NEP needs to be implemented effectively across the country and we must do it together. The 66-pages document talks about vision of government for ECCE (Early childhood care education), School Education, Higher Education and Professional education. Higher education plays an extremely important role in promoting human as well as societal well- being and in developing India as envisioned in its Constitution – a democratic, just, socially-conscious, cultured, and humane nation upholding liberty, equality, fraternity, and justice for all. Higher education significantly contributes towards sustainable livelihoods and economic development of the nation. As India moves towards becoming a knowledge economy and society, more and more young Indians are likely to aspire for higher education. With respect to higher education, the policy envisages broad-based, multi-disciplinary, and holistic under graduate education with flexible curricula, creative combinations of subjects, integration of vocational education and multiple entry and exit points with appropriate certification. It must enable an individual to study one or more specialised areas of interest at a deep level, and also develop character, ethical and constitutional values, intellectual curiosity, scientific temper, creativity, spirit of service, and 21st century capabilities across a range of disciplines including sciences, social sciences, arts, humanities, languages, as well as professional, technical, and vocational subjects. It highlights the vision of Government to make India ‘a hub of global education’. The major aim of it is to create a ‘knowledge society’ which can be beneficial for Indian students to have education of ‘global standards.’ The NEP-20 has also proposed the setting up of a national research foundation (NRF) with the mandate to create a conducive ecosystem for research through funding and mentoring.

Some of the major problems currently faced by the Higher Education system in India include:

(a) A severely fragmented higher educational ecosystem.

(b) Less emphasis on the development of cognitive skills and learning outcomes.

(c) A rigid separation of disciplines, with early specialisation and streaming of students into narrow areas of study.

(d) Limited access particularly in socio-economically disadvantaged areas, with few HEIs that teach in local languages.

(e) Limited teacher and institutional autonomy.

(f) Inadequate mechanisms for merit-based career management and progression of faculty and institutional leaders.

(g) Lesser emphasis on research at most universities and colleges, and lack of competitive peer- reviewed research funding across disciplines.

(h) An ineffective regulatory system and large affiliating universities resulting in low standards of undergraduate education.

Vision of NEP-2020 pertaining to Higher Education

Institutional Restructuring and Consolidation

The main thrust of this policy regarding higher education is to end the fragmentation of higher education by transforming higher education institutions into large multidisciplinary universities, colleges, and HEI clusters/Knowledge Hubs, each of which will aim to have 3,000 or more students. This would help build vibrant communities of scholars and peers, break down harmful silos, enable students to become well-rounded across disciplines including artistic, creative, and analytic subjects as well as sports, develop active research communities across disciplines including cross-disciplinary research, and increase resource efficiency, both material and human, across higher education.

Towards a More Holistic and Multidisciplinary Education

A holistic and multidisciplinary education would aim to develop all capacities of human beings -intellectual, aesthetic, social, physical, emotional, and moral in an integrated manner. The overall higher education sector will aim to be an integrated higher education system, including professional and vocational education. Such an education will help develop well-rounded individuals that possess critical 21st century capacities in fields across the arts, humanities, languages, sciences, social sciences, and professional, technical, and vocational fields.

Optimal Learning Environments and Support for Students

Effective learning requires a comprehensive approach that involves appropriate curriculum, engaging pedagogy, continuous formative assessment, and adequate student support. The curriculum must be interesting and relevant, and updated regularly to align with the latest knowledge requirements and to meet specified learning outcomes.

Internationalisation of Education

The New Education Policy (NEP) of India focuses on internationalisation of education. It promotes excellence through internationalisation with a clear goal of making India a “global study destination”. The NEP-2020 has charted an ambitious roadmap for making internationalisation of higher education a reality by 2030. The NEP-2020 – states that the World’s Top 100 universities will be facilitated to operate in the country through a new law, thus opening doors for foreign universities to have campuses in India with the aim to stop the brain drain. It allows international academia to participate in Indian education system. They assume that allowing top-rated foreign universities to set up campuses in India is expected to raise the standards of their Indian counterparts and encourage India’s talented students to stay in the country.

Single Regulator: The NEP-2020 also paves the way for a single overarching regulator for Higher education, which will replace-The UGC and the AICTE – into a single regulator called the Higher Education Commission of India (HECI). The HECI will have “4 independent verticals” to carry out the function of — i) Regulation, ii) Funding, iii) Accreditation, and iv) Setting Standards – for learning outcomes.

Motivated, Energised, and Capable Faculty

The most important factor in the success of higher education institutions is the quality and engagement of its faculty. Acknowledging the criticality of faculty in achieving the goals of higher education, the policy recommends the following initiatives to achieve the best, motivated, and capable faculty in HEIs.

Equity and Inclusion in Higher Education

Making quality higher education opportunities available to all individuals must be among the highest priorities. This Policy envisions ensuring equitable access to quality education to all students; with a special emphasis on socio economically disadvantage groups (SEDGs).

Reimagining Vocational Education

Vocational education will be integrated into all school and higher education institutions in a phased manner over the next decade. Focus areas for vocational education will be chosen based on skills gap analysis and mapping of local opportunities.

Effective Governance and Leadership for HEIs

It is effective governance and leadership that enables the creation of a culture of excellence and innovation in higher education institutions. The common feature of all world-class institutions globally including India has indeed been the existence of strong self-governance and outstanding merit-based appointments of institutional leaders.

(This is a slightly modified version of an article originally published in DailyExcelsior.com. The original article can be found at https://www.dailyexcelsior.com/nep-2020-aligned-to-needs-of-21st-century/)