What impact will NEP have on higher education?

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NEP for higher education
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The NEP policy drafted by the Government of India, has shifted the focus of the way education will be perceived in India. With sweeping changes made in the policy, a lot of changes have been recommended and will be implemented in the coming years.

Among the many changes made, the important change of the way education will be taught in India. With the focus shifting from rote learning to creative and independent thinking, a positive change has been made.

More emphasis on creative learning with a more liberal approach and more flexibility for students to choose their subjects will surely help students get more involved in learning and growing.

For many years now, fields like Engineering, medicine, lawyers have been very one dimensional and a go to for most students and parents.

So many memes and jokes about how students and parents choose their specialization is well known. Many of those reading might have gone through a similar experience.

One of the other problems that India is facing is the relatively low GER in Higher levels of education.

This will all change. Students will have a far greater flexibility in choosing their subjects. For anyone who like arts, literature and physics can pursue those subjects at the same time!.

A host of changes in the way exams will be conducted, stream selection, and research and timeline of courses have been implemented. Lets see the changes made in higher education by the policy makers.

Quality universities and colleges:

“Revamp the higher education system, create world class multidisciplinary higher education institutions across the country – increase GER to at least 50% by 2035”.

Current and Expected GER for higher education in India.
Gross Enrollment Ratio

Higher education is a critical contributor to sustainable livelihoods and economic development of the nation. As India moves towards becoming a true knowledge society and economy -and in view of the forthcoming fourth industrial revolution, where India aims to lead and where an increasing proportion of employment opportunities will consist of skilled jobs of a creative and multidisciplinary nature – more and more young Indians are aspiring to higher education.

Higher education must develop good, well rounded and creative individuals, with intellectual curiosity, spirit of service and a strong ethical compass.

Currently India has 800 Universities and 40,000 colleges, which reflects the severe fragmentation and small size of HEIs in the country. Over 40% of the colleges in the country run only a single programme. 20% of colleges have enrolment below 100, while only 4% have enrolment over 3000.

Also many colleges don’t have experienced faculty, hence the quality of education is very unsatisfactory.

Rigid stream boundaries, lack of access, inadequate career management add to the endless problems plaguing the current education.

To counter these problems, we must move towards a higher educational system which consists of large multidisciplinary university and college.  It would give students a vibrant communities of scholars and peers to interact with and help build the knowledge of students.

With a multidisciplinary approach, students will also find it easy to choose a subject of their liking irrespective of stream as the rigid system of sticking to certain streams has been vanished.

Along with the revamp of system, even the curriculum and assessment will also be revamped to better suit the current situation.

Institutional restructuring and consolidation

“Vibrant multidisciplinary institutions of high quality that increase capacity of higher education in India and ensure equitable access”.

Higher Education Institutes (HEI) will play a major role in the development of higher education of India. With special institutes having multidisciplinary approach will help students flourish.

“New institutional architecture with large, well resourced, vibrant multidisciplinary institutions for teaching and research, which will significantly expand reach and capacity”.

An ecosystem of HEIs across the country will be developed which will have multidisciplinary programmes which is essential for high quality higher education. HEIs will be adequately resourced and will work towards full autonomy.

Public higher education will be expanded and new institutional architecture will be established. Research institutes, teaching universities, colleges, will be set up for these specific goals. Research institutes and teaching universities shall be required to offer liberal education undergraduate programme.

Towards a more liberal education:

“More towards a more imaginative and broad based liberal education as a foundation for holistic development of all students with rigorous specialisation in chosen disciplines”.

Liberal Arts literally means a liberal notion of Arts. Indian literature is replete with instances of cross disciplinary works combining various subjects across arts and science. Indian university like Nalanda and Takshashila emphasised the liberal arts and liberal education tradition.

This critical Indian concept of liberal arts education has indeed become extremely important in the modern day employment landscape of the 21st century.

To execute the plan, HEIs will have to play a crucial role in the development of infrastructure and curriculum. Building HEIs with multidisciplinary environments and increasing interaction between different disciplines. Building a curriculum which suits this environment better and strengthening the departments responsible for the execution of such environment.

Providing students with internship opportunities within the community or research internships which will be credited to the students will boost the knowledge and experience for the candidate. 

Liberal education to energise undergraduate programmes:

The overall transformation of undergraduate education shall entail institutions offering courses and programmes across the humanities and arts, social, physical and life sciences, mathematics, and sports, alongside vocational and professional fields.

Appropriate grouping of courses and credit structures will then offer students the flexibility to fulfil both the requirements of their programme and any other interests that they may have, as well as give them the option to choose the number of years they devote to a programme through credit-based systems and multiple exit and entry options.

To enable this overall transformation of undergraduate education, the curriculum shall have:

  1. A common core curriculum/subject distribution requirement for all students and:
  2. One or two area(s) of specialisation.

The common core curriculum shall aim to develop broad capacities and important dispositions, including but not limited to: critical thinking (e.g. courses on statistics, data analysis, or quantitative methods); communication skills (e.g. courses on writing and speaking); aesthetic sensibilities (e.g. courses in music, visual art, or theatre); scientific temper and the scientific method; an understanding of India, our context, and our challenges (e.g. courses on India’s history and diversity, or on the social realities of contemporary India); Constitutional values and their practice; social responsibility and moral and ethical reasoning; an adequate exposure to multiple disciplines and fields including the arts, humanities, and sports; and science in relation to society and the environment.

Students shall furthermore be required to choose an area of specialisation called their ‘major’ (e.g. history, chemistry, philosophy, mathematics, or electrical engineering) and optionally an area of additional study called their ‘minor’ (e.g. music, Tamil, physics, geography, or pharmacy), or they may choose to double-major.

Students shall gain deep disciplinary knowledge through theory and practical experiences in their area of specialisation (major). They shall gain additional understanding of any additional area of study (minor) that they choose. Students will be allowed to choose subject combinations across the current so-called ‘streams’, including professional and vocational streams, e.g. a student will be able to choose a ‘major’ in physics with a ‘minor’ in history.

Again, students will be given some degree of flexibility in deciding which courses to take in order to satisfy the requirements for the major or minor.

Programmes will be inclusive of practical engagement with the world, with focus on language, literature, arts, sports and music.

The programmes conducted will be competing with the world of work through a robust element of skills imparted in the candidate. Professional and vocational subjects will also be an integral part of the education curriculum.

New IIT for liberal arts will also be set up in liberal arts and in multidisciplinary education and research. These universities of liberal arts will be modelled after the best universities in world history like Nalanda and some Ivy league colleges in US.

These residential Multidisciplinary Education and Research Universities (MERUs) / Indian Institutes of Liberal Arts (IILAs) will aim to become model multidisciplinary liberal arts institutions and pinnacles of excellence in education and research in India and the world, and will grow to support 30,000 or even more students at peak capacity.  

Liberal education approach to energise graduate programmes:

Masters and Doctoral programmes will also be significantly enhanced by being located in vibrant multidisciplinary communities, by the breaking of silos, and via the overall liberal education approach.

All Masters and Doctoral programmes will develop rigorous and deep understanding and expertise in their disciplines and fields within these stimulating multidisciplinary environments. Graduate programmes will develop the capacities to generate new, relevant, and cross-disciplinary knowledge – both pure and applied – in their fields of study.

The new multidisciplinary atmosphere of liberal education will help graduate students to focus their research and coursework on more interdisciplinary subjects; on research that helps local, State and National communities; and generally on more relevant research.

Research conducted by graduate students will increasingly include collaborations with faculty, with industry, and with undergraduates.

All Masters students will have some exposure to research and to cross disciplinary themes in their subject as a significant part of their learning experiences.

One of the goals of the liberal education approach will be to better connect research and education at all levels. To enhance their own connection with education, Doctoral students at HEIs will engage in teaching as a substantial (but not overly time consuming) part of their learning experiences.

In particular, all Doctoral students will take a one-semester course/seminar on teaching – both the general aspects of good pedagogy as well as aspects more specialised to their specific subject.

Masters, doctoral, professional and vocational programmes will also be significantly enhanced by being located in vibrant multidisciplinary institutions by the breaking of silos and via the overall liberal education approach.

Liberal education and research to foster and bolster each other:

The fact that so many Nobel prize winning scientists have had serious hobbies in the arts is indeed strong evidence for this important strategy.

Based on the above findings, the wall between different streams will be demolished and students will have more flexibility to study the hobby they like. Connections that the liberal education approach will develop with industry and with local communities will further encourage and strengthen high quality, and locally and societally relevant research by faculty and by graduate students, including on interdisciplinary subjects of high importance to society such as clean water, energy, environmental sustainability, gender equality, preservation of endangered languages, preservation of local arts, and more.

Programmes, degrees and other certifications in higher education:

The undergraduate degree will move towards a strong liberal education approach, regardless of subject, and be of either three- or four-year duration. HEIs may offer multiple exit options within this period, with appropriate certification, e.g. an advanced diploma in a discipline or field (including vocational and professional areas) after completing two years of study or a diploma after completing one year.

The four-year programme, the BLA or BLE in the chosen major and minors, will provide students the opportunity to experience the full range of liberal arts education. The three-year programme will lead to a Bachelors degree. Both programmes may lead to a degree “with Research”, if the student completes a rigorous research project as specified by the HEI.

HEIs may choose to call their three-year undergraduate degree a Bachelor of Arts, or Science, or Vocation, or the appropriate professional field.

HEIs will have the flexibility to offer different designs of Masters programmes, e.g. there may be a two-year programme with the second year devoted entirely to research, for those who have completed the three-year undergraduate programme; there may be an integrated five-year Bachelor’s/Masters programme; and for students completing a four-year BLA or BLE with Research, there could be a one-year Masters programme. Undertaking a PhD shall require either a Master’s degree or a four-year Bachelor’s degree with Research. The MPhil programme shall be discontinued.

Energised, Engaged and capable faculty

“Empowered faculty with high competence and deep commitment, energised for excellence in teaching and research”.

The most important factor in the success of higher education institutions is the quality and engagement of its faculty. Faculty are one of the most important component which help the working of the Education institutes. 

So it will be important for the faculty to be functioning at the highest possible level and in a smooth way. Motivating and energising the faculty so that the knowledge is passed on to students will help in the improvement of the quality of education and the teaching learning process.

Faculties will also be encouraged to do innovative research which will further add to the energising of the faculties. Faculties will also be advised with career management to also help them with proper salary and promotions according to merit of work and research.

With faculties and students motivated for research, the innovation research in the country will increase leading to a lot of positive developments for the society.

National Research Foundation:

“Catalyse and energise research and innovation across the country in all academic disciplines, with a special focus on seeding and growing research at universities and colleges – create a conducive ecosystem for research through competitive peer-reviewed funding, mentoring, and facilitation.”

Knowledge creation and research are well-known to be centrally critical to growing and sustaining a large and vibrant economy, uplifting society, and continuously inspiring a nation to achieve even greater heights.

A robust ecosystem of research is perhaps more important than ever with the rapid changes occurring in the world today, e.g. in the realm of climate change, population dynamics and management, biotechnology, an expanding digital marketplace, and the rise of machine learning and artificial intelligence.

Right now a lot of problems are plaguing research in India. A few of the problems like lack of funds, lack of research mindset, lack of research capability in university are the primary problems because of which research is not aggressively sought after in India.

Comparison of Investment in NRF projects in countries.
Comparison of investment in NRF projects in Countries

Removing these obstacles and instilling the mindset along with providing the amenities will enhance the research capabilities in India. History has a lot of knowledge written in India which states that the mindset of Indians was that of research and less of mindless work.

NRF will be responsible for

  • Fund competitive, peer-reviewed grant proposals of all types and across all disciplines;
  • Seed, grow, and facilitate research at academic institutions, particularly at universities and colleges where research is currently in a nascent stage, through mentoring of such institutions by eminent research scholars across the country, hiring excellent young research students and faculty, and strengthening and recognising existing high quality programmes at such institutions;
  • Act as a liason between researchers and relevant branches of government as well as industry, so that research scholars are constantly made aware of the most urgent national research issues of the day, and so that policymakers are constantly made aware of the latest research breakthroughs; this would allow breakthroughs to be brought into policy and/or implementation in an optimal fashion; and
  • Recognise outstanding research and progress achieved via NRF funding/mentoring across subjects, through prizes and special seminars recognising the work of the researchers.

A NRF will be set up by the government to make sure the above activities are followed. This will increase the participation and the interest of candidates in research activities.

The NRF will consist of four major divisions – Sciences; Technology; Social Sciences; and Arts and Humanities – with the provision to add additional divisions (e.g. health, agriculture, environmental issues), whenever it may be determined to be beneficial by the Governing Council of the NRF.

The NRF will competitively fund research in all disciplines across the academic landscape – from subjects such as Medicine, Physics, Agriculture, Artificial Intelligence, and Nanoscience to Education, Sociology, Archaeology, Art History, and Literature.

The NRF may on occasion identify areas of research that are of special importance to the country and prioritise funding to them, but it will consider and fund outstanding proposals in all areas.

The NRF will not directly fund defence-related or other sensitive strategic research.

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