Prof. Sunil Kr Pandey
Professor & Director (IT & UG), Institute of Technology & Science
The National Education Policy (NEP)- 2020, 3rd Post-independence policy focusing on Indian Education System, aims to reform the present education system in India and create an education framework & eco-system which is career-oriented, futuristic, globally competitive and meaningful. Being the first National Policy of Education in the 21st century, the NEP 2020 is the third after independence. It was preceded by the first – framed in 1968 (which was primarily influenced by the progressive Kothari commission of 1964-66) and the second – 1986 (which was revised in 1992).
The NEP-2020 aims at ways & means to recuperate the ailing school system of India through concerted and targeted measures that will improve both quality and growth. Most importantly, the NEP-2020 policy document foresees a transformation from an inputs-based approach to an outcomes-based approach; however, the recommendations on this front are mainly directions and a lot will depend on how the stakeholders and government choose to implement them.
It is true that the Policies proposes remarkable job at aiming at some obvious paucities in the Indian schooling system, however, it lacks certain important factors to address the issues of the private sector in India, which is a very important contributor in providing quality education in rural and urban parts at a reasonable cost.
Firstly, a substantial number of students are already enrolled in private schools; 43.18% of students attended private schools in 2016-17 in India, which translates to around 80 million students out of India’s school-going population of around 185 million.
Secondly, the increase in the number of private schools is four-five times the increase in the number of government schools for the period 2010-11 to 2014-15.
Thirdly, total enrolment in government schools decreased by 11.1 million in that period, while enrolment in private schools increased by 16 million during this period. The HRD data shows that student enrolment figures in government schools further see a dip – from 19.9 crore in 2011-12 to 18.9 crore in 2016-17. The out-migration of students from government schools rendered many government schools unviable to run. In just three states, i.e., Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Chhattisgarh, 24,000 government schools have shut down.
In spite of all this, the regulatory framework and procedure for starting and operationalising a private school in India is considered very tedious and sometimes very difficult to get the approvals and all legal and statuary clearance and to grow. In other words, such tough, tedious processes and procedural intricacies and other issues, many a times, becomes discourages to those who have such intentions as it is in either way, not an easy achievement for starting up a new K-12 School Project. At the same time, the flexibility in operating is also an important issue of concern for start-ups. However, in recent years, situations have improved and things have relaxed, however, a lot needs to be done by handholding of all the stakeholders to create good schools that can deliver world-class education.
There have been estimates and research available which indicates that it requires a substantial investment of about INR 5-10 Crore, and a significantly large land size of at least an acre, in order to establish and operationalise a K-12 school in India. This will start returns only after 4-7 years, whereas it takes somewhere INR 30 LACS to 1.2 Crore, along with a constructed premise of about 10 – 12 K Sq. Ft, to establish a good pre-school in India.
However, to achieve the objectives behind NEP-2020 and create a globally competitive education framework, the need of the hour is the Public-Private partnership and more sincere participation of private participation in creating quality schools at all the levels who could be provided with the easy process yet properly monitored systems to maintain quality of education competitive globally. It is also important that ensuring alignment, flexibility in inclusion skill-oriented courses and training would be a challenge. Though, we are seeing around that there is a good number of schools that have already started technology-based education and taking advantage of ATAL Lab initiatives of Govt. of India but still its implementation and sincere efforts towards imparting the skills need a lot more rather than keeping it as ritual.
A proper monitoring mechanism and motivation for schools at a local level and regional level in the form of some competitive platform where students and teachers team could demonstrate their skills, work and efforts which are recognised through some mechanism will not provide an opportunity to meet, interact and understand each other’s initiatives but will inspire the teachers and students from small places and schools who cannot afford to organise such events, as it requires expenses, organising capabilities and sometimes lack of awareness. Such a mechanism will remove the feelings of being isolated or inferiority complex that is developed over time as they do not see any potential / opportunity to exhibit their skills, competencies and developed/ designed models/ solutions/ concepts. This will also help the investors to come forward and explore this also as we all know that such schools with an environment of providing an opportunity to teachers and students both for exploring, experimenting, doing and implementing which also involves the possibility of being successful and at the same time being failed. This is something where teams need a push, motivation and keep their morale high and positive to keep on as success does not come overnight and may require many failing attempts too.
Overall, the success of NEP-2020 will entirely depend on how all the stakeholders join hands together, how teachers are engaged in this process. The role of teachers is going to be very crucial to meet the objectives of National Education Policy – 2020 that aims at bringing reforms in the teaching-learning process, so proper training, motivation and involvement of teachers at every level would be very important in this entire process, which seems to be missing. I have personally interacted with a large number of faculty members but it has been shocking that except for the opportunity of participating in some monotonous non-interactive webinars, mostly teachers have been kept away from this process. There is no or very little clarity even on the objectives, provisions and processes being adopted in the implementation of NEP-2020. The fundamental aspects of NEP-2020 like, how inter-disciplinary education policy and Skill Development courses are going to be offered, the flexibility of multi-entry and multi-exit systems, and who will teach the Skill enhancement courses, are not clear, though Policy Document specifies it with lots of clarity.
However, since the NEP – 2020 is about to be implemented from the current academic session in various states, how much is readiness does the Government, Universities and Institutions have; only time will tell. My humble submission is that a close watch on the above points raised and process of implementation along with close monitoring would be required to make sure it is implemented in the true spirit, which does not seem so simple and will take time to realise its fruits.
Thus, without the involvement of the private sector, the objectives of NEP 2020 would be difficult to achieve. If we, as a country, wish to establish India as a knowledge hub of the world and foresee ourselves as a superpower, it is required to encourage, support and nurture with the constructive engagement of private players for investment in education. To see it in reality on the ground, it is also very important to create a positive and favorable ecosystem where they are encouraged to participate and can flourish & improve the educational standards of India.