Rustom Kerawalla, Chairman, Ampersand Group

Rustom Kerawalla is a renowned educationist, an EdTech entrepreneur, and a veteran expert in the global and Indian education policy landscape. He has over three decades of experience in working with diverse policymakers and government institutions. Recently, he was included as part of the Confederation of Indian Industry Western Region’s Task Force on Education. Ampersand Group is one of the leading organizations for providing end-to-end school management solutions to private institutions, government-operated institutions, public-private partnership projects across India, and Africa. Kerawalla has also established VIBGYOR Group of Schools which has 39 branches across 14 cities in India.

 

The new National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 has come at a time when the Indian education sector is going through a transformation forced by the COVID-19 pandemic. Physical classrooms are giving way to virtual ones, and e-learning and online education are becoming the order of the day.

The NEP brings on the table several important proposals that have the potential to change the Indian education sector and prepare it for the future. Primary among these is the move forward from the present 10+2+3 system to a more progressive 5+3+3+4 system. The proposal to teach in the mother tongue and a three-language policy as also the use of technology will go a long way.

However, the Policy has missed a lot of things which are crucial for the future of education.

A very important oversight in the Policy is the lack of a roadmap for implementation of the proposals. The Policy, despite announcing many forward-looking proposals, fails to provide an implementation plan for these. There is no roadmap for implementation of its proposals, without that the Policy will not fulfil its purpose. Implementation by PPP has also not been included.

The second most important area is in the funding of education. It talks about allocating 6 per cent of the GDP for education. Although this is more than what is being spent now, it is too small when compared to most developed countries that spend as much as 20 per cent of their GDP on education. Also, at a time when a lot of funding is required to build up digital infrastructure and technology infrastructure in schools, this allocation looks too small and inadequate. The government may need to rethink and revise this proposal with a higher outlay.

At a time when technology is increasingly becoming crucial for education, the Policy recognizes its importance. Yet there is no mention of the use of technology in schools beyond the mention of three things: Gamification apps, online teacher training and smart class. Leveraging technology, specifically for online teacher training, is good. But the Policy is not talking about technology in the schooling section. There should have been more thought on technology in classrooms which has become so relevant in today’s time and will become increasingly important and part of education going forward. The use of technology and online and e-learning has become more important during the COVID-19 crisis. This has made the development of digital and technology infrastructure necessary for schools. Policy misses this important aspect. While private schools are fast catching up on this, government schools are left far behind.

The New Policy recognizes the role played by the private sector in ensuring delivery of good education in the country. But there is a lack of attention to government schools which is required at the moment, especially in the context of technology and e-learning. While private schools have invested in digital infrastructure and technology, very few government schools have moved on this path. The Policy does not provide any solutions for government schools.

There is also a clear lack of attention to primary and secondary education. While the Policy lays a lot of emphasis on higher education and has announced many proposals for it, the NEP does not talk much about primary and secondary education which is an important element and a foundation of children’s education. This is where the Policy falls miserably short.

An important proposal in the Policy is the inclusion of vocational studies into mainstream education. While this is a welcome step, where the Policy misses out is in defining a roadmap for vocational studies beyond schools and in the higher education level. Its road ahead is not defined. About 280 million job hopefuls are expected to enter the job market by 2050, and they would need to learn new-age skills which can be provided by vocational studies at a higher level. In this scenario, a clear roadmap for vocational studies beyond schools was required. This was not provided.

Also, despite the focus on higher education in the Policy, there is an under-supply of quality education, especially at the higher education level. Today 26 per cent of Indians go for higher education. The target is to double it by 2035, but the roadmap or supply has not been defined, making it uncertain as to how this will be achieved.

The Policy also talks about bringing in an inter-disciplinary approach where students from one stream can study a subject from another stream. This is a progressive approach and has been borrowed from developed countries. Yet, there may be limitations in India in implementing this approach as it may be difficult to implement all streams of study, especially the specialized institutions for engineering, medical and management.

Similarly, the Policy talks about three language education which is good for the development of students in the longer term. Yet again, there is no clarity over its implementation. The interplay between the centre and states will be difficult here, and that has not been clearly defined or clarified in the new Policy. Taking it to all states may pose huge implementation issues, and some states like Tamil Nadu and Kerala may have problems with it and maybe opposed to this. Additionally, the availability of e-content in regional languages needs to be made mandatory to ensure inclusivity.

The Policy also talks about the creation of physical infrastructure for education. But is there a need to augment infrastructure when there is enough infrastructure available that is redundant and can be repurposed for education purposes? Investment in the digital infrastructure is the need of the hour, but not much thought has been spent on that. The government needs to rethink on this and revise the Policy keeping the need for digital and technology infrastructure in mind.

More About Rustom Kerawalla

The non-profit trusts guided by Rustom Kerawalla Foundation have enabled the transformation of hundreds of Balwadis and Anganwadis across Maharashtra. Recently, they have successfully conducted an online Teacher Training program under the Samagra Shiksha program with the Government of Jammu & Kashmir. Besides these, they regularly engage with various Central Tibetan School Administration, Adarsh Schools in Punjab and Tribal Development Department in Thane, Maharashtra for Teacher Training, amplification of digital technology, and other school management services. The Group is also gearing up to commence several projects with the Tamil Nadu Government for development & up-gradation of Anganwadis.

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