Ever since its launch, the New Education Policy 2020 has stirred a storm in the country. Approved by the Union Government in the last week of July, it introduces sweeping changes in school and higher education system. Typically, a new NEP comes along every few decades and India got its first in 1968, followed by the 1986 and 2020 versions.
Let’s explore the core tenets of NEP 2020 and its ramifications for students, research aspirants and the Indian education system.
Launch of a four-year multidisciplinary bachelor’s program
Under the proposed four-year program with multiple-exits, students can pass out with a certificate after a year, with a diploma after two years and with a bachelor’s degree after three years. Typically, four-year bachelor’s includes a certain amount of research work and allows students to gain in-depth knowledge in their chosen subject. Upon the successful completion of this program, a student becomes eligible to apply for a research degree depending on his/her academic performance. So, the NEP opens up an alternative avenue for research aspirants who can apply for PhD directly after the four-year bachelor’s and need not necessarily pursue a master’s to attain eligibility. In effect, students can save one year and delve into research work early on in their career trajectory. Vineet Gupta, Founder and Trustee, Plaksha University and MD, Jamboree Education views this as a break away from the shackles of the traditional education system, “Reforms such as having a self-declaration system, bringing in a 4-year-undergraduate programme, replacing a cumbersome inspection system and adding an additional 1-year after 12+3 to help students be eligible for many top-ranked global programmes will remove unique barriers that Indian students have faced in the past.” However, the master’s degree will continue to function and offer the long-established path to enroll into a doctorate program.
Scrapping MPhil program and related effects
With the four-year undergraduate program on the cards, MPhil will be discontinued. PhD will be accessible after four-year graduation and master’s degree. That is, scrapping MPhil will not disturb the higher education chronology. Globally, the prevalent practice is to accept registrations for PhD after a student has accomplished master’s. In Oxford, Cambridge and many prominent universities, MPhil is a middle-research degree between a master’s and a PhD and those who pursue MPhil often end up entering a doctorate program. Thus, discontinuing MPhil in favor of a direct PhD is most likely to have favorable outcomes for research aspirants of domestic and international universities.
Call for a multi-disciplinary approach to be adopted by 2040
This step is targeted at phasing out single streams and embracing a multidisciplinary approach to education in the upcoming decades. While it may be argued that the onslaught of multiple disciplines can dilute the character of single-stream institutions like IITs, many are welcoming it as a progressive and holistic step. The IITs are already moving in that direction. IIT-Delhi came up with a public policy department recently and IIT-Kharagpur has a School of Medical Science and Technology. Expressing his views on the multidisciplinary approach, IIT-Delhi Director, V Ramgopal Rao stated, “Some of the best universities in the US such as MIT have very strong humanities departments. Take the case of a civil engineer. Knowing how to build a dam is not going to solve a problem. He needs to know the environmental and social impact of building the dam. Many engineers are also becoming entrepreneurs. Should they not know something about economics? A lot more factors go into anything related to engineering today.” In a similar vein, Prof. VK Tewari, Director, IIT Kharagpur sees the move to include more humanities and social science subjects at IITs as a way to “strengthen the holistic academic needs of new generation IITs.”
Dissolution of rigid divisions across subjects and streams
Steadfast divisions between streams, curricular and co-curricular activities, and vocational and non-vocational subjects will cease to exist. A multidisciplinary education, more aligned with the global education system, will be the new order. The NEP stresses the importance of a revived focus on research that will foster a strong culture for novel-thinking and innovation. Rohit Manglik, CEO, EduGorilla observes, “The elimination of rigid streams in secondary education will ensure that no career option is restricted to students due to subject specialization.” Decreased inflexibility and greater freedom of choice for subjects will enable holistic learning of all forms of knowledge and availability of varying career opportunities.
NEP: Skill development, placements and entrepreneurship
Education should go hand in hand with entrepreneurship. Skill development must be an essential component of academic programs. The impact of the NEP will be critical for students seeking transition into the business world after their education. Shedding light on the changing demands in corporate and industrial space, Vineet Gupta, Founder and Trustee, Plaksha University and MD, Jamboree Education hails the move, “As an engineer, an entrepreneur and a University founder, I am extremely pleased to see the blurring lines between liberal arts and sciences as the modern workplace demands some new-age skills that go beyond the silos created by a technical only education-or a liberal arts-only approach.” Indeed, the inclusion of professional disciplines as part of higher education will make way for imbibing of soft-skills much earlier in the course of one’s career. This will ensure aspirants are capable of presentation, research and other capabilities long before getting into a dedicated doctorate or professional education program.
For Sahil Agarwal, Co-Founder and CEO, Rishihood University, the step will optimize curriculum creation with regards to industry’s needs, paving way for better recruitments, “The college affiliation system which prevented curriculum innovations will be phased out. This will allow industry-linked curriculum and faster modifications based on industry’s needs, therefore helping the students in placements.”
Single governing body for higher education institutions
In the wake of the launch of NEP, the HRD Ministry was renamed as the Ministry of Education. The NEP seeks to lay the foundation for a common higher education regulator in replacement of UGC and AICTE. It seeks to combine UGC and AICTE, and set-up the Higher Education Council of India (HECI) to assess and review learning outcomes in the field of education. This will streamline and unify the formulation of educational policies, and eliminate uncertainties in decision-making.
Renewed focus on digital learning
In a bid to bolster the cause of online education, the NEP envisages the establishment of a National Educational Technology Forum (NETF) which will develop e-courses in eight regional languages and set up virtual labs. Related to this move is the idea of a credit bank for higher education. The step is progressive and allows drop-outs to resume education later in life if they had the misfortune of dropping off at various milestones in their career path. Ashwani Awasthi, Managing Director, RICS School of Built Environment sees the decision as a boost for “e-learning (that) will be immensely beneficial for students and the setting up of an academic bank of credit along with multiple entry/exit points will go a long way in improving the country’s Gross Enrolment Ratio.”
Seeking inclusion of foreign players in Indian higher education
The NEP envisions the ambitious task of setting up the campuses of top-notch 100 international universities on the Indian soil. The prospect sounds appealing as participation of foreign universities in India is presently confined to sharing faculty with partnering institutions, entering into collaborative twinning programs and offering distance education. Although the NEP doesn’t clarify if a new law would be passed to enthuse these universities to open campuses, such a law is essential that clearly defines the establishment process and modus operandi for foreign universities in the Indian territory. Assuming a successful execution, 100 world-famous foreign universities coming to India will dramatically boost a global view towards Indian education system and attract students from across the world. It will also help retain domestic talent within the country.
The NEP 2020 strongly recognizes the significance of higher education and research for a country’s economic growth. It sufficiently dwells on the school system, rural education and research climate in the country. As per the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) statistics presented in the policy, China made as many as 13,38,503 patent applications, with merely 10% applications from non-resident Chinese, the USA made 605,571 patent applications, whereas India made just 45,057 applications of which more than 70% were by non-resident Indians. Since ages, India has been a more service-oriented economy. However, the NEP infuses hope in the minds of young aspirants keen to excel in the research field.