India’s National Education Policy 2020 focuses on system-wide transformation, including addressing the digital-divide, inclusion and the gender gap.
The new 2020 policy comes at a time when teachers and learners are pushing boundaries, testing, and adapting to newer formats in response to COVID-19 related challenges, making valiant efforts to work through a system which has been on its knees for a long time.
It addresses a wide range of reforms aimed at increasing enrolment and retention while making Indian education broad-based, skill-oriented and contemporary with potential to unlock a part of the demographic dividend in India.
Key elements of the policy with system-wide transformational potential are:
Decreasing the digital divide: India is definitely not a nation where one size fits all— local context matters, given the unique characteristics of states and communities. Also, the lockdown has impacted over 285 million young learners in India, leading to loss of their critical learning periods due to a lack of access to digital infrastructure and tools. Catalysing digital education will aid as a lateral addition across all reform areas enabling higher inclusivity.
Fostering inclusion: To nurture talent from vulnerable communities, a significant number of freeships and scholarships from Higher Education Institutions and funds for special education are being offered, encouraging inclusive representation across demographics. The emphasis on better infrastructure, innovation and universalisation will bring back dropouts into the mainstream and facilitate last-mile delivery, overcoming geographic barriers.
Bridging the gender gap: 2020 is assigned momentous by UN Women, evaluating global progress on gender equality and human rights for all women following the adoption of the Beijing Platform for Action. Having achieved a higher gross enrolment ratio of girls across all levels of education, and the NEP 2020 promise of a Gender Inclusion Fund, India can leap forward, further advancing access for girls and transgender students.
India’s youth are the cornerstone of her future. Developing and co-creating engaging and flexible delivery models such as the India2022 coalition's Waste No More Programme are essential, as well as key partnerships. Together, the School Education Department - Government of Maharashtra, Hindustan Unilever, and Xynteo are working to support school children as change catalysts through a digital curriculum offered at all state-aided schools. This is just one of several examples of combining collaborative efforts with technology to effectively reach learning to the many.
The NEP has set inspiring goals, including to double gross enrolment ratio in higher education from 26.3% to 50% by 2035. Adding 35 million new education opportunities as well as creating special educational zones, will require some exemplary collaborations.
To unlock the NEP 2020 vision, there needs to be a strong alignment between central and state governments, investment, collaboration with multi-laterals and the private sector to spur innovation and incubate public-private partnerships at scale. If we can work together to achieve this, we can reach widespread impact, at speed.
The new policy has certainly opened doors to a brighter and sustainable future for India, and its new generations. The real test will be in its translation to action - collaborative approaches can help us deliver on the promise of leaving no child behind, building a new India.