Issues with the NEP- 2020

The new policy has tried to please all, and the layers are clearly visible in the document. It says all the right things and tries to cover all bases, often slipping off keel.

  • Lack of integration: In both the thinking, and in the document, there are lags, such as the integration of technology and pedagogy. There are big gaps such as lifelong learning, which should have been a key element of upgrading to emerging sciences.
  • Language barrier: There is much in the document ripe for debate – such as language. The NEP seeks to enable home language learning up to class five, in order to improve learning outcomes. Sure, early comprehension of concepts is better in the home language and is critical for future progress. If the foundations are not sound, learning suffers, even with the best of teaching and infrastructure. But it is also true that a core goal of education is social and economic mobility, and the language of mobility in India is English.
  • Multilingualism debate: Home language succeeds in places where the ecosystem extends all the way through higher education and into employment. Without such an ecosystem in place, this may not be good enough. The NEP speaks of multilingualism and that must be emphasised. Most classes in India are de facto bilingual. Some states are blissfully considering this policy as a futile attempt to impose Hindi.
  • Lack of funds: According to Economic Survey 2019-2020, the public spending (by the Centre and the State) on education was 3.1% of the GDP. A shift in the cost structure of education is inevitable. While funding at 6% of GDP remains doubtful, it is possible that parts of the transformation are achievable at a lower cost for greater scale.
  • A move in haste: The country is grappled with months of COVID-induced lockdowns. The policy had to have parliamentary discussions; it should have undergone a decent parliamentary debate and deliberations considering diverse opinions.
  • Overambitious: All aforesaid policy moves require enormous resources. An ambitious target of public spending at 6% of GDP has been set. This is certainly a tall order, given the current tax-to-GDP ratio and competing claims on the national exchequer of healthcare, national security and other key sectors. The exchequer itself is choked meeting the current expenditure.
  • Pedagogical limitations: The document talks about flexibility, choice, experimentation. In higher education, the document recognizes that there is a diversity of pedagogical needs. If it is a mandated option within single institutions, this will be a disaster, since structuring a curriculum for a classroom that has both one-year diploma students and four-year degree students’ takes away from the identity of the institution.
  • Institutional limitations: A healthy education system will comprise of a diversity of institutions, not a forced multi-disciplinarily one. Students should have a choice for different kinds of institutions. The policy risks creating a new kind of institutional isomorphism mandated from the Centre.
  • Issues with examinations: Exams are neurotic experiences because of competition; the consequences of a slight slip in performance are huge in terms of opportunities. So the answer to the exam conundrum lies in the structure of opportunity. India is far from that condition. This will require a less unequal society both in terms of access to quality institutions, and income differentials consequent upon access to those institutions.
  • There is a persistent mismatch between the knowledge & skills imparted and the jobs available. This has been one of the main challenges that have affected the Indian education system since Independence.
  • NEP 2020 failed to check this, as it is silent on education related to emerging technological fields like artificial intelligence, cyberspace, nanotech, etc.
  • An ambitious target of public spending at 6% of GDP has been set. Mobilising financial resources will be a big challenge, given the low tax-to-GDP ratio and competing claims on the national exchequer of healthcare, national security and other key sectors.
  • The policy has also been criticised due to the legal complexities surrounding the applicability of two operative policies namely The Right to Education Act, 2009 and the New Education Policy, 2020. Certain provisions such as the age of starting schooling will need to be deliberated upon, in order to resolve any conundrum between the statute and the recently introduced policy in the longer run.
  • it is pertinent to note that past attempts at parliamentary legislations under the erstwhile regulatory set up have not been successful. The failure can be attributed to the role of regulators and the intended legislative changes being out of alignment, as in the case of Foreign Educational Institutions (Regulation of Entry and Operations) Bill, 2010, which lapsed; and the proposed Higher Education Commission of India (Repeal of University Grants Commission Act) Act, 2018 which remained did not reach the Parliament.
  • While the Universities Grants Commission and the All India Council for Technical Education have played a major role, questions pertaining to the role of the UGC and AICTE remain unanswered under the new policy.
  • Doubling the Gross Enrolment Ratio in higher education by 2035 which is one of the stated goals of the policy will mean that we must open one new university every week, for the next 15 years.
  • In higher education, the National Education Policy 2020’s focus on inter-disciplinary learning is a very welcome step. Universities, especially in India, have for decades been very silo-ed and departmentalized.