The new National Education Policy (NEP), approved by the Central cabinet, is a long-awaited initiative that is bound to usher in the much-needed reforms. However, implementation holds the key to realising the lofty objectives of the new policy. The rot that has set in over decades and the structural flaws that impaired the growth needed to be removed to achieve real transformation. The status-quoist bureaucracy must change its mindset to ensure the success of the proposed reforms that touch upon myriad areas. Flexibility in choosing subjects, changes in course tenures, discouraging rote learning, doing away with examination-centric approach, constitution of a single regulator for all higher education institutions, ramping up digital learning and allowing foreign universities to set up their campuses in the country are some of the welcome changes in the new policy being proposed after a gap of over three decades. The NEP’s direction on integrating vocational education in the overall educational system can serve as a tremendous growth driver for education among large sections of people. One important criticism against the current education system in India is that it has been unable to shake off its colonial character that was designed to churn out clerks and stifle innovative thinking. The failure to upgrade skills of teachers in tune with changing needs of an increasingly globalised world, continued dependence on the abstract, blackboard teaching and rote method of learning have proved to be the major impediments. And, much of what is currently taught in Indian schools and colleges is irrelevant and largely disconnected to reality and doesn’t help the youth in real-life situations.
The new policy makes a radical departure from the existing system with an aim to universalise education gradually, introduce a new curricular and pedagogical structure, offer students a better range of subjects and promote regional languages, and improve governance. The expert committee, headed by former Isro chairman K Kasturirangan, deserves appreciation for suggesting a massive makeover for the education sector, focusing on testing concepts and knowledge application rather than on examinations. It is heartening that the school curriculum will be confined to core concepts and there will be integration of vocational education from Class VI. In the present system, students get typecast for life based on the subjects they chose in school and the future course of their careers is decided by that one choice. The new policy aims to solve this by allowing students to mix and match subjects in school and college. This is a welcome change. Also laudable is the move to allow over 100 foreign colleges to set up their campuses, which will be treated on a par with other autonomous institutions in India.
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