SEED Academy India

The National Education Policy (NEP) has received lot of attention since its announcement recently. Several analyses and articles have written about the differences between the new and existing policy. This short write-up approaches the NEP with a singular objective- how to implement what is being planned? The NEP checks all boxes that one can possibly think about. The intention is in the right direction even though it borders on utopia. We believe that it is well begun but far from being half done. The states are yet to provide their inputs which may influence the shape and the priorities of the NEP. Politics, political ideologies and political impact on the vote bank will definitely influence the outlook of different states towards NEP. In democracy, this is expected and could be healthy. The two principal players in this new script are teachers and students. The policy states that ‘children not only learn, but more importantly learn how to learn’. The teacher must be at the centre of the fundamental transformation where education must move from ‘more’ to ‘less’ content and focus will be on developing ability to think critically and solve problems. Learning must be more enjoyable and rote learning which is the prevalent method of teaching and evaluation must be replaced by application of knowledge to real life situations. This is easier said than done. The challenge is huge and complex. At SEED Academy, we have few thoughts which we believe could be considered for effective implementation of the well-intended NEP. Coincidentally SEED is an acronym for Skill Enhancement for Employability and Development. The core of NEP appears to be about skills and employability. Before we present our thoughts of what could help in implementing the NEP, we want to set the context by highlighting our key understanding of NEP. Few numbers are not encouraging at present. GER- Gross Enrolment Ratio- which is the percentage of population in a defined age group attending the academic curriculum as prescribed for that age group- at school level is around 90% which the NEP intends to take up to 100% as per the definition of the middle school in the new policy. Middle school, as per the new definition, is for children aged 11-14 years which corresponds to classes VI to VIII. More importantly GER slides down to 56% as one moves to classes XI and XII. How does one improve the GER so that children finish school education as per new policy? In the new policy vocational courses will be introduced in the middle school where 10 days in an academic year will be ‘bagless’. The NEP proposes that school children will learn from carpenters and people in similar profession to explore what interests the child. Are our carpenters and similarly engaged people capable of imparting vocational training? The answer is no. There is lot of emphasis in the policy on ‘foundational literacy and numeracy’. As the name suggests, the child must be able to read, write and perform basic arithmetic after by the age of eight years. Excellent aspiration. How does one achieve this goal? Teachers are expected to make classes interesting and enjoyable. B Ed will be a 4-year degree programme with lot of emphasis on experiential learning, pedagogy, and emphasis of ‘doing’ in class. The question is how many youngsters consider teaching as an aspirational career choice? Higher education (post school) has lesser emphasis and pages dedicated to itself in the NEP as compared to the pages on school education. The emphasis is on an amalgamation of arts with science and mathematics with liberty of choice of subjects, the right to drop off and join back and similar flexibilities as seen in developed countries during college and university education. Does this suit the business of education in our country? This needs to be seen and new models will emerge. Vocational training of people in the age group of 19-24 years is only 5% as per the 12th Five Year Plan (2012-2017) as compared to 52% in USA, 75% in Germany and 96% in South Korea. The policy document accepts that the perception of vocational education is inferior to that of mainstream education. How does one address this issue? India is an agrarian economy. A normal monsoon which is anticipated has raised hopes of a fightback to the impact of pandemic on majority of the industry sectors which have been badly impacted. Agricultural universities in India constitute 9% of the total university. However, it enrols only 1% of the students. This is a serious issue. How does one address it? Finally, only 0.69% of GDP in India is invested in research and development compared to 2.8% in USA, 4.3% in Israel and 4.2% in South Korea. The contribution of Indians to R&D in western countries is an established fact. Why do the bright minds do not stay back in India to discover and invent? How do we encourage bright minds to stay back in India to fulfil their dreams of research and development? At SEED Academy we believe that a 3-pronged approach is needed to successfully implement the NEP.

Brief thoughts on each of the above.

Social transformation

I am reminded of an article by an Economist from Princeton University which mentioned that economists are too busy to prove hypotheses using mathematical modelling while neglecting the importance of change in behaviour and social transformation to achieve a desired goal. Building toilets is a step in the right direction. However, an individual who is used to open defecation needs to change the behaviour to use the toilets. Else the toilets will not serve the final mission of cleanliness and hygiene. We believe the implementation of the NEP needs similar social transformation. Few thoughts which could drive this transformation are:

  • Replace midday meals by morning breakfast. Research has shown that midday meals are an attraction for parents to send their children to school. Morning hours are most productive to learn and the breakfast is the most important meal for the day. 
  • The young mother must be enrolled in adult education. She learns. She teaches her child. This could change the outlook towards education. 
  • Girl child drops off once puberty is attained due to stigma and hassles of managing the menstrual cycle. Free distribution of sanitary pads which are made by sponsoring self-help groups in the local areas could serve more than one purpose. 
  • There is a mention in the NEP about popularising teaching as a profession to create local teachers. Men and women both must be motivated to take up teaching as a profession. The attractiveness of the social standing of a teacher needs to be restored as it was in the past. 
  • Villages, talukas, districts must be incentivised to increase GER till the school level. Competition within the state and national level (like smart city concept) with appropriate social recognition of the members in the ecosystem is must for higher inclusiveness at all levels

Integrated efforts

Education is perceived to be the gateway for an aspirational life and livelihood. This needs to be reinforced at all levels. PPP model is the only way forward. Few thoughts:

  • CSR spends is mandatory for corporate houses. Depending on the CSR amount, corporates must be engaged for implementing the NEP at the village, taluka, and district level. The funds must be used for building school related infrastructure including technology, training and development of teachers, child nutrition and maternal health and hygiene. This could be the input for the competition mentioned in the section on social transformation. 
  • Corporate houses can also be asked to create the facilities needed for imparting vocational training as planned at the school level. 
  • Recruitment of vocationally trained students after finishing school by the corporate organizations will enhance the importance of vocational training in the mind of the students and the parents. 
  • Connecting national and multinational organizations engaged in agriculture and related industries with the aspirations of the youth in the village is a must for ensuring higher enrolment in higher education in agricultural universities. The business of agriculture needs to be popularised through well-designed PPP models. 
  • Recent trend has shown that students graduating from prestigious colleges have opted to work in the social sector. Corporates must create such job roles to attract the best talent to work for the sector without sacrificing on the materialistic benefits with the jobs in other sectors. 
  • As an alumnus of IIT, I can state with personal experience that core engineering has lost its sheen in India. Corporate India must create exciting job opportunities for what I fondly call ‘blue collar’ engineering to retain the best talent to remain in engineering and not gravitate to MBA education for better career prospects. 

Policy and advocacy 

The government must formulate easy to implement policies and ensure that the policies are enforced as desired. Moreover, a well thought out campaign which is consistent and continuous is needed to create and correct perception regarding education and the importance of education in the future of India. Few thoughts: 

  • No child labour policy. Minimum age for labour recruitment must be 18 years with minimum school education (with exposure to vocational training). 
  • Incentives for parents for ensuring children go to school. Similarly, penalty for not sending children to school must be also introduced 
  • Strict monitoring and implementation of development of teachers with career progression is a must to attract better students to pick up teaching as a profession. Political influence in the appointment and progression of teaching and allied staff must be eliminated. 
  • Technology based companies must invest a percentage of their R&D investments for addressing problems and issues which emerge while implementing the NEP 

In conclusion, NEP is a step in the right direction. However, as Frost would have said-there is miles to go before we sleep. At least the dream of India being a knowledge-based superpower is a good beginning. 

Leave a Comment

Call Now ButtonCall Now