Can An Ambitious NEP 2020 Be Successfully Implemented On Ground?

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“The success of the NEP-2020 is hinged on the State’s ability to strengthen the Public-Private Partnership (PPP). With the age-long habit of amassing wealth, will the Indian capitalist class be open to participating actively?”

Finally, after the decades-long wait, the New Education Policy was successfully given greenlit under the Modi 2.0. government and released by the HRD minister Dr Ramesh Pokhariyal Nishank, encompassing major reforms that were required by the education system in India.

A targeted increase in public spending on education, accounting for 6 percent of the GDP, the multidisciplinary approach to be followed by the government, more centralisation, cluster schooling, emphasis on mother tongue as a medium of instruction, enabling online learning platforms and a combined skill development approach were the key highlights of the biggest triumph in the educational reforms amid the pandemic.

Also Read: Indian Technical Education On The Decline: What Led To This Mess?

The NEP, while it sounds fancy, is comprehensive in its approach, and perhaps among the greatest reforms in the Indian education system thus far.

It is a bit too ambitious and therefore prone to failure if not implemented properly. Starting with the targeted public spending of 6 percent of the GDP on education, it seems unfeasible, going by past trends. In the following figure, we can see that the spending on education in India has been below the world average for at least the past two decades. It went up somewhere around at the time of UPA-II, but still, it has been below the world average. Therefore, the allocation of 6 percent seems unlikely and impractical for the government to aspire towards.

Source: World Bank, accessed on 01/08/2020 (The missing values were unavailable)
Source: World Bank, accessed on 01/08/2020 (The missing values were unavailable)

The Centre has proposed the introduction of internships, skills like coding among school children, and providing certificate and diploma courses to dropouts at undergraduate levels.

However, this can exacerbate exploitation in the form of unpaid and underpaid labour. Therefore, a set of guidelines must be introduced to ensure safeguards for the protection of the least well-off sections, as they will be more vulnerable under these circumstances.

Also Read: Explained: The National Education Policy 2020 & Reforms it Brings

Pandemic Exposed Inequities Even In Access To Education Among Indian Students

Under the weight of the unique challenges that the COVID pandemic has brought with it, the whole education system is collapsing. Inequities in access to education became apparent –– it cleared the mist, showing how children from well-to-do families were entitled because they owned the means to reproduce knowledge in this capitalist structure of education.

Looking at this experience, the online system for education will require huge investments in terms of developing infrastructural and institutional facilities for it to be accessible for all.

More than half of the population in India is devoid of digital access in terms of good internet connectivity and proper digital equipment. Even if the government facilitates these lesser well-off households in the provisioning of mobile phones and laptops, that will not be sufficient.

Building a sustainable and accessible platform for online learning is not a one-time investment.

This involves periodic maintenance costs in the form of internet charges, electricity charges, and other variable costs at an individual level. This can demand a significant portion of monthly income for the lower and lower-middle income households. If there are no mechanisms in place to ensure continuous spending to cover these variable costs, the system is bound to collapse. Therefore, these challenges need to be considered before jumping into online learning platforms, when the conventional education system is itself flawed and unsustainable.

Also Read: Part 2: Hits and Misses of NEP Reforms for Higher Education

Capitalist Class Must Work Actively As Allies With Educational Institutes

The success of the PPP model, proposed in the NEP-2020, is contingent on how well the Public-Private divide in the country is explored. On the one hand, there are private giants in the country enjoying their monopoly over valuable resources –– and the recipients of the public services on the other hand, feeding on the “leftovers served” by the government.

In a country where the capitalist class is accumulating and hogging all the resources without giving back to society, it’s hard for the PPP models to work effectively.

The Indian capitalist class is comfortable with simply offering the bare minimum in the form of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), which is negligible in comparison to the benefits realised and the public resources exploited by them.

Therefore, for the whole system to function smoothly, this capitalist class will have to dilute its monopoly, and they need to actively work as allies with the educational institutes at all the levels.

They should work as allies to promote Research and Development without desperately seeking to amass all the wealth in the country. In America and other developed nations, the private sector invests heavily in R&D in the higher educational institutes and universities. But such investments are so far missing in India.

These types of investment patterns need to emerge in India for increased spending in educational institutes. At the same time, there is a need to save the purpose of education from the capitalist forces in furthering their cause and peaking inequality. These challenges to the Indian education system need a critical assessment by the policymakers to implement this ambitious project. The fulfilment of these objectives will require strength in political will by the government, to ensure equal access to education for all.

(Arpit Sachan is a Teaching Assistant at the School of Development Studies, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)

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