Last week the Union Cabinet cleared a new National Education Policy (NEP) proposing sweeping changes in school and higher education. Present National Education Policy was framed in 1986 and modified in 1992. Therefore, more than three decades have passed since previous Policy. During this period significant changes have taken place in our country, society economy, and the world at large.
There are many positive highlights in the newly announced education policy like opening up of Indian higher education to foreign universities, dismantling of the UGC and the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), introduction of a four-year multidisciplinary undergraduate programme with multiple exit options, and discontinuation of the M Phil programme.
However, the big question is whether the new education policy can cure all the ills that our present education system suffering from? Unless we cure the basic ailments in our education system whatever measures we may take may become superficial while ground reality remaining the same.
Like any other field, even our education system too is infiltrated by the politicians and most of the education institutions in the country, mainly engineering, medical and finance stream, is dominated by them. Thus, policies and systems are mainly aimed at helping these politicians to carry on the ‘business of education’ more profitably. To bring about effective governance in higher education institutions there is need to avoid the role of unions and politics in imparting education without interruptions in academics.
Political interference in the field of education, especially in Higher Education, is a deterrence and this needs to be stopped if we want to improve the quality of our education. Also, the appointment of the Head of the Higher Educational Institution should not be by a political institution.
Faculty shortage is another challenge faced by our institutions. The situation is aggravated by the rapid increase in the number of educational institutions in recent years. For example, there were only 111 architectural colleges in India in 2004 as against 463 now, an increase of four times in a span of 15 years. According to statistics available with the Department of Higher Education, the sanctioned strength of all the Central Universities together is just 16,339 of which 6,107 positions are lying vacant. So, the educational institutions face the challenge of non-availability of faculty with requisite qualifications. Also, teaching is not a lucrative profession in terms of salary and therefore, it is very difficult to attract talent into this profession. Therefore, initiatives are required to be taken to attract bright students towards teaching profession by paying salary as per UGC pay scale; providing better promotional avenues and creating teacher-friendly working environment.
There is also an urgent need to enhance teaching methodology, motivational level of teachers, level of teachers’ understanding, level of research by faculty and role of data requirements reliable and credible data collection and maintenance of information system at different levels like, pre-school, primary, upper primary, secondary, higher secondary, technical, professional and at research levels for policy intervention. We need to adopt innovative (technology-embedded) teaching methods, incentivizing teachers for better teaching and research practices, evaluation of research contribution of the Faculty and development of institutional data bases and Management information System (MIS).
There needs to be a better and regular interaction between industry-University and technical institutions for effective functioning of Faculty and to make the courses relevant to industrial needs as well. This would create a better job opportunity situation for the graduates. If our graduates cannot fulfil the needs of our industry who else can? The course contents should have a periodical review with interaction and feedback from industry as the involvement of industry representatives in designing and development of course content is essential.
There is generally a decline in the quality of higher education in India due to lack of adequate number of quality teachers; lack of adequate infrastructure for teaching and learning processes; and lack of adequate funds. So, there is lot of expectation from the new education policy and let’s hope that the new policy addresses all the challenges faced by our education system.
Visions like ‘Make in India’ and ‘Aatma Nirbhar Bharat’ are commendable but their success will largely depend upon the quality of education we provide to our younger generation. Therefore, a good education policy will lay strong foundation for India to become a super power.