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New Education Policy sets noble goals

The New Education Policy 2020 (NEP) approved by the Union cabinet yesterday represents a much-needed upgrade to a policy framed 34 years ago and last revised 28 years ago. In higher education it sets a noble goal of increasing the Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) to 50% from the current 26% by 2035, in schooling it seeks to pull down the hard barriers between different streams, and in general it aims to equip students much better for a work ecosystem that is fast-changing and requires focus on application and problem-solving.

Read also: Less stress on boards, common college entrance test in sweeping education reforms

Of course the devil will be in the details. For example while the idea of a single regulator for all institutes except law and medical colleges is welcome, what will be important is whether the regulator is staffed on the basis of merit and allowed the pursuit of excellence independently. Or consider the emphasis on learning in the mother tongue for the younger students, which is backed by evidence about improving comprehension, but which will have to be balanced against the imperative of learning English which parents rightly associate with better prospects in the modern world.

One area where NEP does not go far enough is in working to fix the supply shortages. While it has opened the door for foreign universities to operate in India, reportedly education continues to be grounded by the non-profit mandate. The reality is that India’s educational needs cannot be met by the government sector alone. But the private sector is only allowed to help out under elaborate accounting fictions of philanthropy. This too should change.

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