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Education Sector Reforms (4 March 2021)

Education Sector Reforms (4 March 2021)

Context:

  • The Government is committed to provide equitable access to quality education to all, across all levels from primary to university level, for which reforms are undertaken in the education sector.

Background:

  • The National Policy on Education (NPE) is a policy formulated by the Government of India to promote and regulate education in India.

  • The policy covers elementary education to higher education in both rural and urban India.

  • The first NPE was promulgated by the Government of India by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1968, the second by Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1986, and the third by Prime Minister Narendra in 2020.

Summary of the Debate

Key highlights of this entire reform process?

  • With regard to school education, early childhood care has been brought under the mainstream of education starting from the age of 3.

  • There is a lot of emphasis on improving the effectiveness of government schools through school complex, vocational education and regular education.

  • There is an entire thing of autonomy for all the higher educational institutions.

  • There is a paradigm change with regard to the governance structure.

  • These are all the kind of things that are going to happen whether it is professional education, general education, teacher education.

  • The previous year's budget as well as the recent union budget has also made some announcements and things are already on ground.

Significance of the entire reform process via the National Education Policy:

  • When it is reforms in education, whether it is in the school education or higher education, the central focus point is the student because ultimately we want to make our students more confident, we want them to acquire better skills and become creative and innovative, so that they can serve the country and the society effectively.

  • So, if the student is central to the entire reform process of education, we need to see how we can make them good learners because that is the starting point, whether it is the school or higher educational institutes.

  • We need to see how learning happens, cognitive science very clearly tells that learning is a process which involves acquiring information, encoding this information and storing it in long-term memory so that it can be retrieved and reused.

  • So far, the students are exposed to only lecturing by the teachers but can we go beyond that because we know from the cognitive science research clearly shows that the students can master skills only by doing things, only by observing and reflecting on the results and also by using feedback from the others such as the teachers and then the peers among them.

  • The national education policy therefore focuses on strengthening these learning practices inside the classroom and also outside the classroom

  • That is only half of the challenge, the other half of the challenge is the teacher because the teachers are not trained enough so that they engage these students in an active manner in the classroom. Therefore, the teachers also had to be trained at the bottom of the pyramid, both the students and the teachers have to be taken care.

  • Therefore, the National Education Policy talks about setting up the National Professional Standards for teachers and there is also this centrally sponsored scheme on teacher education.

  • So, unless we train our teachers also so that they are effective teachers in the classroom, we cannot expect our students to be good learners. So, both the things go hand in hand and that is what the national education policy aims at by bringing in several schemes.

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Other reforms parallel to the National Education Policy:

  • RUSA (Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan) scheme: As part of this, the state educational institutes are being helped in improving the research environment and in improving the governance systems in the Universities. Because a large number of students study in the state funded Universities and those Universities have to be strengthened.

  • Global Initiative for Academics Network: As part of it every university can invite top-notch experts from across the globe who can come and stay with us for a week and give lectures and interact with our faculty members.
    Impacting Research Innovation and Technology (IMPRINT): Launched by the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) in November 2015, to providing solutions to the most relevant engineering challenges by translating knowledge into viable technology (products or processes) in 10 selected technology domains, namely health care, energy, sustainable habitat, nano-technology hardware, water resources and river systems, advanced materials, Information and Communication Technology, manufacturing, security and defence, and environmental science and climate change.

  • Technical Education Quality Improvement Program (TEQIP): Launched in 2002 by the Ministry of Education to upscale the quality of technical education and enhance the capacities of technical institutions. Third phase of TEQIP (referred to as TEQIP-III) is fully integrated with the 12th Five-year Plan.

  • EQUIP (Education Quality Upgradation and Inclusion Program): To bring transformation in the higher education system in the upcoming 5 years.

  • Atal Tinkering Labs: Indian Government’s flagship program to foster a culture of entrepreneurship and innovation under the umbrella mission named ‘Atal Innovation Mission’ (AIM).

  • Atal incubation centers in the higher educational institutes: To promote innovation and revolutionize the entrepreneurial ecosystem in the country.

  • National hackathons: A nationwide initiative to provide students with a platform to solve some of the pressing problems we face in our daily lives.

About the implementation part:

  • Both the departments in the Ministry of Education, higher education department and school education and literacy department have already finalized a master plan for implementation.

  • They have identified what is to be done, what is the policy point, what is the action, whose responsibility it is, by what time it must be done and there are also calculation what is the finances that are involved.

  • They have also started interacting with various states because implementation has to happen at the state level finally. So, they are already in touch with all the states and lot of state governments have set up their own task forces for implementation.

  • In some states, there are some steps already taken, for example, In Karnataka, the government has made an order, secondary school education and pre-university education, the boards have been merged and it will be made one single authority for conducting examination.

  • Because of the 42nd constitutional amendment, education is now in the concurrent list that means both the state governments and the central governments are responsible for implementing the national education policy and that is the reason that across the country, the state governments are coming forward very actively and joining hands with the Ministry of Higher Education and other central government agencies and working out the road plan for the implementation of the national education policy which is a true reflection of the federal structure of our constitution.

Way Forward:

  • The skill component, the research, innovation, all these three are extremely important in higher education.

  • Any skill development innovation will not happen if it is at a macro level initiative.

  • There has to be an autonomy to the Universities and colleges. Decentralized autonomous approach will strengthen the skills on one hand and it will promote innovation on the other and it will also develop that kind of research culture.

  • Language has to be taken as something which is very essential part of learning. Somehow, in the last few years, language is not treated as a utilitarian area, it is somehow treated as a non-utilitarian area, but language is a very very important one.

  • The kind of reforms that we are going to see in the next few years, they are very comprehensive, holistic and it is not just reform tinkering with something or other, it is a complete paradigm shift from what we are and what we are going to be.

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