Part II | More on New Higher Education Policy - 2020

National Education Policy-2020  offers sweeping changes in the  regulatory systems, institutional structures, institutional autonomy, vocational education, teacher education, learning environment. In the first part, reforms in the regulatory and institutional set-up have been highlighted. In this write-up, the other reforms initiated in higher education have been explained.

Multidisciplinary Education: To do away with a rigid separation of disciplines, with early specialisation and streaming of students into narrow areas of study,the new policylays greater emphasis on multidisciplinary system of education. Students of arts and humanities will be required to learn more science subjects, similarly students belonging to science streams shall be required to learn subjects related to arts and humanities. Such an education is aimed to develop well-rounded individuals possessing critical 21st century capacities in fields across the arts, humanities, languages, sciences, social sciences, professional, and vocational fields. Even engineering institutions, such as IITs, will have to move towards multidisciplinary education with more arts and humanities subjects. In addition, courses and projects in the areas of community engagement and service, environmental education, and value-based education shall have to be in the offing.

  • Environmental education will include areas like; climate change, pollution, waste management, conservation of biological diversity, forest and wildlife conservation etc.
  • Value-based education will include development of humanistic, ethical, constitutional, and universal human values of truth, righteous conduct, peace, nonviolence, citizenship values.
  • life-skills; lessons in seva/service and participation in community service programmes will be considered an integral part of a holistic education.

Enabling Learning Environment: To ensure conducive environment for better learning outcomes, the new policy considers curriculum, pedagogy, assessment, and student support as cornerstones for effective learning. As such, it recommends that the:

  • curriculum should be very much relevant, interesting and updated.
  • pedagogy used in the classroom should be engaging one in the sense that it should ensure active engagement of the learners rather being a one sided affair
  • assessment methods should aim to continuously improve learning. A formative assessment system has been recommended to be used.

To have most relevant and updated curriculum, engaging teaching pedagogy and the formative assessment system, the new policy offers institutional and faculty autonomy in these matters. Besides, each institution under the new policy would be required to create strong internal systems for supporting ‘Diverse Student Cohorts’ in academic and social domains both inside and outside formal academic classroom. All HEIs will have mechanisms and opportunities for funding of topic-centred clubs and activities organized by students with the help of faculty and other experts. Such clubs may be dedicated to sciences, mathematics, poetry, literature, debate, music, sports, etc.

Committed and Capable Faculty: Realising the centrality of the faculty, the new policy aims that the various factors that results into low faculty motivation levels must be addressed to ensure that each faculty member is committed towards advancing her/his students growth. Towards this end, the policy recommends that:

  • All HEIs will be equipped with the basic infrastructural facilities.
  • Teaching duties shall not be excessive, and student-teacher ratios not too high, so that there is adequate time for interaction with students, conducting research, and other university activities.
  • Faculty will be appointed to individual institutions and generally not be transferable across institutions so that they feel truly invested in, and committed to their institution and community.
  • Excellence will be incentivized through appropriate rewards, promotions, recognitions, and movement into institutional leadership.
  • The current recruitment process will be continued, however, a suitable probation period shall be put in place to ensure excellence. There shall be a fast-track promotion system for recognizing high impact research.
  • Each HEI shall develop a system of multiple parameters for performance assessment, for the purposes of confirmation, promotion, salary increases, recognitions, etc., which shall be clearly enunciated in Institutional Development Plan (IDP) which shall include peer and student reviews, innovations in teaching/pedagogy, quality & impact of research, and contribution to corporate social responsibility and the community.

Realigning Vocational Education: On the lines of developed countries of the world, India also had emphasised on vocational education but has failed to achieve this cherished goal. The primary reasons cited for this dismal performance by the new policy include:

  • Vocational education has in the past focused largely on Grades 11–12 and on dropouts in Grade 8 and upwards.
  • The admission criteria for general higher education were also not designed to provide openings to students who had vocational education qualifications, leaving them at a disadvantage relative to their compatriots from ‘mainstream’.
  • The vocational education is perceived to be inferior to mainstream education and meant largely for students who are unable to cope with the latter which to a great extent has affected the choices of students.

Higher education institutions will offer vocational education either on their own or in partnership with industry and NGOs. The B.Voc. degrees will continue to exist, but vocational courses will also be available to students enrolled in all other Bachelor’s degree programmes, including the 4-year multidisciplinary Bachelor ’s programmes. Focus areas for vocational education will be chosen based on skills gap analysis and mapping of local opportunities.

Restructuring of UG/ PG Degree Programmes: The restructuring of the existing 3-year undergraduate programme has been the other important policy recommendation. Under the new policy, the undergraduate programme will be of either 3 or 4-year duration, with multiple exit options, with appropriate certifications. If a student opts out after 1st year, a certificate in a discipline or field including vocational will be given, or a diploma after 2 years of study, or a Bachelor ’s degree after a 3-year programme. The 4-year programme will also be in the offing leading to a degree ‘with Research’ if the student completes a rigorous research project in his or her major area(s) of study.

At the masters degree level, HEIs will have the flexibility to offer:

  • 2-year Master’s programme with the second year entirely devoted to research to those who have completed 3-year Bachelor ’s programme;
  • 1-year Master’s programme to the students who have a 4-year Bachelor ’s programme with research;
  • integrated 5-year Bachelor’s/Master’s programme.
  • Undertaking a Ph.D. shall require either a Master’s degree or a 4-year Bachelor’s degree with research. Ph.D students shall be required to have a minimum number of hours of teaching experience gained through teaching assistantships.
  • The M.Phil. programme has been discontinued.

Greater Focus on Teacher Education: Citing the Justice Verma commission report, new policy acknowledges that the stand alone TEIs have miserably failed to offer quality teacher education, putting blame for such a failure squarely on regulatory mechanism for having failed to enforce basic standards of quality. Given such a sad state affairs, the new policy argues that the sector and its regulatory system are in urgent need of revitalization through radical action and accordingly recommends that:

  • the Regulatory System shall be empowered to take stringent action against TEIs that do not meet basic educational criteria, after giving one year for remedy of the breaches.
  • all multidisciplinary universities and colleges shall establish education departments which, besides carrying out cutting-edge research, shall also run B.Ed. programmes in collaboration with other departments.
  • all stand-alone TEIs shall be required to convert to multidisciplinary institutions by 2030, to enable them to offer 4-year integrated teacher preparation programme which, by 2030 shall become the minimal degree qualification for school teachers.
  • the HEI offering the 4-year integrated B.Ed. may also run a 2-year B.Ed., for students who have received a Bachelor’s degree in a specialized subject and  1-year B.Ed. to the candidates who have received a 4-year undergraduate degree in a specialized subject.
  • scholarships for meritorious students will be established for the purpose of attracting outstanding candidates to the 4-year, 2-year, and 1-year B.Ed. programmes.

In order to maintain uniform standards for teacher education, the admission to pre-service teacher preparation programmes shall be through suitable subject and aptitude tests conducted by the National Testing Agency.

Equity and Access:

To ensure greater equity and access, new policy lays emphasis to support successful transition to higher education to the students from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds. Universities and colleges will be encouraged and financially supported to set up high-quality support centres for this purpose. Financial assistance to students shall be made available through various measures. Efforts will be made to incentivize the merit of students belonging to SC, ST, OBC, and other SEDGs. In every institution, there shall be counselling systems for handling stress and emotional adjustments.

Author is Professor in the Dept. of Commerce University of Kashmir.