As students gear up for university, the devil is in the NEP’s details

Source: The post is based on the article “As students gear up for university, the devil is in the NEP’s details” published in “Indian Express” on 6th July 2022.

Syllabus: GS 2 – Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Education.

Relevance: To understand the challenges associated with the National Education Policy.

News: Along with the rest of the world, India has seen the “massification” of higher education over the past two decades. The National Education Policy 2020 (NEP) is poised to transform Indian higher education. But, the sweeping changes the NEP brings might not likely to provide the desired outcomes.

Read more: One year of National Education Policy – Explained, pointwise
How does the NEP plans to transform Indian higher education?

The NEP’s core objective for higher education is to make it “holistic and multidisciplinary education” (HME). The NEP ties the goal of HME to three specific reforms: a) A four-year undergraduate programme (FYUP); b) a “multiple exit/entry system” (MEES); and c) a nationwide Academic Bank of Credit (ABC) system for storing and transferring credits.

What are the challenges associated with the NEP?

FYUP requires justification: In Europe and the UK, the three-year format is preferred for HME. Given that the three-year format is used in reputed institutions abroad and was already established in India, the change to the FYUP as the universal norm for degrees in general education has the not explained the following,

a) Need to shift for three years to FYUP, b) challenges associated with the three-year program, and c) benefits for students in FYUP.

MEES has no necessary relationship with the FYUP: To reap the benefits of MEES, FYUP has to be modified accordingly. For instance, the first year of the FYUP must fulfill the requirements of a standalone certificate course. But it is impossible to design a single curriculum that does justice to four different courses.

Since the existing syllabi are force-fitted into FYUP format, the most likely outcomes are diluted long courses, lopsided short courses, or both.

NEP does not address the root cause: According to the latest NSSO report on education, two-thirds of those in the 18-24 age group who had enrolled in higher education institutions were currently not attending them. The three most common reasons given for not attending are financial constraints, economic activities and domestic activities.

NEP and its multiple exit and entry points will not address these issues. Instead, Multiple exit points will help in renaming drop-outs as certificate or diploma-holders. Short-term credentials will encourage families to withdraw their wards from education, especially women.

NEP falls prey to global trends in higher education: Modalities such as credit transfers originated in Europe and the OECD and were promoted by multilateral agreements like the Bologna Process, the Lisbon and Incheon Declarations.

But all these are designed to solve the European problem of excess capacity in higher education and to expand the catchment area for institutions to ensure their viability.

On the other hand, problems of Indian education are radically different and demand context-sensitive solutions.

Read more: Our National Education policy could yet rescue school students
What should be done to improve HME?

The unprecedented widening of access to higher education in India has failed to reduce inequalities or promote mobility. A far more direct method would be to provide targeted scholarships for students with financial constraints.

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