It is 156 years since Alice entered the rabbit hole and explored the fantasy world that we understand through Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. The lasting popularity that this book has despite its sesquicentennial-plus shelf-life through its healthy satire in abundance strikes a chord with many modern issues. There are still many hidden truths in this fantasy genre that provides solutions to modern policy problems. The evolving education system in this emerging era of New Education Policy (NEP) 2020 is symptomatic of the Wonderland complexity that Alice explored.
The learning experiences of Alice are even today a comparative tool for neuroscience, management strategy, jurisprudence, etc. NEP 2020 has its own fantasy building blocks across the spectrum, and higher education is no exception. The Wonderland chaos that Alice faced is equally represented in NEP 2020 with its transient and frantic triggers coupled with steady state and well-designed pathways. In the ability of policy makers in the Ministry of Education, statutory bodies such as UGC, AICTE, NCTE, etc, and Higher Education Institutions (HEI) lies the success of NEP 2020 whose shelf-life is definitely generational. It’s the Alice in me that explores the All‘ises’ that can make NEP’s fantasy education Wonderland a functional reality. Here they go.
Harmonise regulatory bodies: The idea to integrate all statutory bodies like UGC, AICTE, NCTE, etc, with policy alignment needs no emphasis. All of them need to be harmonised through the immediate formation of Higher Education Commission of India (HECI) with diverse representation from all critical stakeholders and not just the ‘usuals’.
Finalise and functionalise implementation plan: The NEP 2020 is not a mere policy fashion statement but a transformational mission statement. A mission mode approach to finalise and functionalise the action plan with short-, medium- and long-term outcomes is a legitimate expectation.Professionalise and corporatise
HEI leadership: Leadership roles in HEIs need to be overhauled moving away from conventional stereotypes to emerging paradigms—role making (from taking), role centring (from entering) and role linking (from shrining).
Minimise government and maximise governance: The core of policy implementation success lies in the oxygenated rule-making framework than in the current strangulated interventionary framework through minimised but active participatory role of government and maximised but effective governance by HEIs.
Unpolarise implementation: There is a compelling need to remove the discriminatory boundaries between public and private HEIs mindful of the fact that good and bad both exist in public and private and to keep implementation free from policy bias towards public institutions
Incentivise teacher education: The renaissance in teaching as a noble profession needs a multi-dimensional incentivisation approach, for the success of NEP 2020 lies in the teacher education ecosystem that forms the foundational bedrock of India’s intellectual capital.
Democratise vocational education: Our functional society is an open-air university and we need to reverse the current top down certification pyramid to a bottom up approach by democratising vocational education through an autogenous model. Rationalise online education: The force multiplier effect of online education needs a calibrated and not an accelerated approach by rationalising online education on the periphery to retain the core purpose of education failing which the online edu-bubble burst shall see cataclysmic proportions like the dotcom bubble.
Collectivise research: A war footing approach to replace the current policy model that promotes exclusionary research elitism with positively disruptive models of engagement through collaborative research shall lead to better research outcomes that are translational from the current transactional success stories.
Maximise SEVA: A transformative change in tax laws is necessary to enrich India’s socio-economic capital that ensures maximising socio-economic value addition (SEVA) through an emerging sandwich ‘not for loss’ enterprise that lies between the current ‘for profit’ and ‘not for profit’ models.
This 10-point charter is only an appetiser to the main course that can build on the initial seeds sown on the fertile edu-wonderland that NEP 2020 promises to offer. The success of NEP 2020 lies in the ‘Alician’ ability to endure and navigate NEP 2020 in HEI’s own way. Constructing dams to control the natural pathway of NEP 2020 will appear ‘old wine in new bottle’ creating nutrient drought despite policy fertility. As the first anniversary celebrations to NEP 2020 get over, the edu-wonderland’s eternal cerebration time to NEP 2020 must begin.