This Article has been authored by Shivam Kunal, a second-year law student at Institute of Law, Nirma University, Ahmedabad.
History and Background
India enacted its third National Education Policy on 5th August, and the news was welcomed by students and academicians alike across the country. The policy has been aimed to provide lucidity to the education system in our country by imparting vocal courses, dismantling AICTE & UGC, reducing the syllabus by mainly retaining the core essentials of each subject and, shifting from a pen-paper examination driven system to practical examinations. A NEP is a comprehensive framework to guide the development of education in the country. Congress minister Siddheswar Prasad was the first person to demand a dedicated policy for education openly. The same year, a 17-member Education Commission, headed by then UGC Chairperson D S Kothari, was constituted to draft a national and coordinated policy on education. The first-ever education policy was enacted in 1968. The changes enacted are not mandatorily applied by all the state governments; for instance, the Tamil Nadu did not completely imply the 1968 policies.
The policy has taken a stand to inculcate a regional language in the curriculum of the states. This step is extremely important, keeping in mind the ever-growing obsession of our country with English. English is not even the most spoken native language globally. This feat rests with Mandarin Chinese. English is considered a global language, a shortcut to employment opportunities, a symbol of skillset. This overdependence can be summed up-
“This simple-minded link between job opportunities, economic success, and the English language has an increasing number of the urban working class and lower-middle-class parents investing their hard-earned money in private English-medium schooling— often of uncertain quality.”
Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, and New Delhi are some states that offered English as an optional language and not the only language in their curriculum. These states have focused on the importance of imparting knowledge not only through a common globally accepted but also through the locally acknowledged, respected, and used communal language. Maharashtra was the last state to have made Marathi a compulsory language in their curriculum. The draft policy in 2018 proposed Hindi to be made a compulsory subject till the tenth standard. The recent policy has seen a shift from the traditional 10+2 education system to a more clinically divided “5+3+3+4” design corresponding to the age groups 3-8 years (foundational stage), 8-11 (preparatory), 11-14 (middle), and 14-18 (secondary). A research clearly shows that children pick up languages extremely quickly between the ages of 2 to 8 and that multilingualism has great cognitive benefits to young students. Children will be exposed to different languages early on (but with a particular emphasis on the mother tongue), starting from the Foundational Stage onwards.
UNESCO in its report suggested-
“Children who begin their education in their mother tongue make a better start, and continue to perform better, than those for whom school starts with a new language.”
Employment of a bilingual approach would be beneficial for people with transferrable jobs, especially the government servants. A student in defense school experiences transfer at least twice in his entire schooling life.
The ministry was vocal about the cause and stated-
“Teachers will be encouraged to use a bilingual approach, including bilingual teaching-learning materials, with those students whose home language may be different from the medium of instruction.”
One of the most significant developments in the NEP is the standardization of sign language. A common teaching methodology, coupled with a dedicated syllabus across the country, would encourage students with hearing impairment to attend schools. The National Institute of Open Learning has been delegated the work to develop materials for the Indian Sign Language (ISL) courses. The government duly considered the inclusion of digital modes of communication as a method to impart knowledge. These will primarily include the use of gamification and applications by weaving in the cultural aspects of the languages -such as films, theatre, storytelling, poetry, and music - and by drawing connections with various relevant subjects and real-life experiences. This will be a revolutionary introduction to the experimental learning pedagogy in the Indian education system. Students will also be provided an opportunity to learn foreign languages.
There were significant changes introduced to restructure the higher education of the country. The center has decided to dismantle UGC and AICTE to form a centralized board, namely the Higher Education Commission of India, to govern and regulate examinations, admission, and other such procedures. The four-year multi-disciplinary Bachelor’s program will be reintroduced with an exit option to the students. Earlier, the introduction of a rule than allowed students to pursue multiple degrees and hinted at a more flexible education system in the future.
V.S Chauhan explained the new rule stating-
“Four-year bachelor’s programmes generally include a certain amount of research work and the student will get deeper knowledge in the subject he or she decides to major in. After four years, a BA student should be able to enter a research degree program directly depending on how well he or she has performed… However, master’s degree programmes will continue to function as they do, following which student may choose to carry on for a PhD program”
The government will allow foreign universities to set up campuses in India as an attempt to enhance the level of education in the country. It will also significantly impact the QR rankings of many Indian universities. The manner and law proposed regarding this remain under a thin cloud. The current position of law pertaining to foreign universities limits them from entering into collaborative twinning programs, sharing faculties, and offering distance education with partnering universities. It will be a challenge for the government to set-up any such campus as most of the top universities including Yale, Stanford and Columbia have clearly declined an interest of entering into the Indian market.
The NEP will bring a host of changes in the legal education system. The inclusion of practice-based learning can enhance the structure of legal studies in our country. Law colleges are the closest in India when it comes to practice-based learning since internships are mandatory under the BCI guidelines. Adopting best practices and embracing new technologies would provide wider access to justice and timely delivery of justice, which also happens to be the need of the hours in our country. The NEP reads-
"At the same time, it must be informed and illuminated with Constitutional values of Justice - Social, Economic, and Political - and directed towards national reconstruction through instrumentation of democracy, the rule of law, and human rights. The curricula for legal studies must reflect socio-cultural contexts along with, in an evidence-based manner, the history of legal thinking, principles of justice, the practice of jurisprudence, and other related content appropriately and adequately."
While the NEP encourages bilingual teaching practices and other flexible teaching pedagogies, the practice of stand-alone technical universities will be discouraged. As per the NEP 2020-
"No new stand-alone institutions will be permitted except in specific fields as per national needs. All existing stand-alone professional educational institutions will have to become multi-disciplinary institutions by 2030, either by opening new departments or by operating in clusters."
The government plans to set up subject-wise committees with members from relevant ministries at both the central and state levels to develop implementation plans for each aspect of the NEP. The plans will list actions to be taken by multiple bodies, including the HRD Ministry, state Education Departments, school Boards, NCERT, Central Advisory Board of Education, and National Testing Agency, among others. Planning will be followed by a yearly joint review of progress against targets set.
The NEP is not mandatory in nature and thus, these can be treated as guidelines for the states. Since education is a concurrent subject (both the Centre and the state governments can make laws on it), the reforms proposed can only be implemented collaboratively by the Centre and the states. A uniform education proforma across the country can be established if the states construct their education policies with the suggestions propounded in the NEP. Some states are expected not to comply with the policy entirely yet, there will be uniformity up to a large extent. The introduction of middle and high school bifurcation provides a better chance for the students to exercise and learn. Vocal education has been the need of the hour and India has finally shown some intent of shifting its education policy towards the same. The incumbent government has set a target of 2040 to implement the entire policy. Sufficient funding is also crucial; a shortage of funds hamstrung the 1968 NEP. NEP 2020 is indeed a revolutionary step in itself. However, its success is dependent upon various factors and hence it would be too early to comment on the same.