NEP 2020 and higher education: rationale and strategy

By Bhagirathi Panda

Lately, under the leadership of the government and the academic community, different sections of our society have shown great interest in the new Education Policy 2020, commonly referred to as the “NEP 2020”. The central government regards it as one of its pioneering and disruptive initiatives in the educational space. For them, NEP 2020 envisions fundamental and structural changes in the abstraction, content, approach, assessment and outcome dimensions of education at all levels. Unsurprisingly, interest in politics reflects both hope and apprehension. This article aims to examine some of these aspects of policy in the field of higher education in our country with particular emphasis on the various justifications for its adoption and the overall strategy to achieve it. We can list five important rationales for the introduction of NEP 2020. These are the rationales of (i) contemporaneity, (ii) economy (iii) indigenization (iv) inclusiveness and (v) excellence . In an article published in this daily a few months ago, we mentioned the first two justifications.
The logic of contemporaneity presupposes the need to reform our educational system in light of the continuing changes taking place in global societal institutions which include and manifest themselves in the forms of arrival of the large-scale knowledge economy, change continuum of technology, brand building imperative through accreditation, autonomy, grading, multi-disciplinary liberal learning and innovative pedagogy in teaching and assessment. Economic logic considers higher education as an exportable service to be used as a strategy for the economic development of the country. Existing world powers such as the United States and Western European countries have opted for this strategy and continue to do so. Emerging global powers such as China have also begun to aggressively pursue this strategy. United States, United Kingdom. Canada, China and Australia were the top 5 countries in the world hosting 56% of international students globally in 2019. India as an emerging global power cannot afford to bypass it especially in a situation where it has not yet been able to become the manufacturing center. of the world.
The logic of indigenization is a corollary of the economic logic considered as an important initiative in the creation of factors contributing to the manufacture of USP in education services. Due to its rich cultural heritage enriched by its plurality and diversity, its experimentation with democracy, its civilizational history, its indigenous power in software, space and digitization technologies and its avowed interest in peace in the world, etc., it remains a potential destination for international students. and researchers. However, this must be properly adapted to our education service and marketed effectively.
The rationale for inclusiveness is to improve access, equity and inclusion in higher education. Access is made possible by the formulation and implementation at government, community and institutional levels of appropriate policies and practices so that students have an equal opportunity to derive full benefit from their education in terms of registration and choice of subjects. Equity is more about fairness in treatment and opportunities in educational institutions to ensure that personal and social conditions do not prevent students from achieving their academic potential. Inclusion is about ensuring a calibrated and standardized education for every student, regardless of background, personal, social and geographic characteristics. Important indicators of improving access, equity and inclusion in higher education are improving gross enrollment ratio (GER), student-teacher ratio, per capita availability of different educational infrastructures and measures to promote vertical equity through affirmative action, reservation and bursary/bursary agreements. . Finally, the logic of excellence takes on importance in the context of globalization of higher education in order to remain relevant and materialize the economic benefits in terms of the export of education as a service. Here, excellence means benchmarking and maintaining relative quality and standard. These relative qualities and standards change over time and across space.
While the introduction of NEP 2020 owes its justification to the above rationales, the ease of its implementation and achievement of its objectives depends on the nature and degree of the challenges we face in the areas of resource availability (i) financial, physical and human. resources and (ii) our ability to form strong resolve among stakeholders (government, market, community and civil society) through calibration, mobilization, synergy and synchronization. This requires a serious situation and process analysis with hard data and facts. In our previous article that this esteemed daily made on March 29, 2022, we made an analysis of the situation of some of these critical indicators. The next step is to go beyond that and perform appropriate process analyses. For example, if the country’s GER is low vis-à-vis many of the world’s major countries or if it is low in the North East region vis-à-vis the country as a whole, what are the contributing factors is responsible? This would also be the case with low accreditation, high student-teacher ratio, suboptimal research quality, gender disparity in faculty enrollment and availability, faculty shortage, poor employability of dropouts. and suboptimal regulation and management, etc.
However, it would be unfair to label NEP 2020 as undesirable or untimely. Economist Albert O. Hirschman, in his Economic Development Strategy, advocates deliberately unbalancing the economy by initially undertaking investments in major sectors of the economy. He suggests that in a situation of limited capital, the economy can be unbalanced by having an excess of DPA (directly productive activity) over SOC (social capital) or vice versa. The DPA includes investments in the creation of businesses/business units that produce more goods and services. The SOC includes investments in education, public health, irrigation, electricity, roads, railways, etc. Applying Hirschman’s analogy, there could be two strategies for implementing NEP. Strategy-I would be to create the necessary physical and human infrastructure and institutions first and then introduce NEP 2020. However, we believe this would take time with current institutional values ​​and practices. We believe that in a democratic society like India, it is best to implement Strategy II by first introducing the NEP 2020, which in the next stage will put in place the necessary infrastructure and institutions through political and social pressure. For example, when the government implements the provisions of the NEP, there would be a lot of pressure exerted on it by citizens and groups to increase the allocation of GDP to education. Currently, the central government spends about 3.5% of its GDP on education. With the kind of push and movement made by the current central government on the implementation of the NEP, there would be constant pressure on the government to increase the allocation to higher education to the 6% level, as recommended by the Kothari Commission earlier. Similar pressures would also be exerted by different sections of society on state and local governments to provide the necessary infrastructure. We consider that this approach plays more positively in the Indian context.
Therefore, consider NEP 2020 as a journey. This implies that we must gradually implement the provisions of the NEP and, in the meantime, allow the complementary infrastructure and enable the emergence of global practices through pressure, conviction and partnership.
(The author teaches at the Department of Economics, NEHU.)

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