November 30, 2023

Syllabus: General Studies Paper 2


On July 29 last year, the Government of India (GoI) announced the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 as a pathbreaking initiative to reimagine the future of education.

  • NEP is expected to transform the landscape of higher education in India by making Higher Educational Institutions (HEIs) work on “solutions to the problems” rather than “solutions looking for a problem” in the following specific ways.
  • India today has over 1,000 Higher Educational Institutions (HEIs), including over 150 of national importance.
  • India currently ranks third globally in terms of the total research output, accounting for 5.31% of the total of research publications.

Challenges facing Indian HEIs:

  • Lacking innovation:Of three aspects — education, knowledge generation (research and development) and innovation — Indian HEIs have performed very well, in relative terms, in the first two aspects, but lack on the innovation front.Indian academia has traditionally been focused on R&D without much emphasis on relevance and delivery.
  • Indian HEIs lack international diversityand remain predominantly local.The lack of international faculty and students in Indian elite institutions is one reason for the poor rankings of Indian institutions.
  • Fall in professional education pursuance: According to All India Survey on Higher Education (AISHE) 2018-19, since the academic year 2015-16, the number of students pursuing professional courses at the undergraduate level has decreased by 7,21,506 (roughly 9%).
  • Fall in Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER): According to the All-India Survey on Higher Education (AISHE) report 2019-20, the Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) in Higher education in India is only 27.1%, which is quite low as compared to the developed as well as, other developing countries..
    • GER is a statistical measure for determining the number of students enrolled in UG, PG and research-level studies within the country and expressed as a percentage of the population in the 18-23 years age group.
  • Teacher vacancies:  According to UGC, out of the total sanctioned teaching posts, 5,925 (35%) professor posts, 2,183 (46%) associate professor posts and 2,459 (26%) assistant professor posts are vacant. This could be due to two reasons:
    • Young students don’t find the teaching profession attractive; or
    • The recruitment process is long and involves too many procedural formalities.
  • Accountability and performance of teachers: At present, there is no mechanism for ensuring the accountability and performance of professors in universities and colleges.  This is unlike foreign universities where the performance of college faculty is evaluated by their peers and students.
  • Lack of employable skills:  Lack of employable skills in students of technical education has been observed.
  • Accreditation of institutions:  The National Board of Accreditation should act as a catalyst towards quality enhancement and quality assurance of higher technical education.

Recommendations for HEIs under NEP 2020:

  • Under NEP 2020, Indian HEIs will focus on 3Is – interdisciplinary research, industry connects and internationalisation, the three pillars needed to elevate our institutions to global standards.
    • NEP has enabled mechanisms for Indian HEIs, such as IITs, to venture out and open international campuses across the world. This will not only increase their international footprint but also improve their perception globally.
  • The goal of increasing the gross enrollment ratio (GER) from the current 26% to 50% by 2035,India needs to not only open new HEIs and universities but also scale-up existing HEIs.
    • NEP speaks of achievinggraded autonomy for HEIs. Over time, independent boards will manage the HEIs with active participation from alumni and experts from academia, research and industry.
  • Funding:For higher education, for the first time, government promises a budget allocation for education as a fixed percentage of Gross Domestic Product at 6%.
  • The establishment of theNational Research Foundation (NRF) is expected to connect our academia with ministries and industry and fund research that is relevant to local needs.
    • Under the framework of NRF, each government ministry, be it central or state, is expected to allocate separate funds for research.
  • Multi-disciplinary institutes: In order to unleash the technology development potential of HEIs, our institutions need to not only become multi-disciplinary in their scope and offerings, but also collaborate among themselves.
    • Bringing “unlike” minds together in terms of disciplines (multi-disciplinary schools and centres), cultures (international programmes) and attitudes (academia-industry collaborations) is the need of the hour.
    • Multi-disciplinary universities, as envisaged in NEP, rightly emphasises on this aspect.

Challenges for NEP-2020:

  • Public policies do not settle in equilibria and are hard to predict: The history of evolution of failed public policies is filled with predictions that went wrong.
  • Public policies evolve and coevolve: The evolutionary nature of public policy needs to be recognised and accepted while attempts are being made to implement NEP.
  • Public policies are subject to cognitive biases: It is time that we recognise that there are pre-existing biases, prejudices and opinions — all of which may influence people’s behaviour.
  • Public policies are subject to reactivity and the Lucas critique:The reaction to policy and how it impacts the implementation of public policy is always an empirical question. But at the same time, it suffers from policy-altering behaviour, which was not taken into account while implementing the policy.
    • It is named after Robert Lucas’s work on macroeconomic policymaking which argues about the limitations of predicting the effects of change in economic policy through historical data.

It is important that we address the above challenges for implementing the NEP. 

  • There is an urgent need to establish a new organisational structure, the National Education Policy Commission, whose sole mandate is to work towards implementing the NEP.
  • Institutional checks and balances: Establishing institutional mechanisms and empowered steering committees, within the existing mandate of the Ministry of Education, the UGC and other such state and central level regulatory bodies, to continuously monitor the implementation.
  • Providing the financial resources that are necessary for implementing the NEP:A special purpose vehicle (SPV) needs to be created to ensure that the funds for NEP are available and that the implementation process is not delayed.
  • Empowering institutions of eminence and other institutions that have been granted greater autonomy to function independently.
  • Following international best practices: The watershed moment for US universities was the introduction of the Morrill Act in 1862 when land-grant universities were allowed to be set up that focused on local requirements.

The Indian Express Link:

Question- How far can National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 help in resolving the issues of higher education in India?

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