NEP – Challenges, Chances; Obstacles, Opportunities
Amid some obstacles, challenges, and financial constraints, Jammu and Kashmir, like other parts across India, has started a process to implement National Education Policy (NEP) 2020. To begin with, the UT government has formed two task force groups to ensure proper implementation of the first phase of NEP which is expected to be implemented by April 2022.
Experts say that implementing NEP in a guided time frame will not be an easy task in Jammu and Kashmir. They say the shortage of teachers, lack of infrastructure, and lack of teachers’ skill development training could be the biggest obstacles in implementing NEP in a set time frame. For example, they say the translation of books into regional languages (mother tongues) is a huge and time-consuming process and cannot be completed in a short period of time. Moreover, it will be a big challenge for the Jammu and Kashmir government to create an environment for the training of professionals, filling new posts and training the existing staff, and building the required infrastructure.
Furthermore, Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE), which is one of the compulsory reformatory components in NEP to promote children’s learning, development, and general well-being, will not be immediate because it will first require the construction of numerous new buildings and classrooms.
On the other hand, many optimistic experts say that the beginning in itself is a great achievement towards the implementation of NEP. They argue that “a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”
To grasp further information about NEP and to know the obstacles and challenges in its implementation in J&K, KASHMIR IMAGES spoke to several experts and concerned officials.
For the implementation of NEP, we have constituted two taskforces; one on Higher Education and another for School Education and Skill Development. They are respectively headed by Rajeev Rai Bhatnagar, Advisor to the Lt Governor and Principal Secretary School Education Department.
These task forces, after examining the provisions of the NEP will give their suggestions and recommendations on how to implement the policy in letter and spirit. We are also expecting recommendations on technology integration because in accordance with the policy, technology counseling and small certificate courses are to be incorporated into the main curriculum. These task forces will give ideas on innovations and technology intervention to convert usual classrooms into smart classrooms.
There will be some suggestive measures on the training of the teachers and integration of B. Ed courses and four-year degree programmes. All these issues are under discussion and we are hopeful that we will have the recommendations in the shortest possible time.
The most important intense of the NEP is on enrolling fifty percent of the youth falling in the age group of 18 to 23 years of age. Fifty percent of the enrolled youth have to be in the technical or professional services. In addition, there is also the target of enrolling an equal number of girls in the education stream. It will be outcome-based learning to enhance the employment and capability of the individuals.
NEP also aims at well-rounded development; mental, physical, and psychological. Earlier, we were focused only on academic purposes but now we will pursue the mental health, moral values, and physical development and professional orientation of the students as well.
The NEP demands that our research should be solution-based research. We will implement all these suggestions, even if, creating infrastructure is a big challenge. We have to build the infrastructure and mobilize good resources. We need human resource for professional services and a research facility at par with the national level.
For the implementation of NEP, we have been given targets. For instance, by 2025, we have to enroll fifty percent of students in the professional services and we have to increase the subsequently enrolment of the youth in the educational sector. Then, by 2030, we have to achieve some more targets and by 2035 the entire NEP must be implemented.
While discussing NEP, let’s take a look at what can be implemented in the initial phase and what should be done. Though it is a huge topic and cannot be summarized in few lines, I would like to talk about Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE), a topic on which NEP has laid much emphasis. The policy has proposed to merge the existing Anganwadi and the proposed preschools with three years of ECE and the first two years of primary school. If this is to be done, then we need infrastructure. New schools are to be built and that process should start immediately. Secondly, the Anganwadi staff must be given proper training to deal with the children as per the guidelines of NEP.
The NEP also talks about the mental, psychological and emotional health of the students. For this we should have counsellors available in every high school and higher secondary school.
A whole plan has been devised in the policy for skill development. It is a tempting plan but to implement it, we need well-trained, qualified, and professional human resources. It will certainly attract enrolment of children, but the issues will again be infrastructure and manpower. We need to understand that even the secondary education commission (1952-53) had recommended the creation of skill development courses in the education sector, but the political will was lacking.
In my opinion, the biggest obstacle will be investment. Though the politicians have promised to invest 6 percent of GDP in education, but I don’t think the country can afford it in the given economic situation. Even Kothari Commission had suggested that six percent of GDP should be invested in education but that was not implemented. Given the past experience, we should keep our fingers crossed but I can say that there are big challenges and it will not be an easy task.
To have a valid opinion on the new National Education Policy one must know the historical background of our education system. There was no concept of Education Policies in the Indian education system till 1968. Earlier, commissions were formed to make recommendations for the education system. For example, Radhakrishnan Commission was formed in 1948 to report on University Education and suggest improvements and future requirements. In 1952, Mudaliar Commission was formed to examine the then existing system of secondary education in the country. Similarly, Kothari Commission in 1964 was the most comprehensive and detailed account of the system and, accordingly suggested workable guide lines on education.
The first-ever Education Policy came up only in 1986, followed by the preparation of an execution plan for implementation. Now, after 34 years, we have a comprehensive National Education Policy (NEP) in hand and I believe it is an instrument for a complete change in our education system. We should not worry about its heaviness. Because no one is saying that it should be implemented immediately. Policies are actually instruments and strategies to be implemented in a phased manner. The new NEP will also be implemented gradually and things like investment, increase in teaching staff and development of infrastructure and so on will follow in due course.
Now coming to the NEP 2020, this policy follows a triangular approach to education with its components as: learner, curriculum and teacher.
As far as learners are concerned, this policy basically focuses on grooming, skill development, and vocational training of students from an early age. Now it is the responsibility of teachers to take the lead and follow the guidelines to ensure that well-groomed and well-trained products are produced. Investment is not required to implement every element of NEP. A number of parts of the policy can be carried out with the help of proper communication, good leadership, and excellent management. For teachers, the policy calls for a separate mission that is professional training.
Finally, the best thing about the curriculum in NEP is that it offers multiple choices to the students. Unlike in the past, there will be no separation of subjects such as arts, science, and commerce. Also, students who leave their studies midway and then change their mind, can get back in. There are a number of things in the new policy that give students all the choices and options that exist in the world today.
In conclusion, I would say that the new education policy is a powerful tool in our hands that we should use for the benefit of our children. As an optimist, I must suggest to maximize our man power, infrastructure and available resources.
Most parts of NEP are the repetition of previous educational policies. However, there are actually two outstanding concepts in it that are wonderful in nature, though complicated to implement under the circumstances. One is the concept of universalization of education from pre-school to secondary level. Second is the policy promise of 6% GDP investment on education. This is a big leap. Also, the NEP has set a target of enrolling up to two crore children in schools. That is also a tall claim.
As for the desire to enroll up to two crore children in schools is concerned, we should not forget that this requires a huge infrastructure and well-trained staff to fulfill the promise. For example, if we introduce kindergarten, we will have to build a large number of classrooms, and that in turn will require infrastructure enhancement. Providing midday meals for those children will be an issue. I am not saying it is impossible, but we have to understand that it will not be applicable without creating an environment and a proper system for it.
In Jammu Kashmir we are already struggling with the shortage of infrastructure. Many of our school buildings are in rented buildings and some of them are in a pathetic condition.
To start implementing NEP we first need a proper survey and needs assessment, and the process should have started by now. That is why I say that NEP has high aspirations, but we lack preparations. Without preparations, aspirations remain just aspirations. For example, more than a decade ago, the Jammu and Kashmir government had ordered to establish pre-primary classes in every school. Some of the schools even started these classes but could not sustain because the order was issued without preparations. As a result, the initiative proved to be a failure.
I think without developing infrastructure and creating trained staff, the implementation of NEP is not possible. Secondly, the promise of 6 percent GDP investment also seems impossible in the present economic scenario of the country.
Moreover, I think the curriculum of NEP is also fraught with some problems. For example, we all know that India has a great history of civilization. It consists of three periods: Ancient, Medieval, and Modern. But they have emphasized ancient history only, which is not understandable.
We have already started working on implementing some key components of NEP. The policy emphasizes research in colleges and we have made some colleges, which already have the human resources and infrastructure, the research hub. These colleges will be handholding to the scope colleges and some universities will play the role of mentor institutions for these hub colleges. We have received funds for this purpose as well. I think this will be a game changer and will create tremendous development in our higher education system.
Secondly, we have started working on skill development. Though this is not a totally new concept, it is, however, a fact that our human resources have been wasted due to lack of proper system. The NEP emphasizes the vocationalisation of education. Therefore, we have started creating skill hub colleges. Various skill development courses will be introduced in these colleges in the near future and the courses will be certified by Nation Skill Center. This will create a potential workforce for various skill areas. We have also launched Digital Initiatives consisting of smart classrooms and innovations.
I think one of the best things is that NEP has given a concept of nurturing to children in the age group of 3 to 6 years. Earlier, our primary school policy was for the age group of children from 6 to 14 years. But the fact is that 85 percent of children get their brain development in the age group of 3 to 6 years. Now, thanks to the new policy, children between the ages of 3 to 8 are enrolled and properly guided.
There are many more things we are working on and I assure you that the fruits of NEP will be seen in the near future. Initially, we will have some difficulties in implementing the policy, but I am sure things will fall into place as time goes on.
National Education Policy 2020 emphasizes the development of the creative potential of each individual. This policy is based on the principle that education must develop the foundational capacities of literacy and numeracy and ‘higher-order’ cognitive capacities, such as critical thinking and problem-solving based on social, ethical, emotional capacities and dispositions. It is an ambitious and futuristic policy that ensures opportunities for children to hone their talents by fixing the lacunae in the education system.
The policy has come up with a new academic structure as 5+3+3+4 instead of the current 10+2. The first five years will be the foundational stage of learning and care of the child followed by three years of preparatory stage, and then the next three years will be of experiential learning stage and finally four years of the multidisciplinary stage of learning. This policy allows the learner to enjoy the flexibility in choosing the subjects from the three categories of science, humanity, and commerce.
In fact, this policy recommends skill development and JK is a great place to exploit the flora and fauna and the medicinal values of plants can be taught through the curriculum.
While the policy on paper seems highly ambitious and relevant to 21st-century skill development, there are some very important challenges about its implementation in Jammu and Kashmir.
At the ECCE level the challenges like universal curriculum, enrollment, infrastructure, professional staff, and other health and hygiene like factors need immediate attention. The learners have to be toilet smart, street smart, playfield smart, and classroom smart during their ECCE years for those steps need to be taken at the earliest.
The treatment of medium of instruction in multilingual environments, mid-day meals in the countryside, teaching methods, professional teaching staff and infrastructure are some of the impediments that need to be addressed before we shift the NEP 2020.
The policy recommends volunteers at the local level to teach in govt schools. The people volunteering their services won’t be strictly monitored by the governing rules. There are apprehensions about child abuse that need to be kept in check. The permission to use labs, libraries, and playfield of public schools by private schools is again a challenge and can disturb the academic atmosphere of these schools. So, this recommendation also needs to be regulated.