INTERVIEW | India’s education system to be world-class by 2040: Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank

NEP 2020 aims for ‘quality education for all’, says Education Minister 

Published: 02nd August 2020 09:05 AM  |   Last Updated: 02nd August 2020 12:06 PM   |  A+A-

Union HRD Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank addresses during State Conference-2019 of BJP Teachers Cell in Kolkata Sunday Dec. 29 2019. (Photo | PTI)

Union HRD Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank. (File | PTI)

The New Education Policy (NEP 2020) that was launched last Wednesday aims to make India’s education system one of the best in the world and provide access to the highest-quality education for all, Union Minister of Education Dr Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank told Sumi Sukanya Dutta in an email interview
Now that the National Education Policy has been adopted by the government, what is the way forward and how will the government implement it?
With the National Education Policy coming in effect, we are hoping to transform education and putting a significant thrust on learning about how to think critically and solve problems, to be creative and multidisciplinary, and to innovate, adapt, and absorb new material in novel and changing fields.

The curriculum will include basic arts, crafts, humanities, games, sports and fitness, languages, literature, culture, and values, in addition to science and mathematics, to develop all aspects and capabilities of learners; and make education more well-rounded, useful, and fulfilling. NEP aims to build character, enable learners to be ethical, rational, compassionate, and caring, while at the same time prepare them for gainful, fulfilling employment. We are making an implementation plan with clear tasks and timelines and we would endeavour to implement the same in letter and spirit. 

What are the short-term and long-term goals related to its implementation?
NEP aims that India’s education system will become second to none by 2040, with equitable access to the highest-quality education for all learners regardless of social or economic background. We hope to achieve quality early childhood development, care, and education as soon as possible and maximum by 2030, to ensure that all students entering Grade 1 are school ready. States will prepare a plan for attaining universal foundational literacy and numeracy for all learners by Grade 3 in next five years.

We want teachers to be prepared for a transformation in the assessment system by 2022-23. Teacher education will gradually be moved into multidisciplinary colleges and universities. The minimum degree qualification for teaching will be a 4-year integrated B.Ed. degree by 2030. By 2040, all higher education institutions should become multidisciplinary institutions with at least 3,000 students; and by 2030, there will be at least one large multidisciplinary HEI in or near every district.

The NEPs in the past faced major financial hurdles. Is there a clear financial plan to execute the new NEP?
Centre and the States will work together to increase public investment in education to 6% of GDP at the earliest. In particular, financial support will be provided to various critical elements and components of education, such as ensuring universal access, learning resources, nutritional support, student safety and well-being, adequate numbers of teachers and staff, teacher development and support for all key 
initiatives towards equitable high-quality education for underprivileged and socio-economically disadvantaged groups.

A key clause in the NEP is that medium of instruction till class 5 will be in mother tongue or local language. Will it be mandatory? There is an argument that it could put children in govt schools at a disadvantage as private schools may continue to teach in English. What do you think?
The NEP took into consideration expert opinions, field experiences, empirical research, stakeholder feedback and lessons learnt from best practices. In most developed countries, they have made an earnest effort to ensure that child studies in the mother tongue so that both parents and children participate in education process. Children learn and grasp non-trivial concepts more quickly in their home language.

There are practical issues related to teaching in mother tongue or local language. There are millions of multi-language families and a lot of people have transferable jobs and their kids go to schools in different states. Have all these issues been thought through?
In multilingual families, there can be a language spoken by other family members which is different from the mother tongue or local language. Therefore, we have added the term “wherever possible” in the language recommendation clause. However, mother tongue or local language should be the medium of instruction at least till class 5.

NEP has also proposed making universities and colleges multi-disciplinary. Some think that it may not be a good idea to tamper with high-quality institutions like IISC, IIMs and IITs. Your views?
IITs are already leading the path by introducing multi-disciplinary courses. The policy envisages a broad-based multi-disciplinary holistic education at undergraduate level for integrated, rigorous exposure to science, arts, humanities, mathematics and professional fields. A holistic and multidisciplinary education will help develop well-rounded individuals. 

There are concerns that the policy is promoting privatisation of education--particularly in the higher education sector? 
There are multiple checks and balances to combat and stop the commercialisation of school and higher education. An effective quality self-regulation or accreditation system will be instituted for all stages of education including pre-school education - private, public, and philanthropic - to ensure compliance with essential quality standards. States will set up an independent body, State School Standards Authority, to establish a minimal set of standards. 

All HEIs will be held to similar standards of audit and disclosure as a ‘not for profit’ entity. The accreditation system developed by NAC will provide a complimentary check on this system. Private HEIs having a philanthropic and public-spirited intent will be encouraged through a progressive fee regime. Transparent mechanisms for fixing fees with an upper limit will be developed.


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