Prime Minister Narendra Modi, delivering the inaugural address at the Conclave on Transformational Reforms in Higher Education under National Education Policy said the National Education Policy will "lay the foundation of New India of the 21st Century."
"The NEP will be the foundation of 21st century India. NEP's focus is on the type of skills and educations needed by our youths. NEP is dedicated to propelling India on the path of growth and empowerment," he said.
The prime minister, addressing the conclave organised by the Ministry of Human Resource Development and the University Grants Commission via video conferencing, said the entire country had been waiting for this change "for years".
Indeed, the National Education Policy, (NEP), approved by the Union Cabinet on 29 July, which seeks to implement reforms from 'toddler to college' and thus overhaul the education system, came 34 years after the previous policy was introduced. It was also part of the National Democratic Alliance's 2014 election manifesto.
Modi, saying that the NEP has "given rise to healthy debate" with people reviewing its benefits. He added that "everyone agrees that there is no bias" in the NEP. He also said he is totally committed to its implementation and assured the public that he has the political will to follow through.
The prime minister also said imparting education in mother tongue will help students.
"We have to make our students global citizens. We have to also take care that they should also be connected to their roots. NEP has been designed keeping these factors in mind. There is no doubt in the fact that teaching in the mother tongue yields better results. Keeping this factor in mind, imparting education in the mother tongue till class 5 has been proposed in NEP," he said.
Modi's remarks come just days after Tamil Nadu government, amid outrage from the Opposition, including DMK, rejected the NEP's three-language formula and said there will be no deviation from the existing system, which had been taught "for decades."
Chief Minister E Palaniswami had on Monday said, "The three-language formula in the NEP is painful and saddening. The prime minister should reconsider the three-language policy."
The NEP, passed by the Union Cabinet last week, laid emphasis on the mother tongue/local and regional language which will now be the medium of instruction at least till Class 5, but preferably till Class 8 and beyond. Also, Sanskrit will be offered at all levels of school and higher education as an option for students, including in the three-language formula.
'Every student should pursue passion'
Modi, stressing on the flexibility offered by the NEP, pointed out that students have been given multiple entry and exit points
"Every student should get an opportunity to pursue his or her passion. On most occasions, when students go for jobs, they realise that what they have studied does not count for much in employment. Sometimes, students have to skip their education to pursue a job. Due to this reason, multiple exit options have been given to students under NEP. There is a need to prepare the youth for multiple professions as change is inevitable," the prime minister said.
The NEP allows students to avail of an Academic Bank of Credit (ABC) which will digitally store academic credits from different institutions so that these can be transferred and counted towards the final degree earned. This means they can also take a gap year or return to their studies after a few years.
A student who completes four years of study in a course will receive a Bachelor's Degree with research, a Bachelor's Degree for three years of study, an Advanced Diploma for finishing two years and a Diploma for completing a year of study, as per the NEP.
'From what to think to how to think'
Modi said thus far the education system focussed only on what to think and now the emphasis will be on how to think and that the NEP will assist with the transition.
"There is a flood of information in today's age. The need is the ability to accept which information and study that. NEP has stressed that inquiry-based, discussion-based and analysis-based thinking be encouraged," the prime minister said.
He also said that there were no major changes in the country's education system over the years. As a result, instead of promoting values of curiosity and imagination, herd mentality was being encouraged.
"India's students should study in a scientific manner," he said. "When the youth will study in situations and times that change quickly, they will construct a stronger India. Earlier, there was a rush to create engineers, doctors and lawyers. No stress was laid on critical thinking. Education will not be complete until it includes critical thinking and purpose."
The prime minister further said that education needs to propel people on a creative and commitment-driven life and the change in the education system from 10+2 to 5+3+3+4 is a step towards that.
"The questions that we were faced with at the start was whether our education propels us on a creative and commitment-driven life. The second question is whether our education system empowers youth and society. The education system needed to be changed with changing times. We had to move from the 10+2 system to 5+3+3+4 system," he said.
Modi also quoted the late president APJ Abdul Kadam, who had said the purpose of education is to "make good human beings". He added that enlightened human beings can be created by teachers and said "I believe when a teacher learns, a nation leads."
The NEP seeks to establish a National Mission for Mentoring, with a large pool of outstanding senior or retired faculty who would be willing to provide short and long-term mentoring, professional support to university and college teachers.
'Need to empower higher education system'
Modi said a lot of emphasis has been laid on teacher training, and a lot of attention has been paid to developing the dignity of labour while framing the NEP.
The NEP seeks the formulation of a new and comprehensive National Curriculum Framework for Teacher Education, NCFTE 2021, by the NCTE in consultation with NCERT. By 2030, the minimum degree qualification for teaching will be a 4-year integrated B.Ed. degree. Stringent action will be taken against substandard stand-alone Teacher Education Institutions (TEIs), as per the NEP.
Modi also advocated for greater autonomy for higher educational institutions that promote quality education.
"The higher education system needs to be empowered. There are two views on autonomy in our country. One is that there should be governmental control on higher education centres. The view is that there should be autonomy in education. Whichever institution works more towards quality education should be provided incentives," he said.
As per the new policy, the system of affiliation will be phased out over 15 years and a stage-wise mechanism for granting graded autonomy to colleges, through a transparent system of graded accreditation, will be established. Over a period of time it is envisaged that every college would develop into either an autonomous degree-granting college, or a constituent college of a university, as per the new NEP.
The prime minister further observed that today is Rabindranath Tagore's death anniversary. "He used to say that the best education is that which not only informs but harmonises our lives. NEP's major goal is associated with this thinking," he added.
With inputs from agencies