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Mainstream, VOL 61 No 28, July 8, 2023

Premature Death of an Education Policy | S. K. Saidapur

Friday 7 July 2023


Karnataka was the first State to implement the NEP-2020 with all pomp and glory, obviously in a hurry and claim some brownie points. Unfortunately, it is also the first State planning to scrap it and develop its own policy (State Education Policy- SEP), for whatever reasons. This can lead to a chain of reactions and precedence for other States, especially those not governed by the central ruling party. In fact, many States are still wavering to implement it. However, even in such academic matters also most academicians choose to remain silent. Further, I understand that IISERS have not implemented the policy. Neither the other premier institutions like the IIT or IISC have implemented it. Yet, they may have taken cognizance of and incorporated needed elements. Same may be true of the Central Universities. These institutions are already doing well keeping the global changes in mind and have maintained required standards. Hence, implementation of NEP-2020 in a strict sense may not be very crucial for them. If so, so be it.

My focus is on the State Universities that deals with a large proportion of higher education; both professional and nonprofessional courses. Did the NEP truly deserve archiving and premature death? India has seen several education policies but none of them were implemented fully. The same fate could have befallen on the NEP-2020 also. Certain difficult items that are not so easy to implement or futile in nature could have been ignored. What the various Indian States need is to capture the essence of the new policy, refine it further and adopt it. Unfortunately political considerations often overweigh the academic ones. As long as education is controlled by the political bosses, India will never make headway progress in higher education. Ideally, it should be left to eminent academicians who are apolitical, unbiased and possess an open mind.

Let me ask, do we need to revamp higher education? Before I answer the question, let us briefly take into account the prevailing changes in the global scenario consequent to IR 4.0 with massive success in digital revolution encompassing three major waves: establishing Internet, Internet of Things (IoT), and Internet of Everything (people, things, services, social and business hubs, smart cities etc.). Consequently, the world has become truly a global village where all can express freely and influence each other. It has changed the lives of people from being spectators to actors. In turn it has led to global citizenry. Therefore, nations can no longer stand alone in isolation. Furthermore, human life is now built around online activity.

The aforementioned ubiquitous connectivity has enabled entrepreneurs to transform nearly all real- world sectors including the education sector. The developments in science and technology are wonderful, but unintended consequences are job disruptions. Every industrial revolution has caused job disruptions. With each passing decade we lose numerous types of jobs. This necessitates making more and more innovations regularly even to stay where we are. The only way out is providing quality education of a different kind. This calls for introspection, reinvention and a kind of disruption in the ongoing education system with a multifaceted approach. It is not enough to focus on the curricular content but also on the context and community as well.

Our education needs to focus on learning to know, learning to do, learning to live together and learning to be. Going a step further, one may add learning to dare, learning to know and learn to undertake as intrinsic parameters of future education. If different States of India are going to evolve their own SEP they can do so by keeping the above parameters in mind and with a generous financial support, recruitment of competent faculty, evolving curriculum of global standard / global outlook and modern infrastructure.

Any revamping education necessitates adoption of modern pedagogies and assessment protocols that are clearly defined in the curriculum. This requires training the teachers, redesigning the class rooms and so on. Clearly, education can no longer go on as usual. Anyone may ask, do we need to revamp our higher education system? My emphatic answer is yes. Therefore, let us not rejoice the premature death of NEP-2020; instead, strive to overcome the shortcomings and refine it so as to attain global competency which is now a necessity more than ever. It is also the time for academicians to plead for modernizing the education and taking it to global standards. Preparing a policy document, be it NEP or SEP is one thing and implementing it properly is another. All these are ultimately guided by the vision of Education Ministers (who are not necessarily educationists per se), the State Higher Education Councils, Vice Chancellors and varsity faculty. To quote Thomas Alva Edison, “Vision without execution is hallucination”. Regardless of whether we adopt NEP or SEP, the universities now need to strive to attain global standards and build brand names for themselves and for the country. At the same time, a premature death of an education policy in the face of increasing compulsions imposed by globalization is a matter of great concern for future of India.

(Author: S. K. Saidapur is a former Vice Chancellor and Founder Director of State Higher Education Council, Dharwad).

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