First the positives. At the school level, one of the major changes announced in the New Education Policy is that formal education will begin at the age of three. By changing the structure from 10+2 to 5+3+3+4, with the first five years called the foundational stage, every child will now be part of the education system the moment he turns three. The NEP also seeks to reduce the syllabus with no rigid separation between arts and science.
At the higher education level, there are a host of proposed changes that are geared to match college and university education here with the best practices abroad. Making undergraduation a preferred four-year programme will go a long way in helping students who wish to go abroad after college or want to enter a research programme directly after undergraduation. Some private universities in India already provide this option. The NEP will also throw open the doors for the entry of foreign universities, which is bound to increase competition among universities.
Among the long-term aims of the NEP is to make undergraduation programmes more multidisciplinary. Currently, almost all government-run universities only offer traditional courses such as economics, history, political science, engineering or medicine. Many private universities have changed this approach, offering courses such as politics, philosophy and economics, and global affairs; PPE is a popular course among undergraduate students in the UK. Data is the new oil, it is said.
Yet, no university in India offers data science at the undergraduate level, which is a pity. Data analytics is one of the top choices among students abroad as the employment potential of this course is huge. But the NEP has raised many eyebrows over its stated aim to encourage the use of the mother tongue or local language as the medium of instruction till at least Class V.
Although government officials stressed that this would only be implemented “wherever possible”, as stated in the NEP, it has stoked fears of the local/regional language being made compulsory. Another challenge before the NEP is to enhance spending on education. It is currently a mere 4% of the GDP. Almost all governments have sought to increase this but have faltered.