The Indian government has approved a new education policy to replace the 34-year-old National Policy on Education framed in 1986. The new education policy, yet to be implemented, is aimed at paving the way for transformational reforms in school and higher education systems.
India’s Education Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank spoke to Sputnik about how the implementation of the New Education Policy (NEP) will help India’s education quality. He also shared information about the ongoing preparation of the government for the country’s most crucial board exam during the pandemic.
Sputnik: What has been the progress in the implementation of the New Education Policy?
Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank: The education ministry has been conducting consultative workshops to prepare indicative and draft task lists with aligned timelines and outputs. The implementation plan for higher education has been divided into 16 broad themes covering 89 action points and 181 activities.
States have also formed task committees to implement the NEP 2020, and they have submitted their action plans to the education ministry.
I have been personally conducting regular meetings to review the implementation and progress made on the policy.
NEP aims to build character and enable learners to be ethical, rational, compassionate, and caring, while preparing them for gainful, fulfilling employment. We are making an implementation plan with clear tasks and timelines, and we will endeavour to implement the same in letter and spirit.
Sputnik: How will the New Education Policy help students to go global?
Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank: We have already undertaken various initiatives in this regard. Through our initiatives like the Global Initiative of Academic Networks (GIAN), foreign faculties are delivering short or semester-long courses at our universities. We are also facilitating academic and research collaborations between Indian Institutions and the best institutions in the world through SPARC.
In this light, several MoUs have already been signed.
We are also promoting the ‘Study in India and Stay in India’ programme in a bid to provide a world-class education to students in India.
NEP recommends internationally relevant curricula in the sciences, social sciences and beyond, along with meaningful opportunities for social engagement; quality residential facilities and on-campus support, etc. will be fostered to attain the goal of global quality standards, attract greater numbers of international students, and achieve the goal of ‘internationalisation at home’.
Sputnik: The policy envisages the opening of foreign universities in India. What will be the regulatory framework for them?
Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank: A legislative framework is under process which shall facilitate such entry. Such universities will be given special dispensation regarding regulatory, governance, and content norms on par with other autonomous institutions in India.
Sputnik: There is a buzz about online universities. In this scenario, when the physical universities are getting involved in arguments over fake degrees, how will you ensure regulatory compliance among online universities?
Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank: Undoubtedly, the potential of digital technology in education came out clearly for all to see during COVID-19.
I would like to share that the University Grant Commission (the statutory body for the maintenance of standards of higher education) has also taken a major step by allowing universities and colleges to run digital degree programmes.
For the conventional courses, the UGC has decided that the limit of online course content be increased from up to 20 percent to up to 40 percent in regular degree programmes. The necessary regulations have been issued in this regard, and with the new rules, the number of higher education institutions eligible to offer programmes in an online mode is likely to increase to 239, and in open and distance learning mode, it is likely to increase to 204.
Sputnik: India has taken a big leap in online education, but still, there is a huge void to be filled. How do you plan to fill it?
Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank: I am glad that our education system has shown great resilience during the COVID pandemic. We successfully brought 330 million students to an online platform; many would consider that impossible.
Our ‘One nation-One digital platform’ had 1.95 billion page views post-March 2020 lockdown.
These e-learning platforms will also be leveraged for creating virtual labs so that all the students have equal access to a quality hands-on, experiment-based learning experience.
Teachers will also undergo rigorous training on becoming high-quality online content creators themselves using teaching platforms and tools.
Sputnik: The Education Ministry has declared a date for the board exams. How will the government conduct these amid the coronavirus pandemic?
Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank: Mains exams will be conducted with safety and strict social distancing protocols. No cases were detected during the conduct of these exams. The way these exams were held has been appreciated by all and hailed as an example.
For us, the prime concern is the safety of our children. The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) has also issued guidelines that state the COVID safety protocols for practical examinations and internal assessment for Classes 10 and 12. I assure you that the ministry will ensure that strict social distancing protocols are put in place, and students take the needful precautions. I am sure that we will again be successful in conducting exams.