Way Forward:The NEP 2020 Context

Covid-19 pandemic has contributed in creating alternative platforms for interaction and discussion.
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Representational ImageSource: Facebook@cusgr

The NEP 2020 is a vision document of India’s new education philosophy that aims at transforming country’s education system. The new policy is rooted in rich civilization ethos of the country. It identifies the paths to an enlightened future by drawing sustenance and nourishment from the rich epistemic and academic traditions of our culture.

Recently Higher Education Department Government of J & K constituted a taskforce for implementation of NEP 2020. The core thrust areas identified are detailed here under:

i) To examine the provisions of NEP 2020 and identify specific measures to be taken for implementing these in Jammu and Kashmir.

ii) To assess the academic and training requirements for its implementation.

iii) To suggest structural reforms that may be needed for its implementation.

iv) To assess manpower and financial requirements for its implementation.

v) To suggest procedural and policy changes needed to be made in achieving the objectives of NEP 2020. Accordingly five sub-groups of experts have been constituted.

However, there is not even a single member in these sub groups who can be considered as an expert in the field of philosophy of education.

In the academic history of J&K, a workshop on the theme, “Quality Assurance in Higher Education in the State of J&K” conducted at A.S. College Srinagar in March 2008 under the leadership and guidance of the then Vice Chancellor Kashmir University as desired by the then Minister for Education was exemplary. Well known educationists and experts from all over the state participated and contributed to the effective methodology and content of this academic workshop. The proceedings of the workshop were documented and made available to the authorities of the higher education department of the government for execution, and to the college and university libraries for record and reference. Of course, follow-up meetings were also held for the implementation of the recommendations at execution level. The document was in the process of implementation but due to change of governance it was suspended. However, this valuable document can guide policy makers to improve the Higher Education Sector even today. Based upon the analogy of the workshop referred to above, there should have been some eminent educationists and philosophers of education at the apex level to coordinate the functioning of these five sub groups. Preliminary outcome of deliberations, if any, should be placed in public domain to invite inputs from all stake holders including students, teachers, parents, alumni, employers, civil society and the governance.

Covid-19 pandemic has contributed in creating alternative platforms for interaction and discussion. Accordingly seminars and workshops have been replaced by webinars and virtual workshops. Digital platform has been fully utilized. A good number of such online activities have been organized at institutional level. Faculty from institutions outside Kashmir performed as Resource Persons to suggest measures for implementation of NEP 2020. Of course, such events dwelt upon the basic objectives and implications of the policy, but strangely neither the faculty from the local institutions nor any experts from the civil society were engaged to perform as resource persons (with some royal exceptions) in these on-line activities to deliberate upon different aspects of the policy.

The authors of this commentary have been watching the concerned webinars and the virtual workshops during the period of pandemic. A deficit is observed; locals do not come forward in good number to engage in the virtual discussion and debate on the various issues related to this new policy. It is good to quote Einstein, Peter Ducker, Porter or Ivan Illich, but we must not ignore our academic and intellectual heritage, which is the core of NEP, while making a presentation or attempting a paper. It is better to learn from all the sources provided we derive nutrition from our own roots.

The NEP 2020 focuses on collaborative learning. There should be exchange of faculty, staff and students between different institutions of higher learning, and also sharing of resources and experiences. Recently Central University Kashmir, Central University Jammu and Central University Himachal have signed MoUS to work in collaboration in the field of academics and research. Kashmir University, Jummu University, Cluster University Srinagar and Cluster University Jammu should also work in tandem.

It is good that NEP 2020 emphasizes upon creating Academic Bank of Credits (ABC). This bank is all inclusive of knowledge, values and skills acquired by a learner. However, to be effective this score of credits should corroborate with intrinsic worth of a learner. If there is a mismatch the intellectual capital is impacted negatively resulting in intellectual bankruptcy. It is observed that intrinsic worth of a learner is not mapping up with a score card. That is the reason that University pass outs opt for drudgery jobs. There is no positive contribution to accelerate the pace of research to add up to the existing fund of knowledge.

Of course NEP 2020 focuses on leveraging of technology. On- line dissemination process is not a substitute but a supplement. Covid-19 pandemic has burst this bubble of digital teaching. Slow and faulty speed of internet and glaring digital divide has been contributing factor. Education primarily is personality development leading to desirable changes in behaviour. The school has been dead for past two years. Play ground, library, laboratory, auditorium, theatre, botanical garden, zoology museum, hostel, literary society, business club- all are dysfunctional. No practicals, practicums, workshop activities, outings, etc. are operational. The pass outs of these two years may have a score card in their hands but without any practice and application. It is a question how to recoup this deficiency to make them functionally educated from the institutions of higher learning.

The NEP 2020 emphasises upon critical and creative thinking and innovation. Flawed past practices are to be abandoned and rote memorization to be discarded. Instead, creative and critical methodologies which are more student-centric are to be adopted. The UGC- HRD centers have to redesign the pedagogy of induction programmes and subject specific refresher courses. More emphasis has to be laid on application and practice with due regard to critical thinking to affect a paradigm shift.

In order to study structural reforms envisaged in NEP 2020, it is essential to have a thorough understanding of education policy documents of 1986 and 1968. The NEP 2020 is not to be studied in isolation. The faculty in the colleges and universities are expected to have studied all the policy documents thoroughly enabling them to suggest measures for its implementation.

The policy envisages 360 degree assessment of learners. This covers a complete circle and thus is inclusive. Measures are to be suggested for relative weights for cognitive, affective and psychomotor components. This may also include self-assessment, peer assessment and teacher assessment of a learner.

To conclude, the implementation of NEP 2020, is very crucial at this critical juncture of the epistemic journey of our society. It is essential that all the stakeholders participate in this national debate. For engaging the faculty and other groups and individuals more webinars and virtual workshops are required to be conducted to discuss all the aspects of the policy Vis-a-vi its execution. This should be a precondition for the final reports to be submitted by the expert groups.

Authors are former college principals. The write-up is dedicated to all the people who have contributed in building higher education in J&K.

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