National Education Policy (NEP-2020) is not only the new education policy framed and implemented in India after a gap of 34 years but is also the first education policy of the world in twenty first century that aims to revamp all aspects of the education sector in India by fostering revolutionary changes in infrastructural development, curricular reforms, pedagogical innovation, augmentation of human resource, administrative reforms, institutional governance, restructuring evaluation and examination system, harnessing research innovation, skill development, community outreach activities, student exchange programmes, industry-academia interaction, innovation and start-up incubation, promotion of open learning, e-governance and workflow automation. The vision of NEP-2020focuses on strengthening India's educational infrastructure and making quality education accessible and affordable to every citizen, thus enabling the creation of a vibrant and knowledgeable society. All the three pillars on which higher education stands viz., the teachers who teach, students who are taught and the curriculum that is taught are going to witness a paradigm transformation under the auspices of NEP-2020.This policy aims to foster creative, analytical and critical thinking among students so that they become well-rounded, engaged, productive and contributing citizens for building an equitable, inclusive and progressive society and thereby achieve the goals of education in real sense.
Commemorating third anniversary of the NEP-2020 implementation and inaugurating Akhil Bhartiya Shiksha Samagam at Bharat Mandapam jointly organized by the Union Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Skill Development & Entrepreneurship in Delhi on July 29, Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi said that NEP seeks to make India an epicentre of emerging technologies and a nursery of new possibilities for the whole world. He said that NEP-2020 aims to establish an education system in India by the year 2040 that is second to none, with equitable and affordable access to the highest-quality education for all learners regardless of their socio-economic, cultural or religious backgrounds. Under the visionary leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, NEP-2020 represents an important milestone towards creating a transformative, inclusive and innovative education system aligned with India’s goals and aspirations envisaged during‘Azadi Ka Amrit Kaal’. Speaking at this occasion, Union Minister for Education, Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, Shri Dharmendra Pradhan said, “In India’s journey towards a ‘Viksit Bharat’ in 2047NEP-2020 is giving tangible form to the vision of holistic, comprehensive and multidimensional education system envisioned by great personalities like Mahatma Gandhi, Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore, Swami Vivekananda and Maharshi Arvind”.He emphasized that the transformative reforms under NEP-2020 aim to cultivate responsible citizens well-equipped with global skills and ethics, capable of contributing inIndia's sojourn towards self-reliance i.e., ‘AatmNirbhar Bharat’ (Ref: PIB, Delhi dt. July 29).
After hectic brainstorming and fully comprehending various provisions of NEP-2020 soon after its notification, colleges and universities all across India devised their action plans for its implementation, on which they have made considerable progress over the past three years. Some of the measures taken by higher education institutions during the academic sessions 2021-2022 and 2022-2023include introduction of LOCF (Learning Outcome-Centric Framework) based multi-disciplinary, holistic, and flexible curricula; digitization of education with Academic Bank of Credits (ABC) and facilitation of credit transfer through National Academic Depository (NAD)/Digi-locker System; implementation of Multiple-Entry and Exit (MEE) options; facilitating online education through MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), SWAYAM, SWAYAM PRABHA and e-PG Partshala; adopting the National Curricular Credit Framework (NCrF) for four-year under-graduate programme (FYUGP); promotion of experiential learning through innovative teaching pedagogies and internships, dissertations, community outreach, industrial training, educational tours, field trips etc. Reportedly more than 30 million new students have attended online courses on Swayam and Swayamprabha portals over the last three years. E-learning at school level has been expanded through DIKSHA that houses more than 3600 textbooks from 29 states,1.44 lakh e-Contents and more than300 courses.
Ever since the implementation of NEP-2020 commenced, consistent improvement in Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) at the primary school level has been witnessed. Gender Parity Index in school education has also increased from 0.94 in 2014 to 0.99 in 2020 and more than two lakh additional classrooms have been constructed along with 2.36 lakh toilets for children in schools. Experts in education believe that the 50% target fixed for achieving gross enrolment ratio by the year 2035 shall be achieved ahead of the target year by virtue of innovative approaches envisaged in the policy. Based on the expert visits made by this author over the past two years to several reputed universities across India as Member-Coordinator of the NAAC peer team with a view to assess those universities for NAAC accreditation, it has been observed that most of the colleges and universities have understood the policy well and have initiated necessary actions towards its time-bound implementation though the pace of implementation appears to be sluggish at this juncture and needs to be accelerated further in times to come. Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir was probably the first among all the UTs and states in India to start implementation of the policy and Universities like Kashmir University and SKAUST-K were among the first few universities in India that endeavoured upon the path of implementation of this epoch-making education policy under the dynamic leadership of their respective Vice-Chancellors. UGC took a lot of time in finalizing a new student-centric “Curriculum and Credit Framework for Undergraduate Programmes (CCFUP)” and ultimately notified it in December, 2022. However, in anticipation of its notification universities and institutes of J&K under the guidance of Higher Education Department of J&K started making admissions as per the new policy last year based on the draft of curriculum framework notified by UGC in March, 2022 and are now aligning themselves with the final version of the framework during the current academic session with a few necessary modifications being made here and there in tune with the local requirements.
In spite of the considerable progress made in the implementation of NEP-2020 so far there is a lot that still needs to be done particularly in terms of infrastructure development, human resource management, curricular reforms and pedagogical improvement besides student placement and community engagement. During post-NEP period a lot of emphasis is being laid upon skill enhancement, innovation-incubation and entrepreneurship development and a remarkable progress has been made in terms of registration of new start-ups. Union Minister of State for Commerce and Industry Sh. Som Prakash in reply to a question on February 8, 2023 said that the number of recognized start-ups has increased from 445 in 2016 to 86713 in 2022. He further added that more than ten thousand start-ups have been established in the IT sector followed by over eight thousand start-ups in healthcare and life science sector. With its start-up ecosystem evolving as one of the most vibrant and colourful one in the world, these advancements will definitely help our country emerge as a global start-up hub. Apart from supportive government and a massive pool of technical talent comprising of more than one million engineers graduating from various universities every year, this accomplishment has been made possible by the fact that India has more than 750 million internet users that is expected to further increase to one billion by the year 2025.
In the year 2015 Govt. of India launched DigiLocker with the aim of providing its citizens with a secure and easy-to-use platform for storing and sharing their digital documents. Though it faced challenges in terms of its user adoption during its initial phase, soon after implementation of NEP-2020 it received a flip and started gaining momentum with the government’s continuous efforts to promote digitalization. With a steady rise in its user acceptance and adoption over the past few years, DigiLocker has now reached a remarkable milestone of 15 crore registered users by 2023 with over 150,000 daily user sign-ups (Ref: digilocker.gov.in). Further with the establishment of Academic Bank of Credits (ABC), a national level facility that provides a variety of services like credit accumulation, verification, redemption, exchange and authentication of academic awards from one programme to another, the much-required flexibility of multiple-entry-multiple-exit has been made possible. As on June 6, 2023 a total of 1990 academic institutions have registered themselves on National Academic Depository (NAD) and more than 13 crore awards have been uploaded (Ref: nad.gov.in). Thus, NAD is proving effective in ensuring transparency and transformation through digitization by providing a credible, authentic and convenient mechanism for access, retrieval and validation of academic awards.
In conclusion a fairly good beginning has been made so far and now we need to scale up the already implemented components of NEP-2020 and build further on the gains made thus far. Higher education institutions need to develop a set of way-forward strategies in the form of Institutional Development Plans (IDPs) to actualize the vision, mission and objectives of NEP-2020. IDP is a documentary framework through which higher educational institutions can develop their own indicators, fix their achievable targets and timelines, prioritise their actions, assess their financial needs, assign roles and responsibilities among their stakeholders and overcome their constraints towards implementation of NEP-2020. Action plan for its future implementation may include the introduction of new-age innovative programs, as well as dual degree programs, with an aim to expand the horizon of opportunities in higher education, extension and research. Further the provisions of the policy relating to examination and evaluation system need to be fully implemented that seek to revolutionise the assessment process by ensuring regular, formative and competency-based assessments that focus on skill development of students, testing their higher-order thinking and conceptual clarity. In nutshell, NEP-2020 is a testament of India’s commitment to provide quality education to all and shaping a generation of empowered individuals ready to lead India's journey towards progress and development. We all need to contribute our bit towards its effective implementation.
(Author teaches at the University of Kashmir. Views expressed are author’s own and not necessarily of the institution that he works for)