NEP is a Diet for Educational Six-pack

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By S Vaidhyasubramaniam

The draft of the New Education Policy (NEP) is now open for public feedback in its pregnant stage of policy-making. I see policy nutrients with a six-pack physique in the womb itself. Early childhood learning with stress on foundational literacy and numeracy provides a strong cognitive and emotional development during infancy stages of India’s future with adequate encouragement for the support ecosystem, including parents. This critical phase requires not mere budgetary allocation but passionate multi-stakeholder implementation.

The school curriculum and pedagogy following the 5+3+3+4 approach is a welcome deviation from the 10+2 pattern.  The proposed foundational, preparatory, middle and high school levels of education is finely interwoven to accommodate diverse learning inputs covering a diverse set of courses besides offering adequate room for singular interest students. To ensure quality output at all levels, the learning outcomes for all four levels need fine clarity in print, training, delivery and monitoring.

Professional and career development of teacher education and teachers through merit-based scholarships to take up the noble profession out of passion than compulsion is a major boost. Moving integrated BEd and MEd programmes to multi-disciplinary colleges and universities needs to be accelerated to extinguish the deplorable standalone teacher education institutions known best for their worst standards and to put an end to NCTE’s policy paralysis.

Higher education approach for Industry 4.0 compliant workplace skills with liberal undergraduate education, autonomous institutions and universities with progressive Type 1, 2 and 3 architecture is long overdue. Such architecture requires harmonious working of statutory bodies like UGC, AICTE, MCI, etc., instead of replacing them by a super regulatory body. The role of such statutory bodies needs to be redefined with clarity than replaced with urgency. Importantly, the ODL and online education need to be democratised through a learner-centric perspective than feudalised in a regulatory perspective to make learners’ life filled with life-long learning.

The National Research Foundation with an annual grant of `20,000 crore for research in four broad areas by public and private institutions is a welcome departure from the current research funding mechanisms that favour public institutions. The Finance Ministry must extend the accelerated tax exemption under Section 35 of the Income Tax Act currently available only up to 2020-21 for an additional five years. This should not be viewed as an exemption from taxation but an investment on next generation.

Strengthened National Testing Agency (NTA) as a potent evaluation and assessment authority with capacity to provide inputs on learner outcome-based policy strategies is the need of the hour. NTA has to be nationalised and cannot operate in ivory tower mode. With adequate provisions to accommodate all States’ diverse and genuine interests, NTA must simplify the torturous multiplicity of entrance exams.
The proposed NEP’s diet will develop a six-pack education and the muscularity of it depends on the periodicity of policy vaccines.