The New Education Policy (NEP) is a policy formulated by the Government of India to promote education covering elementary education to higher education in India. The first NEP was promulgated by the Government of India in 1968, the second in 1986, and the third one has come in 2020.
National Education Policy 2020 is the first education policy of the 21st century India and aims to address many growing developmental imperatives of the country. It proposes the revision and revamping of all aspects of the education structure, including its regulation and governance, to create a new system that is aligned with the aspirational goals of 21st-century education, while building upon India’s traditions and value systems.
The new NEP, approved by the Cabinet, has not been presented in Parliament. It is only a policy, not a law; implementation of its proposals depends on further regulations by both States and the Centre as education is a concurrent subject
The main thrust of this policy in higher education is to end the fragmentation of higher education by transforming higher education institutions into large multidisciplinary universities.
There are several challenges in the implementation of New Education Policy :
1. Foreign Universities
Probably the most impactful announcement is the opening up of the higher education space to top foreign universities. However, the decision needs to be assimilated with precaution. There are several questions regarding the entry of foreign universities in Indian education space: How many Indians will be able to afford studying in these universities? How many foreign universities would be interested in opening up campuses in India? An “unanticipated” consequence of this move may be to drain the existing public institutions, especially the top-tier ones, of their faculty, instead of improving them through competition.
2. Common Entrance Examination
Another major challenge in the implementation of NEP is the common entrance examination for all the colleges.
Here, the government has proposed an entrance examination that will be applicable for admission to all colleges. The information about the details of this common entrance examination is yet to be cleared out. However, from what has been stated, it can be said that the exam will be like the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) in the USA.
Common Entrance Examination at the All-India level is indeed a very difficult plan. It has been observed that in many of the competitive examinations held on an all-India basis, some problem or the other has always cropped up. Ranging from the paper-leak to various types of objections with the matter going to the Courts to formalize the whole process of the examination, our experience with common entrance examinations has not been a smooth one.
In states like Uttar Pradesh, most of the universities conduct entrance examinations for their university campus. There have been many unsuccessful attempts for a common entrance examination at the undergraduate and postgraduate levels in State Universities. In 2012, there was a common entrance examination for the Ph.D. program which did not work out and ultimately universities were asked to conduct their own examinations. Thus, it seems to be a big challenge to organize a National entrance examination for all the universities/colleges in the country.
3. Categories of Higher Educational Institutes
NEP 2020 suggests that the New Higher Education Institutes (HEIs) will evolve into research-intensive universities (RUs), teaching universities (TUs), and autonomous degree-granting colleges (ACs). Whereas the RUs will largely focus on research, the TUs while placing greater emphasis on teaching would also conduct significant research.
The proposal to have research-intensive universities, teaching Universities and autonomous degree-granting colleges, sounds very good. But at the same time, we should be concerned about the world rankings of our institutions. If the Universities are deprived of the major research emphasis, there will be little motivation for the students to go for research, and therefore it will also be quite difficult to enroll postgraduate students in the research institutes. The TUs will be concerned more about teaching and less about research, causing them to lag in ranking parameters related to research.
The multidisciplinary institutes should have research programs so that the students of the undergraduate courses are encouraged and motivated for research. For example, to motivate students towards research, seminars/conferences should be organized within the University Campuses themselves.
Further, since the intensity of the research in the TUs will not be up to the mark, there will be a need to strengthen the existing Universities for maintaining the research standard. Encouragement is required for having industrial research projects, collaboration with institutes, and provision of hiring Professors from abroad. The process of hiring foreign faculty, research grants from Industries, and other sources should be encouraged by streamlining the process.
4. Affiliation of Colleges
NEP has fixed the maximum number of colleges to be affiliated with a university to be 300. It is very disappointing to say that in many states the exact number of colleges is not even mentioned on their official website. In one state, the number of colleges listed on the website of the Government Education Department is 3500 whereas on the website of AISHE the number of colleges listed for the same state is more than 7000. Such discrepancies make it difficult to assess the number of universities that would be required to grant the affiliation.
At present in many states, there is no uniformity in the number of colleges to be affiliated with a particular state university. Moreover, the distribution of affiliation of the colleges with the university is mainly by their location. Therefore redistribution of the colleges in the state universities might create geographical problems.
Though it is a good proposal, but at the same time, the implementation part seems to be very challenging. At present there is no uniform syllabus in the state universities, there is no uniform structure of the tuitions and examination fees.
One of the major problems in many states, especially in Uttar Pradesh, is due to self-financing in several universities/colleges. The government is not providing any financial assistance to these state universities, even the salaries of the Vice-Chancellor and the teaching and non-teaching staff are met at the university level. Presently, the financing is possible only because of the fees from a large number of affiliated self-finance scheme (SFS) colleges. Therefore, if the number of the affiliations is reduced, it will directly affect the financial condition of the respective universities, and unless and until the state government extends financial support, possibly many of these universities close down.
5. Education Enrolment Ratio
NEP states that by 2030 there will be independent colleges with a minimum strength of 3000 students. This seems to me as a big challenge for all the colleges.
NEP says that they will enhance the enrolment ratio from 26 % to 50%. However, as reported by the government of India itself in its AISHE 2018 -19 report that 16.3% of the colleges are having enrolment less than 100 and only 4% colleges have enrolment more than 3000. The same situation also exists in many of the private universities.
Unless we provide them with the assurance of a job, it will be very challenging to increase the enrollment ratio from 26% to 50%. This situation is really very serious, especially in government schools and government/government-aided colleges where the number of students is decreasing. The ground reality in rural areas is that the students are not interested in taking admission to graduate degrees. One of the basic reasons is the fees of the private self-financed colleges. The survival of self-financed colleges is already at risk. In many states, self-finance teachers are getting very less salaries.
In Uttar Pradesh, the status of the self-finance scheme (SFS) teachers is still not clear. For the last 20 years, they are governed by the orders of the Education Department. No Act or Statutes have been made for these SFS teachers. For these colleges to have student strength of 3000 the existing colleges will have to be financially supported for having the infrastructure and the teaching staff. There is a danger of closure of these colleges if the implementation is made in a very strict sense.
6. Multidisciplinary Institutions
Further, a big challenge in the implementation of this education policy is the multidisciplinary institutions. The proposal to build Multidisciplinary Education & Research Universities (MERUs) is extremely interesting. It will be fantastic if the government can invest in creating these high-quality institutions. The investment needed will be humongous, and so will be the strategic planning requirement.
As per the AISHE report 2018-2019, there are 34.8% colleges, which run a single programme, out of which 83.1% are privately managed. Among these privately managed colleges, 38.1% colleges run only B.Ed. courses. Therefore to make all the colleges as multi-disciplinary is very challenging.
The ground reality is that we have many colleges and universities having science faculties where the science laboratories do not have even the basic laboratory requirements, what to say about instruments. In many of the colleges where biological sciences are taught, even the microscopes are not available! It is also expected that by 2025 all the colleges will be independent. If such colleges become independent then it is a big problem of the quality of education in India.
7. Teacher-Student Ratio
NEP proposes to have a teacher-student ratio 1: 10 or 1:20 depending upon the nature of the institution. At present, the teacher-student ratio is about 1: 60 or more. To bring this ratio down to 1:10 or 1:20, we really need to have sufficient teachers to make up for this ratio. The recruitment of teachers in such a big number is an inevitable challenge.
It is quite unfortunate that in most of the states, the Universities are not able to appoint the teaching staff. Where are we going to find so many “high-quality” faculty to populate our institutions – existing and proposed? There is a terrible paucity of good applicants. The poor quality of students coming out of our undergraduate programmes turn into poor researchers and even poorer faculty candidates.
8. Student Union
It is a pleasant surprise to see the student’s participation in every academic exercise in the new education policy including the association of students in various committees of the universities. But there is no mention of the student union. I wish and hope that when the details of the scheme come there might be something about the formation and working of the Student Unions, without which it appears a mere formality.
The changes proposed by the government through NEP are being acclaimed. But the more important question is its implementation. Only time will tell whether we took the right decisions at the right moment.
- NEP – 2020
- AISHE Annual Report 2018-19
- Leading News Papers including The Hindu, The Economic Times etc.
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About the author
Prof. Ashok Kumar is former Vice-Chancellor of Deen Dayal Upadhyaya University, Gorakhpur (U.P.) & CSJM University, Kanpur, (U.P.), Nirwan University, Jaipur, Rajasthan, and Shri Kallaji Vedic University, Nimbahera, Rajasthan. He is President of the Social Research Foundation, International Society of Life Sciences.