Comments on Draft National Education Policy 2019
Prof. K.K. Aggarwal, Distinguished Fellow, VIF

The Ministry of Higher Education has brought out the Country’s First Education Policy of this century, which is nearly after three and a half decades of the earlier policy. Looking to the rate of change in the end of last century and still faster in this century, this period appears to be several generations. Obviously, therefore for any committee to meet the expectations of all cross sections of society and the aspirations of all stakeholders in a Country, as diverse as ours is practically impossible.

Nonetheless, I feel the Committee has certainly touched almost all subjects at all levels of education and at least compiled an exhaustive report on issues and challenges faced by the Education system of the Nation. At most of the points, solutions have also been suggested – some of which do have and should have divergent views in the Country. Some of the solutions, though desirable are radical enough. That is why, an exhaustive debate and dialogue has been initiated, which I am sure will lead to some refinements and improvements in the final draft. Other issues can be attended to while working on the implementation strategies following the report.

After a study of the report, I have made some observations for consideration at appropriate levels. I have restricted myself to higher education and have not commented on the school education, which certainly is even more important to be put on stronger foundation for higher education structure to be raised for better access, equity, excellence, relevance, etc.

Colleges to have Minimum Enrolment

Out of about 40,000 Colleges in the Country, approximately 8,000 have less than 100 students. They may thus have only 2-5 teachers for all batches and all subjects. Obviously, such Colleges cannot put into practice any of the desirable educational paradigms.

I think the time has come for us to put a minimum number of students for a college to sustain and exist. I suggest about 300/400, unless there are very special reasons to relax this limit. These Colleges will have to merge with other Higher Education Institutions or close down. The only difficulty, I envisage is that there may not be a college very near the home of the student. I may even suggest free/subsidized transport, but shall like to maintain some minimum standards for the College.

So far, we have bothered only about limiting the maxima’s! I think a stage has come where we must limit the minima’s also. Otherwise, such colleges can never qualify for accreditation, which will lead to a perpetual paradox.

New Colleges

It is well appreciated that all colleges will become autonomous in about 10/12 years’ time. Saying ‘bye bye’ to affiliation system was a long overdue step and is very commendable. It is also proposed that all new colleges from now onwards will be autonomous. These new colleges will not generally be in a position to qualify the norms for autonomy and thus we may not be able to open any new college easily.

It is therefore suggested that a revised set of guidelines for New Autonomous Colleges be evolved, with an undertaking that within 5 years, these colleges will be able to comply with the normal guidelines for Autonomy, as applicable for existing colleges, failing which they will have to close down.

National Research Foundation

A good concept indeed! However, its implementation only will decide its merit or otherwise. Some suggestions for incorporation:-

  1. Sufficient grant may be earmarked for young Teachers to initiate & encourage them into research.
  2. Sufficient grants must be earmarked for real interdisciplinary research which must be evidenced by diversity in the team for the project: individuals as well as institutions.
  3. Large funded research projects, above a certain defined value, must have a collaboration outside their Institution (another Higher Education Institute, CSIR Lab, DRDO Lab, reputed industry, etc.).
  4. Project monitoring mechanism will have to be strengthened. At present, primary focus is on Fund Utilization, rather than the achievement of intellectual deliverables.
Faculty for Professional Education

It is mandated that Faculty will have to acquire another Master’s degree in Teaching & Research, besides a Master’s degree in their subject specialization. This requirement’s feasibility may be examined vis-a-vis the present size of the faculty and the average annual requirement. Also, if it is allowed to every kind of Institution to award this degree, it will be counter-productive, to say the least. Also, it will make teaching profession further less attractive, because of the requirement of additional time and financial resources.

Although excellent suggestion, I seriously doubt its proper implementation. May rather suggest the development of the proposed Master Degree as an on line course on SWAYAM portal and then mandate all teachers to complete it successfully within a specified time at zero Cost. After all, it is a National Agenda!

Kinds of Accreditation

The twin modes of BA (Binary Accreditation) and GA (Gradual Accreditation) are proposed to be retained. This will be very confusing, as BA will practically correspond to the lowest grade in GA.

Also, the importance rightly given to accreditation in the policy also mandates us to evolve practical, implementable, unbreakable practices; failing which the whole purpose will not only be defeated – but be damaging.

Role of NAAC (National Assessment & Accreditation Council)

At present NAAC is one of the Accreditation agencies, under some control of University Grants Commission. (The only other agency is National Board of Accreditation, dealing with only All India Council of Technical Education (AICTE) approved courses, as of date). As per policy, NAAC has now to be completely reinvented, much enlarged in scope and vision both. That kind of transformation in an existing system may be difficult. We may rather think of a completely different structure, ab initio.

It is also very necessary to clearly partition the role of AIs (Accreditation Institutions) and PSSBs (Professional Standard Setting Bodies). Present issues of litigation amongst regulators may give us some wisdom in this direction to be more unambiguous this time. Added to this is the need to clearly define the role of GEC (General Education Council).

Rashtriya Shiksha Aayog (RSA)

Excellent concept indicating focus and priority of the Country as indicated by having the Prime Minister to be the chair of RSA. However, the number of bodies to be constituted for its working seems to be too many. Structure of EC (Executive Council), AC (Advisory Council), SCCs (Standing Committees on Coordination), JRMB (Joint Review & Monitoring Board) and their functioning appears too interwoven. In addition, as rightly indicated close coordination with NITI Aayog is expected.

It may not be as easy to implement as stated that ‘Complementarity will be ensured between the roles of RSA and Ministry of HRD (to change to Ministry of Education)’. Unless this Complementarity is really effectively ensured, it will add several layers of bureaucracy for functioning thus neutralizing many advantages of the proposed policy. This, itself is a major task and must be simulated (if not designed) before attempting to implement the concept.

Importance to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics) Education

I find the focus on STEM Education is not that apparent in the policy document. STEM impacts on almost all employment types and careers and affects Society at large. It is thus important that every individual in the society is able to develop the understanding of STEM and to fully engage with it. The Committee may find useful in this context a VIF Task Force Report ‘Towards More Effective Education: Emergence of STEM Education in India’.

The role of creativity and innovative thinking are essential pre-requisites for meaningful STEM education as we need creative scientists and engineers to solve the real life problems facing the Society. We have to devise ways & means for the following, which need implementation at all stages of Education:-

  1. Improving Science Culture in Education,
  2. Emphasizing observational projects and pictorial thinking,
  3. Creating a judicious mix between convergent & divergent thinking,
  4. Appreciating that creativity in the Board Room stems from creativity in the Class Room,
  5. Developing computational thinking as a life style.

(The paper is the author’s individual scholastic articulation. The author certifies that the article/paper is original in content, unpublished and it has not been submitted for publication/web upload elsewhere, and that the facts and figures quoted are duly referenced, as needed, and are believed to be correct). (The paper does not necessarily represent the organisational stance... More >>

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