The path to successfully execute NEP is riddled with hurdles; the Centre and states need to work closely to overcome them
The Education Minister, Dharmendra Pradhan, called NEP 2020 a visionary education policy for the 21st century through which India is harnessing the capabilities of each student, universalising education, building capacities, and transforming the learning landscape in the country.In terms of roll-out of key NEP activities, the school curriculum has been changed to include artificial intelligence (AI) and financial literary. Given that the mother tongue or regional language received primacy in the NEP, the same has been introduced in several states, albeit on a pilot basis. Further, the ministry has launched the much-talked-about Academic Bank of Credit—a programme that will provide multiple entry and exit options for students in higher education. These apart, a number of key initiatives, such as NIPUN Bharat Mission—improving children’s learning competencies in reading, writing, and numeracy by the end of Grade III; Vidya Pravesh—a three-month school preparation module for Grade I children; DIKSHA—a teaching-learning repository of e-content; and NISHTHA—teachers training programme for the secondary-level teachers. As far as roll-out amongst the states are concerned, only a handful of states, mainly under the ruling party have launched the programme. Karnataka became the first state to implement NEP on 24 August. Recently, Madhya Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh launched a series of NEP initiatives giving a much needed push to this mega policy. On the whole, NEP has started gathering pace.
Creating a shared responsibility and ownership amongst key stakeholders, including the private sector, at the state and district levels that have extraordinary diversity is going to be a major challenge for the education leadership.This means that thousands of schools and colleges would need capacity building and reorientation with regards to the operational aspects of implementing a mega programme with many experiential goals. In short, the existing organisational structure of the ministry and its ecosystems will have to undergo a massive overhaul. While it is heartening is that the NEP document has laid out a comprehensive roadmap for overhauling the existing regulatory system, and the education ministry is in the process of bringing out a legislation that would facilitate the setting up of a Higher Education Commission of India (in the place of existing regulatory bodies, mainly the UGC, AICTE, and National Council for Teachers Education), one has to wait for the new institutional architecture emerging out of legislative initiatives. Third, the NEP would largely hinge on the extent of cooperation between the Centre and states. While the NEP has been drafted by the Union government (with inputs from multiple stakeholders including the state governments), its implementation largely depends on the active cooperation of the states. This is because most services-related education are performed by the state governments. In short, the Centre has to skilfully navigate the principles of cooperative federalism and decentralisation while rolling out key initiatives. And this is not an easy act to perform given the sharpening of political polarisation in the recent years and visible breakdown of trust between the Centre and states. A number of Opposition-ruled states have been raising strong objections to several key provisions of the NEP and the manner in which they are being rolled out. The more worrying development is that the Tamil Nadu government’s recent decision to not implement the NEP can encourage other Opposition-ruled states to follow a similar path. Thus, managing federal math is critical to the realisation of the NEP.
A number of Opposition-ruled states have been raising strong objections to several key provisions of the NEP and the manner in which they are being rolled out.Fourth, the role of the private sector, particularly in dealing with the higher education system, is extremely critical for translating the inclusionary vision of the NEP. It may be noted that as much as 70 percent of higher education institutions (colleges and universities) are run by the private sector. Significantly, roughly 65-70 percent students are currently enrolled in private higher education institutions. This apart, the private sector brings much needed financial resources and innovation. Therefore, it is imperative for the government and regulatory bodies to create workable institutional mechanisms that would harness the contribution of the private sector and recognise them as equal partner in the NEP process. Finally, the successful execution of key initiatives requires availability of adequate financial resources for decades. In this regard, the NEP has stated that to realise the goals of the new policy, the country has to raise public spending on education to 6 percent of GDP. This is a daunting task if one considers the past promises and their actual realisation. For instance, the 1968 National Education policy had recommended 6 percent of GDP be allocated towards education. However, in all these decades, the public spending on education has not gone beyond 3 percent. Ironically, the union budget allocation for education in the NEP launching year has taken a dip. The education budget was reduced by 6 percent from INR 99,311 crore in 2020-21 to INR 93,224 crore in 2021-22. While this is understandable given the government’s priorities are divided in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic and economic distress that large sections of populations are facing, there is no clear roadmap yet how such enormous sums of financial resources can be augmented.
The NEP has stated that to realise the goals of the new policy, the country has to raise public spending on education to 6 percent of GDP.To sum up, the NEP 2020 is truly a pathbreaking document in every sense. The policy, amongst others, aims to address pedagogical issues, structural inequities, broadening of access apart from making the learners future ready while meeting the demands of a 21st century India. Simultaneously, the NEP has the most challenging task of addressing multiple crises in the education system. Its effective implementation is critical if India wants to reap the demographic dividends and capitalise the opportunities from a rapidly growing knowledge economy. Given its transformative potentials, the Centre has shown urgency and a sense of purpose by launching a series of initiatives in the recent months notwithstanding the challenges of the pandemic. A number of states have officially launched the policy and many others are in the process to do the same. Yet, there is a long road ahead of the NEP. Given its scale and the kind of complexity involved in its execution, particularly securing coordination and cooperation amongst diverse stakeholders at state, district, private sector amongst others, makes it a daunting exercise. Apart from this, one has to deal with weak state capacity, availability of financial resources and, most importantly, the education ecosystem that acts as a drag on new ideas and innovation. Yet, the most critical challenge before NEP is building consensus and getting states to own the first omnibus programme after 1986. In short, the success of the NEP largely hinges on cooperative federalism and states taking ownership of the reforms.
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Niranjan Sahoo, PhD, is a Senior Fellow with ORF’s Governance and Politics Initiative. With years of expertise in governance and public policy, he now anchors ...Read More +