The National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 presented to the nation on July 29 after an interregnum of 34 years, expresses determined intent to revamp and universalise early childhood and primary-secondary education by 2030. In higher education, it has set the goal of doubling GER (gross enrolment ratio) from the current 25.7 to 50 percent of youth in the 18-24 years age group, and transforming India into an international hub of high-quality collegiate and university education. However, drawing up detailed roadmaps to transit to utopian destinations and translating noble rhetoric into actionable blueprints is an altogether different proposition. For a start, it requires forthright admission of past failures and wrong-turns. Reaffirming faith in the very same failed actors and engineers who ruined post-independence India’s education system to extricate the children and youth of the nation out of the mire of low learning outcomes and skills deficit in which they have been floundering for over seven decades, is to expect too much. Yet this is the major ‘reform’ that NEP 2020 has proposed. It mandates the establishment of an alphabet soup of new supervisory and regulatory institutions — HECI, NHERC, NAC, HEGC, GEC, NRF in higher education and Department of School Education, Directorate of School Education, and SSSA, SCERT in school education apart from NCIVE and NCVET in skills education.
Evidently, the proposition that highly educated deans, vice chancellors and trustees of higher education institutions (HEIs) and experienced principals and educators mindful of their own and institutional reputations can effectively manage schools and HEIs without supervision, is beyond the imagination of the neta-babu brotherhood.
Over the top bureaucratisation of Indian education apart, NEP 2020 makes no attempt to co-opt private schools and HEIs into attaining the grand vision of the policy. All it says about private schools and colleges which host over 50 percent of the student population, is that they need to be controlled to prevent commercialisation and exploitation, allegedly practiced by private education institutions.
Likewise, unmindful of the national yearning for learning English, NEP 2020 has resurrected settled issues of medium of instruction and the threelanguage formula, and reiterated the familiar call of predecessor education policies for national (Centre plus states) expenditure for public education to be raised to 6 percent of GDP, without any enabling suggestions. These and other features — positive and negative — of NEP 2020 are debated in detail in our comprehensive cover story of this Independence Day edition.
A good suggestion for the minister steeped in the insolence of office — over a dozen requests for brief responses to an emailed questionnaire remained unanswered — would be to read our Special Report feature in which 25 highly qualified and experienced principals and educationists recount how they are upgrading K-12 schools under their watch to globally benchmarked standards.