How To Protect Yourself

Give a critical review of the New Education Policy

    In deviation from the objectives highlighted in earlier three policy documents, NEP 2020 recommends: rootedness in Indian ethos, eternal Indian knowledge and thought as guiding light of the policy on one side and knowledge society, knowledge economy, dream of becoming of super power, coupled with an assertion that ancient Indian knowledge is the 21st century education. And all the stack holders of higher education are to be yoked to fulfill the implicitly oxymoronic objectives: one component carries forward from medieval dreams of endeavoring harmonious co-existence with perennial inequality and inequity and on the other component of ultra-modern knowledge society with inclusiveness.

     First, let us try to get ourselves familiarized with ground realities of Higher Education in India in last 2 decades. Before the neoliberal era under liberalization, privatization and globalization (LPG) were started, the Social Character of Higher Education in India was basically of simplicity and intellectual vibrancy, at least in principle. After Neo-liberal assaults were started, perspectives of faculty members have been forced to change. The Teaching job becomes comparatively lucrative and in the meantime, the space for Administrative Autonomy and Academic Freedom have been narrowed down.

    In the newly emerging scenario, Democratic space for free and fair debate and peaceful protest as vibrant campus democracy have been scuttled repeatedly. And whatever little space available is focused on issues concerning mostly the faculty's entitlement or students' immediate interest such as scholarship, admission, reservation, salary, etc. The University faculties now live within their self-imposed Laskman-Rekha.
     Let us also not forget that what is happening in education particularly in higher education does not happen suddenly. It started with the LPG which was initiated during UPA Government and it has been consistently continued by NDA Government. Agenda that Education is to serve the interest of Global Capital, not necessarily for the need of the people of India is increasingly pushing forward.

     The thematic changes in the purpose and the content of the Higher Education have huge implications that the ramification may not be easy to revert. In fact, we are observing campus militarization, campus communalization and assault to campus democracy in the last two decades. What can we expect from NEP 2020? With NEP 2020, are we expecting the better or worse! This is what we are trying to ascertain now.

     The NEP 2020 highlights that the problems in Higher Education today are : (i) Fragmented ecosystem, (ii) less on cognitive skills, (iii) rigid separation, early specialization, narrow areas of study, (iv) limited access by SEDG(socially economically disadvantage group), (v) limited autonomy of teachers and institutions, (vi) inadequate mechanism of merit based career management and progression and (vii) lessor peer reviewed competitive research, (viii) ineffective regulatory system, (ix) large affiliation and low standard of UG.

     Though there is no study or research to substantiate the above listed so called Major Problems in NEP-2020, let us assume in good faith that the Government has done adequate research and supporting data are available on demand. Then what is the solution for the above problems.

     The solutions listed in section 9.3 can be summed up as: (a) Multidisciplinary Universities, (b) Merit based Leadership, (c) Online/ODL, (d) NRF to fund research and (e) centralized 4 vertical structures under a new higher authority. There are others recommendations such as more autonomy, light and tight rules, revamp curriculum, more access, equity, inclusion, etc. which may remain as rhetoric as long as centralization persists. But what do we mean by Multidisciplinary University? What is going to happen in a Multi-disciplinary University? Will there be campus democracy in the newly proposed Multidisciplinary Universities? Will there be adequate public funding?

    NEP 2020 grades the Multidisciplinary University into three categories viz. (i) Research intensive universities; (ii) Teaching intensive universities; (iii) Autonomous degree granting colleges (AC). There is one condition that the Multidisciplinary University must have minimum number of students 3000 students for the smallest university called Autonomous Degree Granting College (AC) and there are no minimum numbers of faculty strength.

    It is also said that the single stream colleges and universities will be phased out. It means that those colleges with students less than 3000 at a given academic year and with only one stream will be abolished. We can now imagine that how many colleges will be closed. Closing colleges means erasing the struggle of people in establishing the colleges. No colleges have ever started out of blue. It has humane history of struggle by the community(ies). Closing colleges also mean terminating the job of non-permanent government lecturers and all lecturers in private colleges. Shall we not ponder and act?

    What do we mean by Multidisciplinary? There is no specific mention of definition of Multidisciplinary in the NEP 2020. The most viable and safest notion drawn from the NEP 2020 about what Multidisciplinary means is this that the University runs at least three courses: one general course, one vocational course and one professional course. While we say general courses, we understand that these are traditional subjects like political science, economics, physics, literature etc and the courses are directly under the Education Ministry (as it has been renamed in place of MHRD).

    What about the Vocational Courses? The general understanding of Vocational courses is this that it trains a person (not necessarily educates) to work for a quality product- physical or service. And we know that Professional course are specialised courses of higher level. A Multidisciplinary University by design will be under multiple Ministries such as Ministry of Labour and Employment, Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, Ministry of Corporate Affairs, Ministry of Education etc. This will simply complicate the relationship.

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