Dr Ritu Mishra and Dr Sughosh Madhav
India’s current education system has failed to instil research orientation in graduating scholars. The National Education Policy is expected to bring about a major departure
Educate and raise the masses, and thus alone a nation is possible — Swami Vivekanand
In 75 years of Independence from colonial times, as a country, we have made remarkable progress in expanding our industrial outputs, multiple service sectors, expansion of space technologies, nuclear assets, and latest achievements in developing the in-house vaccine production against Coronavirus. Doubtlessly, this helped us to grow as a more significant economic force. The latest business predictions also indicate that India will be the third-largest economy (10 trillion) in the world while racing towards 2030-2032. This goal of the ten trillion economy has to be driven by knowledge-based resources and not solely upon natural resources.
The ongoing Coronavirus pandemic has also again given us an opportunity to reflect on the significance of education, particularly research and innovation. Specifically, the lack of scientific temperament in society forces us to think about the shortcomings of overall education policies.
To improve the structural settings of the Indian education sector, the present Government decided to revamp it by introducing a comprehensive National Education Policy 2020 (NEP-2020). The latest addition of NEP-2020 carries a vision of incorporating a more India centric education system, which can transform our nation into a vibrant knowledge society.
Historically, we had our first national education policy in 1968 and followed by an improved version announced in 1986 as the second national education policy. Although NEP 1986 helped India to usher into the modern era and led towards modernisation of our education system, it failed to enhance the capacity of our education system in providing employability skills.
Notably, our current education system has failed in generating the research orientation in graduating scholars and therefore lacks new patents and scholarly publications. Fortunately, this gap has been recognised, and the latest NEP-2020 has been introduced. This policy hopes to compensate for the shortcomings of previous running NEPs.
We will discuss the major potential this new NEP-2020 carries, especially for higher education levels, research and innovation, while also highlighting the pitfalls it might face in executing these policies.
All details of modifications done at each and every stages of education have been described in multiple platforms that is why we will directly jump to dissect the potentials and possible challenges in NEP-2020 at higher education levels and their implementation.
Below are the few points which have been added in NEP-2020, which are the most promising spots. These changes have the potential to change the fundamental mindset and attitude towards education in aspirant’s youth as well as it also changes the perspective of general society regarding the vocational additions at school levels as well as compulsory incorporation of research at degree levels in all subjects.
Incorporation of vocational training NEP-2020 has the most game-changing incorporation of vocational training at middle school levels. This step not only recognises the variety of interest in different skill sets which student might contain and previously was not able to train himself at school levels in all these art and craft and other professional training such as carpentry, pottery, landscape, gardening and other related technical training. After these additions, a student might find the area of his passion and interest in which he can start growing right from the beginning rather than throwing himself in higher degree levels of education which he might never use in his professional growth. This inclusion in school study will definitely help in early recognition of true interest in students and guide their life accordingly.
Freedom to Choose Subject
At pre-college levels, another revolutionary change has been done by giving the student the freedom to choose any subject of their interest at 12th levels, which is not available in the current education system of 10+2+3 system. In the current system, students have to make a very defining choice whether they can enter into commerce, science or arts and humanities at high school levels, and they cannot change the subject or mix different subjects of their choices. In the revised version of NEP-2020, a student will be able to choose one subject of science, another from humanities, history, philosophy or commerce, whatever he wishes to choose at intermediate level. This will also give a student additional freedom to choose any stream in further college, degree/graduation or post-graduation levels.
Transfer of Credits at Degree Levels
After implementing NEP-2020, a student can start four years degree programme, but if they are not interested in that subject, they can change the stream/subject and can carry forward their earned credits. If they leave the degree after two years, they can earn an advanced diploma; if left after three years they will earn a degree and completion of 4th year of project research training will provide him with a full undergraduate degree. In this way, changing subjects or stream will not waste his time for earning a bachelor degree programme. This basically means from now on, multiple entries and multiple exit facilities will be available in under graduation, including medical and paramedical courses.
Embracing a Global Vision
When Mata Amritanandamayi Devi, “Amma” as the world lovingly calls her, inspired the founding of Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham, she knew global societies need thought-leaders in every realm, who can embrace not just humanity, but the entire world with accountability, social responsibility and compassion.
This noble, holistic vision drives Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham. A globally-renowned and esteemed university, with campuses in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and Karnataka, Amrita provides a futuristic, research-enriched environment for professional learning, on par with reputed global benchmarks in terms of leading-edge academic excellence, faculty competence, research and development initiatives as well as co- and extra-curricular activities.
Going beyond classroom and lab learning, to touch lives and make a difference, Amrita University’s signature initiative – Amrita Live-in-Labs is a multi-disciplinary, credit-based student experiential learning programme which draws on lean research, envisages applying theoretical knowledge for developing and deploying sustainable solutions amidst rural communities to face their multiple challenges.
A Compulsory Research Project
Similarly, a postgraduate education is designed from one to two years with more specialisation; research focus to get a full master’s degree with a certain level of research skills, which will help in developing the R&D attitude in overall higher education systems. M.Phil degree has been discontinued because the students are already exposed to preliminary research skills during undergraduate and postgraduate courses to effectively prepare them for Ph.D. and another research-based advanced programme.
Making PhD Compulsory for Assistant Professor
Unlike previous variations in eligibility, from now on after NEP-2020, the PhD degree is compulsory along with a pass in NET/SLET as an essential qualification to qualify for Assistant Professor in any three types of Higher Education Institutes. These higher standards are going to boost the quality of higher education and will do justice to our new generation students in providing them quality teachers and research guidance.
Foreign Universities Can Function
As per the new NEP-2020, top 100 ranked universities will be allowed to function in India and can effectively compete with Indian universities. This will encourage a healthy competitive atmosphere to attract more quality faculties and students, which would ultimately improve the quality of the Indian education system. The coursework of the PhD programme will comprise of research methodology, essential curriculum development aspects along with teaching in core subject related study.
A National Research Foundation (NRF) will be constituted instead of different funding agencies to fund the competitive, innovative and solution-oriented research proposals across all subjects and disciplines. A National Mission for Mentoring will be set up to additionally add these benefits to higher education. These are some of the highlights where NEP-2020 gives a strong hope for making substantial-quality changes in our education system. The addition of vocational training and allowing multiple entries/exit at graduation levels will surely deliver the goal of streamlining students in their genuine field of interest. These new policies are providing for the first time a true level of freedom and liberal education to support multidisciplinary and cross-disciplinary education and higher research in UG and PG levels.
Shortcomings and Challenges
The NEP-2020 promises are definitely ambitious and capable of changing the face of our education system and status of employability in coming times. The only challenge is the proper implementation.Our primary education system doesn’t have enough trained teachers, resources to give a variety of vocation training at high school levels. This might seriously impact how we are going to incorporate all those trainers in the first place in schools on which our students can depend for their vocational training. This means the different state governments need a massive drive for recruiting vocationally trained staff first in our schools.
Another considerable inequality would be experienced while distributing the research fund based on the quality and existing performance of higher education colleges and small universities. Previously established Institution would be able to grab most of it while less equipped colleges and educational institutes might not get a fair chance to upgrade them, which would even drag them lower in the quality rankings. Since most of our college and deemed universities still lack the basic research amenities and required facilities and training grounds, they would not be able to compete with premium institutes. Along with the implementation challenges, it holds satisfactory hopes and potentials, which we can count on and wait for a revolutionary input of six percent of our GDP in reviving the Indian education system. Overall, NEP 2020 is the hope of a bright future for the young generation and remarkable changes in the education system. Now a revised and a well-framed education policy is ready to serve the nation; the only need is the proper implementation of the policy. Different governmental agencies, state governments, policymakers, private sector, academicians and social workers should come forward and give their valuable efforts to make sure the success of NEP 2020.
(Dr Ritu Mishra is currently working as DST-INSPIRE Faculty at National Institute of Immunology- NII, New Delhi, while Dr Sughosh Madhav is presently working as an Assistant professor on a guest basis in Shaheed Bhagat Singh College, University of Delhi)