west.

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