By Amitabha Bhattacharya
So much has been written about the National Education Policy 2020 (NEP 2020) and its evolution over the past few years that it appears necessary to have the essential features and their critique duly contextualised and articulated in a book, authored by a person who has both a macro-vision of the sector and a direct experience of implementation problems at the micro-level. This book by Narendra Jadhav, a prolific writer and educationist who had served as vice-chancellor of Pune University and later as a member (education and skill development) at the Planning Commission, seeks to fulfill this need.
There are a few characteristics of the book that merit attention. Firstly, it provides a historical perspective of the sector and traces its contours since the appointment of the University Education Commission under the chairmanship of Dr S Radhakrishnan in 1948, followed by recommendations of experts under stalwarts like AL Mudaliar, DS Kothari and others, and how such reports influenced policy making at the all-India level.
NEP 2020 is also based, very substantially, on the recommendations of the K Kasturirangan Committee and earlier inputs provided by the TSR Subramanian Committee. The reader would benefit from this sweep of key milestones.
Secondly, a large portion of the book is devoted to analysing the salient features of the over 400-page draft NEP 2019 and questioning many of its assumptions and conclusions.
This is very important because this draft provided much of the factual and logical foundation of the policy approved by the government. However, NEP 2020, based on extensive consultation on the draft, is not just a distilled version; it also makes notable departures. As such, Jadhav compares the contents of NEP 2020 with those of the draft NEP, offering a critical appraisal of the additions, deletions and modifications therein.
Finally, the book is more than what the documents portray. To make the book wholesome, Jadhav makes a detailed analysis of India’s educational attainments and skill development status, examines our demographic dividend that would be available for the next 10-15 years, assesses the nation’s preparedness in the education and skill development sectors, and identifies gaps in key indicators like mean year of schooling, access, equity, quality, etc, that require to be filled on a war footing.
Jadhav also raises many questions that the NEP had not adequately or, in his opinion, improperly addressed. The contentious issue of ‘promoting disguised trusts and pseudo non-profit entities’ is one such. Aware of the resource constraints of the government, the argument in favour of encouraging private participation is understandable. If so, shouldn’t private participation for profit be considered, even at the school level? A transparent process can surely be devised so that the profit so earned is duly taxed.
Similarly, funding issues like the urgent need to enhance public expenditure on education to 6% of GDP, as recommended for decades, have been highlighted. Doubling of public expenditure on education as a ratio of total government expenditure over a 10-year period was recommended in the draft, but unfortunately deleted from the final policy document. Evidently, the ambitious targets set forth in the NEP would remain unattainable without the requisite funding and appropriate regulatory architecture.
Over all, this book contains the relevant statistics and facts, intelligent analyses of our achievements and failures, and suggests a roadmap for the future, thus providing a comprehensive picture of the troubled education sector. The book is forward-looking and raises hope.
Amitabha Bhattacharya is a former IAS officer who has also worked in the private sector and with the UNDP
Future of the Indian Education System: How Relevant is the National Education Policy, 2020?
Pp 332, Rs 900