NEP-2020: Move Beyond Discussions

The Principal Secretary Rohit Kansal's assertion that 'time for deliberations is over' is apt. It is time to get going with implementation of the policy before it goes awry
The announcement was made after holding back-to-back deliberations regarding implementation of the NEP-2020 and shifting to the uniform academic calendar in sync with the national academic calendar.
The announcement was made after holding back-to-back deliberations regarding implementation of the NEP-2020 and shifting to the uniform academic calendar in sync with the national academic calendar. Special arrangement

In April this year, the Jammu and Kashmir Chief Secretary announced that Jammu and Kashmir will fully implement the National Education Policy (NEP)-2020 from the current academic session.

The announcement was made after holding back-to-back deliberations regarding implementation of the NEP-2020 and shifting to the uniform academic calendar in sync with the national academic calendar.

Also, the J&K government decided to offer admissions for four-year undergraduate programmes as per UGC guidelines in colleges of J&K from the current academic session.

This announcement was made in a meeting chaired by Chief Secretary, Dr Arun Kumar Mehta, to review and discuss modalities for implementation of National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 in J&K.

The announcement to adopt NEP-2020 from the current academic session made J&K among the frontrunners to work towards implementation of the policy.

It also gave an impression that the higher educational institutions including colleges and Universities were ready with their plans to set in motion the new education policy.

Prior to this, the J&K LG and President of India in September 2020 jointly addressed the joint conference on NEP-2020. After holding back-to-back meetings and seminars, an impression was made that all the stakeholders were ready to implement the policy from school to university level.

Recently, a two-day national-level conference on 'NEP 2020- preparedness and implementation' was organised by the higher education department at Government College for Women M.A Road Srinagar.

As the title suggests, the audience was expecting that the panelists will share the preparedness and their institutional plans for implementation of the policy so that faculty and students come to know how the institutions' plans to go about implementing the policy.

Notably, the conference was organised weeks after the colleges started the new admission process and also some Universities were holding entrance for admission in post graduate courses as well.

So expectations were high that stakeholders will be made aware about the preparedness and implementation plans at each level.

However, much to the surprise and disappointment, the panelists including some Kashmir University professors and Vice Chancellors seemed to have no clarity about the preparedness and the plans for the implementation of the policy.

The panelists instead of sharing the preparedness plans started talking about the "salient features" of the Policy which otherwise everyone was aware about. Some panelists spoke about the multidisciplinary aspects and other flexibility available for the students in the scheme. It was like every speaker, except a few, deviated from the topic.

To me it seemed that the panelists were not fully prepared as per the theme of the conference. Some panelists started bragging about their "achievements" as heads of institutions in the past, which had nothing to do with the theme of the conference.

The speakers talked about the interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary aspects of NEP-2020 saying that the policy has given the students huge liberty for pursuing their educational career from school to University level.

The speakers talked about the flexibility provided for the students under the NEP which did not exist before. However there was no focus on preparedness.

Instead of laying focus on the preparedness part of the policy or the issues related to its implementation, the speakers majorly talked about facility of Academic Bank of Credits (ABC) and talked about how NEP will orient towards students for all round development and how the policy will help to build character of the students and prepare them for gainful contributions while having skills in their hands. It was all rhetorical.

In his address, VC Cluster University Srinagar (CUS) Prof. Qayyum Hussain who was one of the panelists during a session, said the university was all prepared for implementation of the NEP-2020 in letter and spirit.

Terming NEP-2020 a dream project, he said the policy will be a great boon for the Government of India. He however talked about some technical issues related to implementation of the policy which the colleges have to take care of while offering honours courses to the students.

Prof M Ashraf Shah former principal HED who is also the consultant Choice Based Credit System (CBCS) at Kashmir University spoke about the technicalities related to implementation of the NEP particularly in the degree colleges of far flung areas.

Prof. Ashraf was clear in his speech and it seemed he had dissected the scheme deeply and studied its pros and cons vis-a-vis preparedness and implementation of the policy at college level.

“There are various issues in it. One of the issues is variation in fees charged by the colleges from students. Different colleges are charging different amounts of fees from students for the same course,” he said in his address.

Talking about the institutional plans he said there are some courses which are offered at college level but are not available at PG level in J&K universities and vice versa.

During the two-day conference so many issues were raised by the audience who said the panelists should have been clear on preparedness and implementation plans.

But strangely all were speaking about the features of the policy and its flexibility. Apparently not impressed with the panelists, the Principal Secretary Higher Education Department (HED) Rohit Kansal said J&K was at a stage where time for further discussions and deliberations on NEP was over and it was the time to implement the policy.

He reminded the audience about the remarks of the President of India during his address at a daylong conference to discuss various aspects of the New NEP-2020.

The President had remarked that it was his dream to see J&K emerge as a centre of knowledge, enterprise, innovation and skill development.

He had said that in the field of education and scholarly pursuits, the region has set unmatched milestones. Many of the core ideas and concepts that have shaped the Indian mind over the centuries have emanated from this region. Recalling the speech of the president, Kansal said all the stakeholders have an important role in implementation of the policy. He said the universities have an important role to play being the affiliating organizations and guardians of our academic standards. He said that a lot of efforts are also needed at the level of colleges. He said the college principal, faculty of the institutions have to lead in implementation.

About the implementation he said the NEP was a revolutionary programme and its implementation will also come in phases. "The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. And this academic session is a single step in which we begin the implementation of NEP-2020 and here we begin the implementation of this journey of a thousand miles,” he said.

Over the past few months, Kashmir University and other institutions are holding NEP workshops and conferences but largely (and many in the varsity disappointingly) do not even know what the policy is all about and how to go ahead with it. It has been observed that during any conference held at Kashmir University or colleges, the students who are the main stakeholders are not taken on board.

And to a large extent the colleges and universities have failed to make students aware about the implementation of NEP-2020 because of which the students are completely unaware about the policy and are in a state of confusion while the government has already decided to implement the policy from the current academic session.

The academic institutions must shun useless and worthless workshops while the government must clearly come up with one common recommendation guideline document within one week to have the policy rolled across colleges and universities without any further discussions.

No cosmetic measures like worthless seminars, half-baked articles in newspapers by academicians and media blitz around NEP will help the cause of implementing the policy. The student community has already suffered academic losses due to the Covid-19 pandemic. They are already in a state of distress and the last thing academic administrators can afford is to cause further distress to students with delay in implementing the NEP.

It is time to move beyond discussions and get going with implementing the policy right away. The onus to do it lies on both the government as well as academic institutions to come clear on the roadmap.

In this context, the Principal Secretary is right in remarking that time for discussions is over. It is time for implementation, truly.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.

The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.

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