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NEP Decoded (Part II)

The policy by far is the best created, but will need funds in excess of 6% of GDP. It was 2.7% the last year. The committee would have done well if a chapter was dedicated to the gap study at the beginning. The recommendations would have carried a lot more conviction. Reasons for dropouts which are well documented elsewhere are unfortunately not accounted for in the policy. Provisions made for exits and compulsory education are contradictory. Such factors are often researched in social science but missing in the policy.


Equity calls for inclusion of all. Digitalization of open schools for ‘migratory’ children is a great idea. But most of the migratory children are poor. Where will they get the digital aids and computers to study from ‘digital open schools?’ Schools in India vary from single room structures without water and sanitation, to technology-enabled international schools. One would have expected a common minimum standard for setting up a school, below which no permissions can be accorded. Absence of a standard can actually widen the gap.


Teacher training has been talked about in every policy and every meet of educationists and all and sundry. Continuous Development Programs (CDP) for capacity building has been discussed but not explored enough for implementation strategies. To succeed, even the current teachers in the system must undergo training. However, with rigorous preparation through a four-year integrated stage and subject-specific programmes offered in multi-disciplinary institutions, the training could be effective.


The draft suggests a multi-disciplinary higher education system and a simplified university system, to emphasise on professional, humanities and pure science streams. Phasing out complex nomenclature such as ‘deemed to be university’, ‘affiliating university’, ‘unitary university’ and retain only terms as public, private, or private-aided is much needed. Pitching for multidisciplinary research universities or comprehensive teaching universities appears rational, though a debate of a teaching institute that also does research or a research institute that also does teaching will go on for ever, whatever be the recommendation. Any regimentation of education can only be counterproductive.


One of the major disconnect of Indian Universities has been the research quotient of our universities and it’s disconnect with the industry. Research without patents and IPR’s is a cause for concern. Innovation, variously understood has always been on the side-lines. The draft NEP’s recommendation of a new authority, the National Research Foundation (NRF) though a good idea, could easily be limited in effectiveness, given that Higher education financing agency (HEFA) also has similar functions.


It also advises segregation of accreditation, funding and regulation roles for regulators. Is creating a National Higher Education Regulatory Authority (NHERA), independent enough to replace the existing individual regulators in higher education, including professional and vocational education a good idea, is anybody’s guess, but then, one suspects we are going in circles. The devil is in detailing, to avoid implementation blues.


We have several prestigious Institutions like the IIT’s that produce thousands of Ph. D’s. Several papers are published in reputed Journals. The researchers are world renowned and mix with the best of their ilk across the Globe.  It is However, a serious concern that the research does not coalesce to translate into products. The NEP would have made great service, if they had addressed the problem based on German experience. One important recommendation should have encouraged setting up institutions and societies on the Fraunhofer Model which earns about 70% of its income, through contracts with industry or specific government projects and the other 30% of the budget sourced in the proportion 9:1 from state Land government grants, used to support preparatory research. Thus, the size of the society’s budget would depend largely on its success in maximizing revenue from commissions. This funding model applies not just to the central society itself, but also to individual institutions. This serves the realisation of such a society’s strategic direction to be a leader in applied research as also to encourage a flexible, autonomous and entrepreneurial approach to its research priorities.


Opportunities that could have accrued by setting up Max Planck and Fraunhofer model institutions, would have been phenomenal apart from supporting Make in India/Start up India initiatives. A Make in India hub for productization that would promote massively new products and new job markets in various sectors like the Defence, Railways, Agriculture, Healthcare and Infrastructure could have been the pole star of the report.


Virtual Laboratories either to reach the unreached or as a value addition may be good, but applied science is not virtual. It is real. A National Mission on Education through information and communication technology to enable virtual laboratories that provide remote access to laboratories in various disciplines will certainly prove useful but in itself cannot substitute the real. Blended learning should have been recommended in place of disaggregated distance or online learning paradigms.


In a long line of commissions that we have, another one is suggested as ‘National Education Commission or Rashtriya Shiksha Aayog’, as an apex body for education, to be responsible for developing, implementing, evaluating, and revising the vision of education in the country on a continuous and sustained basis. This appears to be the proverbial big brother.  How many more such commissions will we need to oversee the implementation and functioning of numerous bodies that we already have?


Any policy must connect education with available opportunities of employment. That said, employment opportunities must grow many times. To be prepared for the jobs of the complex, dynamic, and rapidly globalizing future, students should have opportunities to learn first-hand, how their academic work applies to potential career paths and vice versa. Programs that allow for this exposure and provide students with tangible outcomes in every district and every village are called for.


The report must be detailed enough, both on the implementation and on the models of finance. Change does not result from speaking into a vacuum. Ideas and actions must extend well beyond social media and ‘edtech’ cliques. We have an education market in excess of 100 Billion Dollars but does not attract enough investments. The draft lacks operational details and does not offer insights into how the policy will be funded. The centre must also ensure that the policy does not face litigation, state resistance, and operational challenges hitting the ground for the road to success and the road to failure are almost exactly the same.


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