In my previous column published in GK on Dec. 15th, I discussed the background and objectives of the National Education Policy 2020 that was unveiled on July 29, 2020. Many of friends in their feedback pages insisted on an action plan for implementation of the policy in J&K. While NEP 2020 has been received with a lot of enthusiasm, optimism and excitement all across the nation following its notification, a whole lot of online webinars, symposia and e-discussions were organized throughout India wherein renowned experts in the field, eminent academicians and policy makers expressed their views on various provisions of the policy. Education in India is a subject of the concurrent list that includes subjects which give powers to both the Centre and state governments, as a result of which its implementation will depend to a considerable extent upon the actions and decisions of states and union territories. However, nothing much has been written or discussed in the policy document about the measures that are required to be taken for successful implementation of the policy in a time-bound manner in various states and union territories of India. Therefore this write-up aims to lay out a clear, strategic, systematic and well-organized roadmap for timely and successful implementation of the policy at the state and UT levels where the bigger challenge lies in its execution.
Pertinent to mention that under Clause 27 of the National Education Policy, 2020 it has been emphasized that any policy’s effectiveness depends upon its implementation that requires diverse initiatives and actions to be taken by multiple bodies in a synchronized manner. Further it has been envisaged under the said clause that subject-wise implementation committees of experts in cooperation and consultation with other relevant ministries will be set up at both central and state levels to develop detailed implementation plans for each aspect of this policy in order to achieve its goals in a phased manner. However a widely accepted strategic model comprising of following seven actions is proposed hereunder for a goal-oriented implementation of the policy in J&K or any other state/UT for that matter.
Action 1:Establishing a vision for the implementation
While the vision for the Policy has already been outlined in the policy document itself, establishing a vision for the tangible implementation of NEP-2020 at the regional level is equally important and crucial. Recognizing the aim and objectives of education in each state and union territory and aligning the overall vision for the New Education Policy is important to determine how the implementation work should proceed and what should be the final goal. This will be required in view of the huge number of variations from state to state and UT to UT in terms of existing situation and the future vision for attainable goals.
Action 2:Ground Situation Analysis – understanding the starting point
The ground situation analysis shall focus upon identification of gaps, barriers, challenges and prospects of implementing NEP-2020 in each state. Indicators and statistics of literacy, enrollment, institutional density, coverage, college population index, access, equity, affordability etc can be utilized for a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis of the states/UTs and their higher education institutions (HEIs). It also includes assessment of technical and organizational capacity and preparedness of HEIs of the individual states/UTs to meet the goals of the policy. On the analogy of J&K a multi-disciplinary task force comprising of top-ranking academicians, experienced bureaucrats, mission directors and academic administrators needs to be constituted in each state/UT for identifying the specific measures and initiatives that are required to be taken in respect of implementation of the Policy. This task force shall prioritize the provisions and areas for implementation and chalk-out a phase-wise plan of action for the same. Institutional Development Plans (IDPs) also need to be drafted and submitted by each and every HEI of the state/UT identifying potential areas that need to be changed and developed for complying with various provisions of the policy. Subsequently multi-disciplinary task force can fix targets for every such institution over the next one, three, five and ten year time frame.
Action3: Financial Assessment – exploring requirement, source, allocation and utilization
To move forward at speed, we need to identify and prioritize the areas where investment is required. Without pumping in huge amount of money successful implementation of the Policy in a time-bound manner is next to impossible owing to the revolutionary goals and prospective plans outlined in the Policy. Therefore financial assessment by the experts assumes tremendous significance. Current and future requirement of funds for higher education needs to be assessed to create a comprehensive fund generation and utilization framework for the higher education system in each state and UT. Any lack of continuity between policy, planning and funding has been a matter of great concern in policy implementation of many countries. Analytical tools such as a medium-term expenditure framework – a planning and budget formulation process that sets fiscal targets based on macroeconomic projections, and allocates resources to strategic priorities within these targets – can help create an overall funding picture. All components of the policy including infrastructure development, manpower recruitment, capacity building besides recurring expenditures like salaries etc need to be included for financial assessment.
Action 4:Constraint Assessment – exploring pull and push factors
After having done the groundwork regarding situation analysis and financial assessment, it becomes imperative for the policy-planners to identify the main propellants of change as well as the areas where significant inertia is likely. All pull and push factors need to be taken into consideration at this stage and all stakeholders need to be taken on board while moving ahead in its implementation. An assessment of potential constraints allows decision-makers to identify policy areas that require widespread consultation, with whom it should consult and in what way. Such an assessment would culminate in the political decision of the local governments to move forward. It is in this phase that decision-makers also identify what is technically and practically feasible and determine how the government can build on and support social demand for a well-functioning higher education system. A cogent and realistic constraint assessment will pave way for a hassle-free implementation of the policy in future and therefore complete objectivity, openness and rationality needs to be observed while making this assessment.
Action 5: Develop and formalize strategies and targets for change
This is the most consuming and labour-intensive action in policy implementation. It has also been the focus of most of the literature available on higher education planning and forms the bulk of technical support received from the centre, sometimes on the assumption that the other actions have been, or will be, worked through at the local/regional level. Based on the ground situation analysis and an accurate assessment of the likely funding scenarios, detailed technical work on strategy can begin. This is the stage when short, mid and long-term plans need to be stipulated for implementation of the policy over the next one, three, five and ten years. Blueprints need to be formulated for action at this stage and roles and responsibilities of different stakeholders need to be clearly assigned apart from fixing of their timelines for action.
Action 6: Implementation, including assessing organizational structures and roles
Implementation of the policy shall be carried out in a phased manner as devised by the state-level Multi-disciplinary Task Force. As per the priorities fixed by the Task Force, some areas will need to make only small changes to maintain achievements while others will have to incorporate radical reforms like establishing new institutions and organizations. One of the biggest challenges that many states face in this implementation phase is a lack of technical and organizational capacity that needs to be assessed and re-assessed regularly. This comprises the most significant action owing to the fact that any policy framework can be meaningful only when it is put to actual practice and implemented on ground in a time-bound manner. Multiple committees at different levels could be framed to ensure effective supervision and timely implementation of the policy.
Action 7: Monitor and evaluate – making changes for optimization
Real-time monitoring and evaluation of the policy is of paramount importance, therefore management information systems (MIS) can be employed for this purpose that includes an e-dashboard for monitoring real-time progress. Decision-makers need to know where each state/UT stands and where they have to reach in a specific timeframe. It is a fact that financing and administrative systems do not always respond to changes as planned. It is important, therefore, to be prepared for the unexpected and be able to make rapid adjustments. To do this, decision-makers need a constant stream of accurate inputs. Policy-makers should strive to constantly review and revise the strategies and roadmap for action and make necessary amendments wherever required in the right earnest. From here states/UTs can either move towards re-establishing the vision or push for a re-run of the ground situation analysis followed by repetition of the whole cycle of actions.
In case the strategic actions enumerated above are taken by all the states and union territories of India in a well-planned and well-organized manner, it is expected that successful implementation of the policy could be achieved to a great extent. Some of the best minds having sufficient experience in policy implementation in education or other relevant fields need to be identified in each state and union territory as part of the task force for implementation. These people could guide the government as well as the HEIs towards tangible implementation of the policy. Regular meetings of the task force need to be convened to monitor progress and all important stakeholders need to be taken on board for chalking out the action plan for its implementation.
(Author is Professor, Dept. of Management Studies and Dean Academic Affairs at the University of Kashmir)