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The National Education Policy 2020 is an excellent step towards overhauling the Indian education sector to bring India on a par with other global centres of learning. The policy recognizes that the three sections of the education system (students, teachers and the institution itself) need to work as a cohesive unit to create value for the nation and address issues associated with them.

Students: The policy emphasizes on access to education in the local language and pragmatically shifts from ‘rote’ to practical application of learnings with a flexible credit-based curriculum, digitization and exposure to vocational education.

Such flexibility will provide students with customized learning opportunities based on their interests and acumen, and consequently encourage entrepreneurship and scientific thinking.

The proposal to allow world-class universities to have campuses in India, multidisciplinary universities to encourage interactions among students of diverse disciplines, and establishment of a national research foundation, will help fuel ‘research culture’ in India.

The challenge nonetheless would be to maintain consistent delivery of quality education pan-India and ensure that meritorious students receive similar opportunities irrespective of their socioeconomic strata.

Teachers: The policy acknowledges the role of teachers in shaping society and provides opportunities for their continuous learning. Here, the focus should be to provide teachers with an environment conducive for teaching, research and fair assessment, and not burden them with unnecessary administrative responsibilities.

Institutions: The creation of an overarching entity, the Higher Education Commission of India (HECI), has the potential of eliminating red tape within the higher education system and the ‘light but tight’ oversight approach over educational institutions will be a welcome change.

Legal education: The policy specifies that legal education will be outside the purview of the HECI.

It also states that legal education needs to be competitive, adopting global best practices and technology. In India, legal education is administered under the concurrent list and, accordingly, there is no uniformity in the course structure offered by different states.

Although there is an increased emphasis on undergraduate internships, exposure to these programmes for a few months does not adequately prepare students to deal with practical legal challenges. Systematic development of legal writing, court skills and innovative thinking to solve complex legal issues are prime requisites for students to fully grasp the complexities of the legal profession.

To achieve this, all stakeholders, including the central and state governments, bar councils and universities, need to align themselves in the best interest of the students and the profession itself, and further the intent laid down for legal education in the policy.

In my view, the policy is timely and well-intended. However, there must be a clear framework of how the policy is to be implemented from the grass roots to the university level.

This will require consistent political will, economic support and constructive social interactions with all stakeholders on an ongoing basis. Only strict implementation in the letter and spirit of the principles envisaged in the policy can help realize the vision to transform India into an equitable and vibrant knowledge community.

Cyril Shroff is managing partner, Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas

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