After thirty-four years, India under the BJP government has finally received a reformation in education policy. The draft of NEP 2020, which was finally passed by the Parliament, received two parallel reactions of scorn and praise. However, there is one question that keeps coming up in every discussion thread on every community forum and among critics and common people alike: Are we improving our current system or are we ‘Americanizing’ it?
The policy has promoted an increased focus on digitalizing education. In a country with over 50% of people below the poverty line and lacking access to even the most basic of necessities, focusing on digitalization leaves many citizens behind. Some policies, like the integration of the curricular, extracurricular and co-curricular arenas have been received well by the citizens, especially since the previous emphasis on rote learning had been a strong victim of criticism of India’s education system. But, even in the policies of new stream fluidity, are we actually analyzing what is suitable for the nation or are we simply replicating what we have with what is prevalent in the U.S.? The introduction of primary education in each regional language, however, clearly suggests renovation and analysis to ensure that teachers can reach the students best without communication barriers.
In terms of college applications, we see a striking contrast against existing norms in India. A common entrance exam, similar to SATs, is scheduled to replace the prestigious Joint Entrance Examination (for one’s Bachelor in Design and Bachelor in Technology), the National Entrance cum Eligibility Test (for pre-medical students) and others. The new system highlights doing away with India’s older education traditions and inculcates newer forms of board exams, similar to what is prevalent outside India.
Another aspect of the policy proposes the development of The National Academic Credit Bank for undergraduate and graduate students, which will allow people to exit with a Certificate in 1 year, Diploma in 2 years, Bachelor in 3 years and Bachelor Degree with Research in 4 years. The system of Academic Credit Bank will be completely digital and therefore off-limits to the 90% of villagers who are digitally illiterate. Yet another adaption from the American methodology that doesn’t work for many Indians makes us further wonder whether the Education Ministry has simply been inspired by foreign systems or brought about another replica of a very different country’s education policies.
Some of the world’s top universities have also taken interest in setting up campuses in India, and the indigenous Indian Institute of Technology is now set to go global, thereby ensuring strong ties between India and the rest of the world. All institutions of higher education have to be multidisciplinary and not-for-profit. While both these measures would ensure healthy competition and wholesome education, the sudden induction of all these changes show less invention and more of a draft of what is prevalent in the west.
However some major highlights of the system, like the universalization of one test, extensive subject preferences and a better examination system that tests knowledge and hands-on-skill alike, suggest a completely distinct system that combats the sacred nature of rote learning which was previously used across all schools and universities in India. The introduction of coding and a higher involvement of students in technology and internships clearly express that the next generation of students will be molded into responsible and hardworking citizens right from a young age, and such courses will make many students ready for the corporate world, while ensuring that gifted children are allowed to nurture their skills
Despite all these contradictions and conflicts, the people of India seem highly contended with the newly propounded system of multidisciplinary institutions and interdisciplinary majors and minors. In a country with such a plethora of linguistic and cultural distinctions, bringing in a common test and similarity in syllabus across all regional and national boards is an arduous task that will demand time and cooperation from all. In time, we will know if the whole remodelling was just a replication or a renovation that will serve India well.