Context: Recently the Parliament Standing Committee on Education, headed by Vivek Thakur, tabled a report during the special session of Parliament on the “Implementation of the National Education Policy (NEP), 2020 in Higher Education.”
Issues discussed by the panel?
- Rigid separation of disciplines
- Limited access to higher education in socio-economically disadvantaged areas
- Lack of higher education institutes (HEIs) that teach in local languages
- The limited number of faculty
- Lack of institutional autonomy
- Less emphasis on research
- Ineffective regulatory system and
- Low standards of undergraduate education
Findings of the report?
- Minimal role of Central HEIs: The report noted that of the 1,043 universities functioning in the country, 70% are under the State Act and that 94% of students are in State or private institutions with just 6% of students in Central higher educational institutions, stressing the importance of States in providing higher education.
- Better Implementation by J&K: The Committee appreciated how the NEP was implemented in Jammu and Kashmir. It said that the Union Territory was among the first in the country to implement NEP from the academic session 2022 in all its higher educational institutions.
- A paradigm shift in the methods of teaching: The panel said it witnessed a paradigm shift in the methods of teaching, leading to lifelong learning opportunities for students.
- Implementing the multiple entry and multiple exit (MEME) system is a challenging task: The panel said that Indian institutions were likely to face several issues in implementing the multiple entry and multiple exit (MEME) system.
- The panel said while the MEME looked like a flexible system, which was being operated by Western educational institutions effectively, it might not work well in the country.
- “If institutions allow MEME, it would be very difficult for the institutions to predict how many students would exit and how many would join midway. Since institutions would not know the in- and out-traffic, it will certainly disturb the pupil-teacher ratio,”.
Recommendations of the panel?
- Comprehensive awareness campaigns and infrastructural development: The panel has called for comprehensive awareness campaigns and infrastructural development in remote areas and urban slums to improve access to education in marginalized communities.
- Assessment of technological infrastructure: The panel has recommended an assessment of the technological infrastructure in higher education institutions, besides “proper involvement” of the student community, for a smoother implementation of the NEP.
- Training of teachers: The panel has recommended training of teachers who work in marginalized communities.
- Scholarship and financial support: The panel has recommended providing more financial assistance and scholarships to socially and economically disadvantaged groups (SEDGs) in both public and private higher education institutions (HEIs).
- Community engagement: The panel has recommended community engagement, besides collaboration and partnership with NGOs and civil society organizations, to ensure that the benefits of the NEP reach marginalized communities. Ensure proper involvement of the student community for the successful implementation of the NEP.
- Inclusive admission processes and curriculum: The panel has recommended making admission processes and curricula more inclusive.
- Increasing employability potential: The panel has recommended increasing the employability potential of higher education programs.
- Developing more degree courses taught in regional languages: The panel has recommended developing more degree courses taught in regional languages and bilingually
- At least one multidisciplinary HEI in every District: The report also highlights the need for every district in India to have at least one multidisciplinary HEI by 2030 and
- Increase GER up to 50%: The panel recommended increasing the gross enrollment ratio in higher education, including vocational education, from 26.3% in 2018 to 50% by 2035 by Setting clear targets for higher Gross enrollment ratios for SEDGs.
- Well-defined framework to execute the MEME system: develop “comprehensive guidelines and a well-defined framework” including specific eligibility criteria and credit transfer mechanisms, besides wider consultation with the educational institutions and other stakeholders to execute the MEME system.
- Improving the effectiveness and impact of the Higher Education Financing Agency (HEFA): HEFA should diversify its funding sources beyond government allocations and explore partnerships with private sector organisations, philanthropic foundations, and international financial institutions. HEFA should review and adjust interest rates on loans “to make them more competitive and affordable” for HEIs.
- Improve Technological infrastructure: Assess the technological infrastructure in higher education institutions, besides “proper involvement” of the student community, for a smoother implementation of the NEP. Adopt modern cloud-based technologies to create a more efficient, transparent, and student-centric ecosystem in higher education institutions. Take specific infrastructural steps to help physically challenged students.
- Improve Gender equality: The panel has emphasized Enhancing gender balance in admissions to HEIs.
- Stop ragging: the panel has asked to strictly enforce all no-discrimination and anti-harassment rules to reduce the cases of ragging in HEIs.