Government of India has approved the National Education Policy 2020 which aims to bring some transformational changes in Education System in India. It lays down the complete roadmap for school and college education in India. However, its implementation requires the approval of both centre and state as Education is in the concurrent list of the Indian Constitution. The policy aims to implement these reforms by 2040 (NEP 26.3, 2020)but some of the reforms are to be implemented immediately for instance from now onwards Ministry of Human Resource and Development is named as Ministry of Education (NEP 24.5, 2020). For its effective implementation policy proposes to set up a specialist cadre of bureaucracy i.e. Indian Education Services (IES) and to impart good quality education policy aims to increase the public spending from 6% to 20% in the forthcoming decade (NEP 25.2, 2020). To bridge the gap between education and technology policy proposes to set up a National Educational Alliance for Technology (NEAT) which ensures that school and college students get access to high-end technological solutions with special emphasis on students with disabilities. (NEP 23.3, 2020) This initiative plays a vital role in this pandemic. Being in synchronisation of contemporary time to meet the necessities of the fourth industrial revolution, fulfilling multi-disciplinary and highly skilled workforce policy not only have provisions for school students but also laid emphasis on re-energising the Indian Higher education system that will provide robust resilience to the coronavirus pandemic.
National Education Policy is based on five basic principles viz. access, equity, quality, affordability and accountability and tries to set up a new normal that will be in sync with the current aspirations of 21st century. It laid emphasis in not only developing cognitive, social-emotional skills but soft skill also which in turn will help in managing unemployment in this pandemic. Anganwadi centres are to be strengthened and made well equipped to provide early childhood care to the children and the provision of extending mid-day meal scheme to these pre-school children is a vision of policy document. The responsibility of training such teachers, providing amenities etc lies with the ministry but in the long run, the state can implement and create professional cadres for effective implementation. The policy proposes to change the current pedagogical 10+2 approach to 5+3+3+4 structure to include children of 3 to 5 year of age into the formal education system (NEP 4.1, 2020). An initiative like free breakfast and lunch in government schools, vocational training with internships from 6th standard onwards, freedom to choose their subjects, redesigning board structure, learning in mother-tongue and regional language, teacher’s training etc are at the forefront in school education.
For Higher education shifting towards multidisciplinary setup and setting up of new umbrella regulatory body, National Higher Education Regulatory Authority (NHERA) for financing and accreditation as well as standard-setting are key highlights (NEP 20.4, 2020). Entry and exit system in the four-year undergraduate programme and abolition of M.Phil. programme is proposed by the policy. In the line of adopting a multidisciplinary approach world-class institution, Multidisciplinary Education and Research Universities (MERU) would be set up (NEP 11.10, 2020). A much effort on teachers’ education is also laid in the policy and a uniform entrance examination conducted by National Testing Agency along with the creation of National Mission for mentoring which creates a pool of retired teachers for teaching and guidance is being proposed by the policy. Public-Private Partnership model is being promoted. A wide variety of software in every language is made and promoted a teacher learning e-content should be made by state governments easily accessible to every nook and corner of India through National Teachers Portal. A special emphasis on Artificial Intelligence is also made in the policy.
National Education Policy suggested that there should be dedicated arithmetic and reading hours every day in primary schools and advises for the introduction of specialised sessions to master language skills, critical thinking which is a welcome step because it will help in improving the quality. It also advises the integration of Anganwadi with mainstream education. Its recommendation towards early childhood care is recommendable as it suggests that early childhood care should be given through Anganwadi located with primary schools and Anganwadi workers with senior secondary qualification and above will be given a six-month certification programme in early childhood care and education (ECCE) which is a very good step. It observes that over 85% of children’s brain development occurs at the age of 6 therefore vocational training and skill-based training should be started at this age. Early childhood care and education include play-based activities, music, learning activities, paintings etc which started at an early age.
National Education Policy 2020 proposes to bring transformational changes but it suffers from various lacunae, for instance, India needs a robust, resilient education with great emphasis on universalisation of education at affordable cost with the discrimination-free environment but this vision lacks in the policy. Coronavirus pandemic has raised the inequalities like never before. The dropout rates have increased with the advent of a pandemic but these issues are not given adequate attention. Long term school closures because turning them into quarantine centres due to lack of infrastructure is an intriguing issue. School teachers are facing a massive crisis of salary cut, job losses etc Further no emphasis on the participation of the community, local institutions and including voices of local people in school management is addressed in the policy. The policy document is also silent on a reservation in education for the marginalised section of the society which is essential but not sufficient. Privatisation may increase the fear of commercialisation of education in the longer run. Multidisciplinary in terms of music, art, theatre etc are being promoted but courses like gender studies, environmental science, media studies, Dalit studies, Discrimination studies, Development studies etc are not given proper emphasis in the policy. There is a buzz of Atma Nirbhar in the nation but the policy promotes the facilitation of foreign institutions in the country along with establishing some of them on their lines.
The reopening of educational institution in India post-pandemic will bring a new normal with it. Therefore, it is high time that we together join hands and take concerted effects to address the challenges posed by it, for instance, one nation one digital structure should only be implemented if it ensures inclusivity, equity and quality. National Education Policy requires some changes if it has to cope up with the new normal because then otherwise it will hamper sustainable development goal number 4 which ensures the quality of education to the larger masses. Hence it will take effective steps to address grievances like- Emphasis to strengthen the Right to Education Act, increasing local community participation, ensuring equity and inclusivity with diversity, Trained and qualified teachers, ensuring students of marginalised sections of like Muslims, SC/ST, tribal etc should not be left out. These steps will further enhance our preparedness in the fight against this pandemic. COVID-19 has taught us to a greater extent that learning is not confined merely to physical boundaries and presents in front of us to explore a new social space, new process to think, learn and act for one’s self and for larger masses.