NEP 2020: Increasing GER in higher education, how to make vision a reality – education
Based on the pillars of “Access, Quality, Equity, Affordability, and Accountability,” the new National Education Policy (NEP 2020) promises to address current challenges such as low literacy, high dropout, and the lack of a multidisciplinary approach. But it does not clearly define milestones or propose financial commitments to execute the plan.
While it is hailed as a very ambitious policy that envisions reorienting the Indian education system to meet the needs of the 21st century, it will need a robust implementation plan and a thorough consideration of existing problems and inequalities that the pandemic has exacerbated. One of the key goals of NEP 2020 is to increase the Gross Enrollment Rate (GER) to 50% by 2035. Can visionary policy achieve this? The answer is yes, but only through a strong implementation plan and the active participation of all stakeholders.
History has witnessed that while the improvement of GRE has been one of the main goals of educational policies in the past, very few differences have been made on the ground. Looking back, the first National Education Policy enacted in 1968 called for a “radical restructuring” of education. It proposed equal educational opportunities, especially for listed tribes (ST), listed castes (SC), and women, and to ensure social integration and promote the RGE. Did you fully achieve the goal? The analysis suggests that the implementation was not very successful.
Currently, even with higher education institutions constantly striving to develop, the number of students enrolling in universities is 37.4 million with a GER of 26.3. Therefore, the GER target of 50% is not easy. NEP 2020 aims to achieve this through curriculum restructuring and pedagogy assessments and reform. While it sounds impressive on paper, execution on the ground will require drastic measures.
Below are two recommendations that address (a) the axis around which quality education revolves, namely teachers, and (b) the effective and timely implementation of NEP 2020:
Establishment of the National Education Service: To reach the goal of 50% more TBE, India will need 3.3 million more higher education teachers by 2035 based on a student-teacher ratio of 1:15, which represents an increase 235% compared to the current availability of 1.4 million. . This is a great challenge considering that teaching is not among the coveted professions and therefore not many young people are willing to choose it.
To raise the bar, India should learn lessons from countries like Finland and South Korea, where teaching is one of the most aspirational professions. To begin with, there is a need to establish a National Educational Service (NES) that would be as coveted as the IAS, IPS, IRS. The NES would be the source of the generation of educational leaders who would lead the professional development of teachers and education in each of the 935 districts of the country. In addition to having content knowledge and content-specific pedagogy, instructional courses must be tailored to include current social and political issues. There should also be special programs to develop “education specialists” and “research specialists”. Ongoing professional development for teachers can be ensured through a public-private partnership.
For best professional growth, teachers should be provided with opportunities for promotion and lateral entry to the NES based on teaching experience, performance, and seeking professional development opportunities.
Creation of working groups: The 42nd Amendment to the Act transferred education from the state list to the concurrent list. But states can still resist / reject the implementation of NEP 2020, as some states seem to have already hinted at. Furthermore, some underdeveloped states do not have the infrastructure and capacity to implement the policy.
In such a scenario, the government should establish task forces comprised of eminent educational leaders, teachers, and volunteers to ensure smooth implementation in every state. State-level task forces should be led by a senior task force at the center to promote, integrate, and monitor ground-level implementation of major goals and milestones on the journey. To ensure results are achieved, the core workgroup should be led by a CEO very much like the CEO of NITI Aayog.
For NEP 2020 to be successful in its goal of improving RGE, rapid implementation is vital. And a trained task force can ensure by assisting in the creation and design of the local / regional language curriculum and monitoring the quality requirements of universities and colleges. All states must do the groundwork by 2025 and achieve smooth policy enforcement by 2040. Any further delay will hamper our demographic dividend advantage.
While the policy is timely and its aim is noble, it calls for transformational leadership to execute plans that produce the far-reaching changes envisioned to propel India’s education system towards global standards.
(The author, Dr. Suresh Mony, is SVKM’s NMIMS Bengaluru campus director. Opinions expressed here are personal.)