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This article is written by Amrit Kaur, from the Dr B.R. Ambedkar National Law University, RAI, Sonepat. The article talks about the National Education Policy 2020, SARTHAQ – the implementation plan and the related aspects.

Introduction

Education plays a critical role in realising one’s full human potential and creating an equitable and just society. An educated society is the biggest asset of a nation as it is the educated youth that leads a country to the path of national development. Quality education is not just a change in life, but a creative and character-building experience that affects citizenship positively. Creating a fair and equitable society with educated students contributes highly to the fight against the rising challenges of the country’s development. But, providing access to such high-quality education has been India’s major concern for a very long time.

Goal 4 (SDG4) of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, ratified by India in 2015, intends to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all” by 2030. Such a high objective would necessitate the reconfiguration of the whole education system to support and encourage learning to accomplish all of the essential targets and goals (SDGs) of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. So, moving towards the same goal, the Indian Government has rolled out a new National Education Policy and its implementation plan.

About the National Education Policy, 2020

The National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 based on the recommendation of the Kasturirangan Committee is the first education Policy of India of the 21st century. The first National Education Policy of India was passed in 1968 under Indira Gandhi’s Government on the recommendations of the Kothari Commission. The second National Education Policy came under the government headed by Rajiv Gandhi in 1986. The 1986 NEP was revised further in 1992 when P.V. Narasimha Rao was the Prime Minister. Thus, the NEP 2020 is the third educational Policy of India and thus replaces the 1986 Policy. 

The National Education Policy 2020, is based on five guiding pillars of access, equity, quality, affordability, and accountability. The NEP 2020  addresses many growing challenges in India’s existing educational Policy. The Policy will help in preparing our youth to meet the various national and global challenges of the present and the future. 

At the grassroots level, consultations were held with the villages, blocks, urban local bodies, districts and States. In addition to briefings and dialogues with MPs, Ministers of Education, Government of India ministries, self-governing organizations, stakeholder representatives, the Central Advisory Board for Education, the Parliamentary Committee, etc., talks with the public were held throughout the preparatory phase. Thus, the new National Education Policy 2020 has been prepared by extensively examining all discussions, including ideas submitted by individuals online.

The Policy recommends revising and reworking all areas of the educational structure, including regulation and governance, in order to build a new system that is consistent with the ambitious aims of 21st-century learning. The Policy is divided into four parts: 

  • The 1st part talks about the School Education;
  • The 2nd part talks about the Higher Education;
  • The 3rd part talks about other key areas of focus; and
  • The 4th part talks about making the Policy happen.

The whole Policy will be in operational mode in the decade of 2030-40, which will be followed by another complete review.

Key takeaways of National Education Policy, 2020

  • The National Education Policy of 1986 was based on “10+2” structure of school education, whereas the NEP 2020 rolls out a “5+3+3+4” structure for the school education corresponding to the age groups: 
  1. 3-8 years (foundational stage)
  2. 8-11 (preparatory stage)
  3. 11-14 (middle stage)
  4. 14-18 (secondary stage)

This will help in bringing early childhood education which is also known as the pre-school education for the children of the age-group 3 to 5 years to be included in the scope of formal schooling.

  • 6% of the country’s GDP will be spent on education as compared to the earlier 1.7% share of the education sector in the country’s GDP.
  • The Policy proposes the opening up of Indian Higher Education to foreign Universities.
  • The NEP  proposes to teach children up to Class 5 in their mother tongue or their regional language.
  • It proposes to roll out a four-year based multidisciplinary undergraduate programme with various existing options.
  • It also proposes the phasing out of the M. Phil programme.
  • It recommends that all schools offering single streams be phased out by 2040 and that all universities and colleges must strive to become interdisciplinary by that time. 
  • It stresses the need for more focus on vocational studies at the school level. It talks about providing internship opportunities to the students of grades 6-12 to learn vocational subjects.
  • It proposes to set up the Higher Education Commission of India (HECI) as a single encompassing umbrella body for all higher education, except for medical and legal education.
  • To address the e-education demands of both school and higher education, the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) will establish a specialized unit to coordinate the development of digital infrastructure, digital content, and capacity building.
  • The Policy proposes that three languages should be learned by children and these languages will be the choices of States, regions, and the students, so long as at least two of the three languages are indigenous to India.
  • PARAKH, an autonomous agency of the Ministry of Education will develop national guidelines for assessment standards to ensure the comparability of academic standards amongst students throughout all institutions.

Thus, the NEP has several features and takeaways, out of which, some have been talked about above. The NEP 2020 strives to lead India’s education on the path of modernisation by making India a “global knowledge powerhouse”.

Principles of the National Education Policy, 2020

Some of the basic principles of the National Education Policy 2020 are as follows:

  • To recognize, identify and encourage the uniqueness of each student via awareness and promotion by teachers and parents for the holistic development of each student both in academia and in non-academia.
  • Flexibility allows learners to pick their course and curriculum and choose their way of life in accordance with their abilities and interests.
  • To promote human & constitutional values such as empathy, cleanliness, civility, the spirit of democracy, the spirit of service, the respect for property, science, freedom, accountability, plurality and equality, as well as justice.
  • Extensive use of teaching and learning technologies, removal of language barriers, increased access to Divyang students and effective planning and administration of education.
  • ‘Light but tight’ regulatory framework to maintain the education system’s integrity, openness and resource efficiency through auditing and public disclosure and to promote independence, good governance, and empowering innovation as well as off-the-box concepts. Excellent research to be a prerequisite for excellent education and development.
  • Focus on regular learning formative evaluation rather than a summative evaluation that promotes the ‘coaching culture’ of today.
  • There to be no harsh division between arts and science, curricular and extracurricular activities, professional and academic streams, etc. to prevent detrimental hierarchies between and between silos of various learning domains.

Vision of the National Education Policy, 2020

  • To build an education system rooted in Indian ethos that contributes directly to transforming India, that is Bharat, sustainably into an equitable and vibrant knowledge society, by providing high-quality education to all, and thereby making India a global knowledge superpower.
  • To develop the curriculum and pedagogy of the country’s institutions in a way that creates and fosters a deep feeling of respect towards our fundamental duties and constitutional values and hence developing a conscious awareness of one’s roles and responsibilities in this ever-changing world.
  • To instil deep-rooted pride in being an Indian, not only in thought, but also in the spirit, consciousness and deeds, and developing knowledge, skills, values and provisions which promote a responsible commitment towards human rights, sustainable development, livelihood and international well-being, and reflect a genuine global citizen.

What is SARTHAQ?

The Department of School Education and Literacy has developed an indicative and suggestive NEP Implementation Plan for School Education i.e. ‘Students’ and Teachers’ Holistic Advancement through Quality Education (SARTHAQ)’, to help states and UTs achieve the goals and objectives of the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020. The plan has been made keeping in mind that education is a subject under the concurrent list and thus lives up to the spirit of federalism in India. This implementation plan is divided into two parts: Part 1 and Part 2. The Plan was released as a part of celebrations on 75 years of India’s Independence which lead to the ‘Amrit Mahotsav’.

An extensive consultation process involving states and UTs, independent boards and 7,177 recommendations received from different stakeholders, has produced this implementation plan – SARTHAQ. ‘Shikshak Parv’ was a teacher’s celebration specifically held between September 8 and 25 last year i.e. 2020 to debate several proposals and implementation methods of NEP-2020 which provided around 15 lakh suggestions.

SARTHAQ’s main objective is to describe activities in a way that clearly defines goals, results, and timeframes, i.e., it associates NEP recommendations with 297 tasks, as well as accountable agencies, deadlines, and 304 task outputs. It has also attempted to ensure that the indicated activities are constructed on top of the existing structures rather than constructing new ones. As a result, SARTHAQ is designed to adhere to the Policy’s spirit and meaning while also being phased in.

States and UTs are given the option to adjust this plan to local contexts and also to alter its needs and demands accordingly. This Implementation Program outlines the NEP-2020 roadmap and the path forward for its seamless and efficient implementation throughout the next 10 years. It is generally suggestive/indicating in character and will be revised from time to time depending upon input/feedback received from the concerned stakeholders. This NEP Implementation Plan has been developed as a working document. Furthermore, the timelines given in this document are approximated and the implementation agency has the autonomy to decide the real timeframes.

The program seeks to provide children in elementary and secondary schools with an all-around development. It will also provide students and teachers with a safe, secure, accessible, and rich learning environment. This plan initially describes the general aims/recommendations to be accomplished (as cited from NEP 2020) and then gives a systemic intervention strategy to attain the stated Policy’s objectives. Moreover, it provides Policy suggestions covering each topic, such as early childhood care and education, foundational literacy and numeracy, etc.

It has been envisaged that this implementation plan which is finalised after incorporating suggestions from various stakeholders will work towards achieving the goal of National Education Policy 2020 at the grassroots level and thus will create awareness, motivation and competencies among the concerned stakeholders and thereby transform the whole education system of the country. 

Objectives of SARTHAQ

The Implementation Plan SARTHAQ strives to fulfil the following aims of the National Education Policy 2020 as its objectives:

  • The plan will open the door for revisions to the curriculum, including new national and state framework curricula for schools and early childhood education and care.
  • The initiative will focus on increasing children’s enrolment ratio such as the Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) and Net Enrolment Ratio (NER), increasing the transition rate and the retention rate at all levels and will also focus on reducing dropouts and out of school children.
  • It will help in providing access to high-quality Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) and Universal Acquisition of Foundational Literacy and Numeracy for all students in Grade 3 by 2025.
  • The quality of teacher education programs will also be improved.
  • It will concentrate on experimental education.
  • The program includes vocational training, sports, the arts, Indian knowledge, expertise skill of the 21st century, citizenship values, and environmental conservation awareness in the curriculum.
  • To achieve improvement at all levels of learning outcomes with a focus on mother tongue, local or regional languages in early years of learning.
  • To improve the infrastructure both physical and online, including, creating barrier-free access and sharing of resources amongst different schools.
  • To create uniform standards for learning outcomes and governance in public and private schools by developing an online, transparent public disclosure system, by establishing SSSA (State School Standards Authority)  in States, by integrating technology with education planning and governance, and by looking after the availability of information and communication technology and quality e-content in classrooms.

Implementation of SARTHAQ 

As stated earlier, in the implementation plan, SARTHAQ recommends 297 tasks with their estimated timeline. Part 1 of the implementation plan consists of seventeen chapters, each chapter having its specified tasks and the agencies which will be implementing those tasks within the specified time limit:

  • Chapter 1 recommends 26 tasks for Early Childhood Care and Education.
  • Chapter 2 recommends 33 tasks for Foundational Literacy and Numeracy. 
  • Chapter 3 recommends 23 tasks for reducing the dropout rates and for ensuring universal access to education.  

Similarly, every chapter recommends a different number of tasks for its specific implementation. Part 2 of the implementation plan consists of five annexures.

The implementation plan proposes to implement all 297 tasks by the year 2025. It is only task 10 who’s timeline is not yet fixed because it puts the responsibility of the same on The Ministry of Women and Child Development (MWCD). This task talks about enhancing the Anganwadi Centers for universal access to Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE). This will strengthen the Anganwadis and the timeline of the same is yet to be decided by the MWCD itself.

Importance of SARTHAQ for the Indian states and UTs

The implementation plan is so flexible that it allows the respective states and UT’s to implement the tasks according to the respective needs of that particular state. The flexibility of this implementation plan will allow the Center and States to implement and jointly monitor it. All the suggestions and inputs received during the drafting of the plan have been deeply analysed by expert groups. The important suggestions given by various states and UT’s and the related stakeholders have been incorporated in the final implementation plan. Some of the states though have not submitted their feedback but the Policy mentions incorporating them as soon as they are received. This suggested implementation plan is intended to assist States and UTs in fine-tuning their implementation and enforcement strategies as laid forth in NEP 2020. The final draft of the plan was implemented after receiving comments and holding virtual meetings with the states and UT’s on the initial draft. 

Thus, the plan is of great importance for the states and UT’s because, firstly, it incorporates their suggestions; secondly, allows them to locally contextualise the tasks as per their needs and thirdly, it will streamline their efforts under the NEP 2020 with the national outlay.

Need for educational reforms in India

Education serves as an undercurrent for any and every nation but the lagging and static nature of the Indian education system has always remained a hurdle in the path of development of the country. In recent years, the Samagra Shiksha (formerly Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan) and the Right to Education Act (2009) have been important measures for achieving almost universal enrolment, but retention of students has been a serious issue and thus calls for the need for reform.

There are several flaws in the present education system of India because of which the need for educational reforms like the National Education Policy 2020 and SARTHAQ Implementation Plans have been called for. Our existing education system reflects the techniques and teaching methods that were adopted almost two centuries ago. Some of the flaws are as follows:

Rote learning

India has progressed so much and uses technology and other resources so efficiently but its education is still one that is based on rote learning. Our education system lacks practical knowledge. Theoretical knowledge is the major focus of our education system. Basic theoretical knowledge is essential, however, theoretical knowledge is more central to our education system than practical knowledge and it does not even give equal importance to both.

The system of evaluation

Marks still play a key role in determining children’s future, and this frequently creates a sense of pressure on the children. This overburdening of the students leads them to under-perform. There is a need that the assessment should focus more on the class engagement of a student, their projects, communication skills, leadership qualities and extracurricular activities, instead of concentrating only on the evaluation of a three-hour test. This will help in the overall evaluation of the students and this type of assessment would be the best way possible.

Treating every subject as equal

In India, still, every subject and stream is not treated equally. It is a well-perceived notion that the students who opt for the science subjects and streams are on the top of the stream hierarchy. The students who pursue these socially highly perceived subjects are forced to work and act like machines. On the other hand, the students who go for arts and humanities stream, or for that matter, for subjects like language and communication etc. are looked down upon.

Untrained educators

Educators or teachers play a very important role in the education system but the current Indian education system lags only for the need of well educated and trained teachers. The untrained teachers could not efficiently play their part in shaping the future of their students and hence end up becoming a hurdle in a child’s holistic development.

Lack of funds

Lack of funds is the main concern for the Indian education system. The current education system is not developed up to the mark because almost every government educational institution has insufficient fund sanctions and hence the infrastructure, libraries etc are not developed. Even when sufficient funds get sanctioned, the evils of corruption and red-tapism wipe in. On the other hand, private education institutions are so expensive that most students cannot afford them though there is the availability of sufficient funds.

Ignorance of the importance of Indian or regional/native language

The current education system fails to understand the importance of the role, the Indian or regional/native language could play in a child’s education. Today, the main language of instruction in every institution is English.

Brain Drain

The most intelligent and the educated people in India prefer to go abroad for jobs and other opportunities. This keeps our country devoid of the pool of the assets of our country. This phenomenon is known as brain drain. Therefore, our education system and the country could not benefit from such valuable assets.

Thus, all these flaws in our current education system call for reform for the greater good of Indian society. Though it should be pointed out here that almost all of these flaws have been looked upon and have been tried to be corrected in the NEP 2020 and the Students’ and Teachers’ Holistic Advancement through Quality Education Implementation plan.

Is the NEP 2020 enough to reshape the Indian education system?

It is sure that the National Education Policy (2020) will definitely have long term effects on the Indian education system and will also help in reshaping the existing education system but the question of it being enough is the one that is and will always be debated about. The final NEP 2020 is a far shorter version than the previous NEP draft versions. This final NEP 2020 as stated earlier aims to rework the present education system through paradigm shifts. While the new NEP seeks to integrate the Indian education system with global patterns, to eliminate “rote Learning” and instil trust and nationalistic pride in pupils, there are many educationalists who feel that the disproportionate thrust on education vocalisation in this Policy may come at the cost of rounded and holistic learning of a child at an early stage. 

But this notion of theirs will be tested overtime only. The Policy is based on practical and holistic lines but the main problem as pointed out by many is the implementation of the same. The problem of its implementation has been looked after by this SARTHAQ implementation plan. Moving on to the main question of whether the Policy is enough to reshape the Indian education system, the answer of the same cannot be given at this point of time.

Though the Policy is a positive step as the current education models should be evaluated in line with the global economic challenges, such as technology progresses, rapid globalization and unforeseen events like the COVID-19 pandemic, which transform future work. But again the Policy needs to be time tested. As every new Policy or programme takes three to five years to start showing its results, the same goes with this Policy.

Issues related to NEP 2020

The following are the issues related to NEP 2020:

Mismatch of knowledge-jobs

The amount of knowledge and skills provided and the employment availability continue to differ. Since Independence, this is one of the key difficulties in India’s education system. 

Silence on the emerging educational fields 

NEP 2020 is silent on education related to technological fields which are still developing like artificial intelligence, cyberspace, nanotech, etc. and thus, the Policy has failed to keep a check on this issue.

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Extensive resource requirements

An aggressive public expenditure target has been set at 6 percent of GDP. The fact that the tax-to-GDP ratio is low, and conflicting claims on national health, national security and other core sectors exist, the mobilization of financial resources will be a major issue. The true test is how the Policy provisions will be backed by the budgeted amount.

The way forward

Cooperative Federalism-a necessity

Since education is a subject under concurrent list which means both the Centre and the state governments can make laws on it, thus the Center and the states can only execute the suggested reforms collectively. Though the SARTHAQ implementation plan has the spirit of federalism on paper, the same needs to be followed throughout the period of Policy implementation on the ground level.

Strive for education universalization

The establishment of ‘inclusion funds’ is needed to enable the children with disadvantages in social and educational backgrounds to pursue their schooling. In addition, a regulatory framework has to be put in place that can monitor the profit from uncounted donations in education.

To bridge the digital divide

As technology is a force multiplier, the gap between the haves and have notes may also be expanded with unequal access to it. The State must thus deal with the glaring discrepancies in access to digital education technologies.

Coordination between ministers 

Vocational training is emphasized extensively throughout the Policy, but strong cooperation between education, skills and the labour ministry has to be established to make it efficient.

Conclusion

The NEP 2020 is an excellent strategy for making the education system comprehensive, adaptable, interdisciplinary and aligned with the demands of the 21st century and the Sustainable Development Goals of 2030. NEP 2020 will make it more crucial for children to not simply study but more crucially make them learn how to learn via rapidly changing employment and global ecosystems. Education will therefore evolve towards less content and more learning on how to critically analyze and fix problems. The gap between the existing state of learning and what is necessary will be filled by substantial reforms under NEP 2020.

The goal of NEP 2020 is that every child at every stage should achieve the highest learning outcomes. Substantial improvements under the NEP 2020 will close the gap between present and essential learning conditions. Thus, the intention of Policy looks in many ways ideal, but the key to success resides in its implementation plan.

The NEP 2020 drafting committee has attempted to design a broad-ranging Policy that takes into account many perspectives, global best practices exercised in the field of education, experiences of the ground level experts and suggestions from the related stakeholders. The ambition of the Policy is aspiring, but it is the implementation roadmap i.e. SARTHAQ, which will decide if the NEP 2020  genuinely promotes an all-inclusive education that trains educational institutions and makes them future-ready.

References


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