Updated: August 23, 2020 11:48:24 am
In an e-Adda hosted by The Indian Express, Union Education Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank, spoke on the new National Education Policy, holding extensive consultations with all stakeholders and getting foreign universities to India. He was in conversation with The Indian Express National Opinion Editor Vandita Mishra and Senior Assistant Editor Ritika Chopra
On being a poet and finding poetry in everything
Poetry is life, every individual is a poem, their emotions, words, and putting life into words is poetry. Poetry is dedicated to others, it is born with a new vision and that vision takes people far. The New Education Policy 2020 (NEP) also has influences of poetry. It reflects the poetry of 33 crore Indian students, the poetry of their guardians, this country’s 1,000 university vice-chancellors, their subjects; the country has 45,000 degree colleges — all their emotions are reflected in this. We have reached out to more than 250 lakh villages, and they are together with us in this poetry, creation and policy.
On holding wide-ranging consultations for the NEP
This is a policy for the whole country, from the Gram Pradhan to the Prime Minister, from the village to the Parliament, from the state legislator to the Parliamentarian, from the Education Minister to the Chief Minister. We held consultations with students, teachers, scientists, NGOs. No one in the world has had so many consultations for a policy, it is the biggest innovation (navachar). There is participation from everyone. We put the draft in the public domain for seven-eight months, so that no one can say that they weren’t consulted. It is the policy of the country and we want to initiate a better future, because a child is the future of the family, the future of the country. We believe in the phrase Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam (the world is one family), that’s why we worry about the entire world.
After we put the draft in the public domain, we got 2.25 lakh suggestions. Each of these were analysed and after a lot of brainstorming, separate committees were formed for school education and higher education. About 20 such committees were formed with experts on the panel. Only after the manthan (churning of the ocean), can you extract the amrit (nectar). Who won’t want to partake of it? I am happy that 99 percent of our country has happily accepted it (the policy).
On how the government will ensure 6 percent of the GDP for education
Education is both a Centre and state subject. Six per cent GDP is not just of the central government, it will be done together by the state and the Centre. We will fulfill this aim together, because every state would want its children to study well. I speak with the chief ministers and education ministers of states regularly. The New Education Policy has come after comprehensive consultations. When the prime minister of our country talks about Aatma Nirbhar Bharat, a 20 lakh crore-package has been directed towards it. Some days back, when the PM was conversing with the country’s educationists, 1,000 university vice chancellors and 45,000 degree college principals and teachers, he said that we need to implement it together. He said I am with you. The day our economy reaches 5 trillion dollars, that day 6 per cent will be a lot. We will take this forward with the states and fulfill this aim.
On making mother tongue the medium of instruction
Educationists and researchers have said that children have the maximum ability to learn between the ages of three and six years of age. My committee had also stated that up to 85 percent of a child’s development happens between the ages of 3 and 6. People are happy that our children will get to study in their mother tongue. One expresses best in her own mother tongue, and that’s why we have said the mother tongue will be the medium for primary education till class 5– some states want to do it till Class 8, others even further.
Some people have misconceptions; we are not against English but we are saying that the 22 languages in the Eighth Schedule of our Constitution should be strengthened, else they will perish. UNESCO has expressed concern over languages in India which are becoming extinct, and has also said that one’s mother tongue should be the medium of education. The US, Japan, Israel, Germany, these are all developed countries, what is the medium of education there? It’s their mother tongue. We are not against any language, learn English too, but we should do justice to the child and his talent. When we carried out our consultations, (we found that) people who have spent their entire lives in the field of education, they too believe that if you have to hone a child’s talent, then primary classes should be conducted in her mother tongue. Which state does not want to teach its regional language? I doubt there would be any state that wants its language to die. Teach in any language that you want; what is the problem with teaching that child ten other languages, children have a lot of potential to learn.
On whether performance-linked funding proposed by NEP will hit backward states
That is not the case. This is being done to uplift them — that is the sentiment behind this policy. There are many backward states, and their GER is very low and that’s why we are doing this. I will give you an example. There is funding in Samagra Shiksha. We give funds to certain states, if they are not spent on time, should we give them even more funds? The funds are being given to improve their quality and when they start using them properly, their level will become better and they will be ranked. The states will also be worried that if they don’t utilise their funds on time, if they don’t use them for what they are designated, if they not don’t improve their ranking, then they will not get the money. So the states will also make an effort and this New Education Policy will take everyone forward together. There is no way that any state will stay backward. We will take every state forward together.
On three-language formula and anxiety of southern states over HindiThey (the southern states) are the ones who congratulated me saying we were confident that you will not force any language on any state. The Prime Minister has always stated that we will strengthen all our 22 regional languages, be it Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada or Gujarati, Marathi, Bengali, Odia, Urdu, Sanskrit, Hindi. All our languages have their own beauty, knowledge, research, and that’s why we have not forced any language on anyone. But leave your children free, why do you want to limit them? Let them learn ten languages. We have only said take one more Indian language. People who are learning Tamil, can take Telugu, Malayalam, take any Indian language. People in Uttar Pradesh can take Marathi. What can be the apprehension in taking one more Indian language? Why talk only about one or two languages, leave it to the child — let him/her learn the language he/she wants.
On how the slogan of Aatma Nirbhar Bharat will be realised in education
The Prime Minister has spoken of a new India, of an India that is swachch (clean) swasth (healthy), samridh (wealthy), shashakt (strong), shreshth (the best), and aatma nirbhar (self-reliant). Make in India, Digital India, Skill India, Startup and Stand Up and Pradhan Mantri MUDRA Yojana are all ways to arrive at this new India. Why should we have Make in Japan, Make in China when it can be Make in India for the whole world? In the digital area, why can’t it be Digital India? We talk about Skill India, we have never had a shortage of skilled personnel, we have been the leaders in the area of knowledge, science, research. So with the skill that we have, we have to progress. In the New Education Policy, we have introduced vocational studies from Class 6. With this new policy, when a child leaves school, he will not need to wander, he can master the subject that he has studied, he will be grounded and work towards the fulfillment of Aatma Nirbhar Bharat. Secondly, whether it is IIT or NIT, we have joined them with industries, we have planned a syllabus. Until now, the needs of the industries were not covered in our syllabus, and what the syllabus covered was not needed by the industries. The syllabus that we will prepare will be in collaboration with the industries. Things will change, employment opportunities will increase, and the foundation will be laid for an Aatma Nirbhar Bharat.
On giving autonomy to higher educational institutions
Autonomy also comes with transparency and responsibility, it does not mean complete independence. If an institute says we want to give a degree in three months, will you give permission? After all, there will be rules and regulations. We have shown you the way, now run as much as you can, but if the road is 14 ft, if you start running from the left instead of the right, will anyone let you walk? In any institution, there will be limits to autonomy. That’s why I am happy that of 45,000 degree colleges, we have given autonomy to 8,000 degree colleges.
On stemming the decline of public universities
Our universities have reached great heights. Situations change and universities go through different circumstances, and the government has the ability to take care of that. Our universities are doing incredible work and their prestige isn’t falling anywhere, for these we have brought ‘Uchch Shiksha Aayog’ — ‘Higher Education Commission’, under which three-four separate councils would be made. They will be under one umbrella; one will look at the syllabus, another will decide how it will be implemented and another will look at the budget and another will evaluate.
On why the BJP has changed its stance on the entry of foreign universities
Now they will come on our terms. That time (during the UPA’s tenure) they may have come on their terms. There is a lot of difference between their intention of coming and the intention with which they are being invited. We want Indian education to reach great heights across the globe. There is a reason behind us inviting the top 100 international universities. Between 7.5 and 8 lakh of our children go abroad to study. If you take an approximate average figure, this country’s 1 lakh to 1.5 lakh crore rupees every year goes abroad. Our talent and money is going away from us. India’s talent has made a huge contribution to the development of several countries. Why shouldn’t we stop this talent from going away? So, we will get the top universities here, on our terms. You are also aware that we have launched a ‘Study in India’ campaign. More than 50,000 international students are being enrolled in our country and students are also being encouraged to stay in India. The education that you are going abroad for, we are capable of providing it here. If that university comes here and we also strengthen our institutions, then why will our children go abroad? Our country will save its talent and money. In the field of research, we are working with 127 countries. The Prime Minister has said we should stress on research. He has given us a slogan. When Lal Bahadur Shashtri was the PM, we had a crisis on our borders and in our agriculture. So, Shashriji gave the slogan, ‘Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan’ and the whole country united and fought both these problems. When Atal Bihari Vajpayee came, he felt there was a need to take science forward, so he gave the slogan ‘Jai Vigyan’ and with a nuclear test, he told the whole world that India was not lagging behind, that it will establish itself as a superpower. Now our Prime Minister has said there is a need for research, so he has given the slogan of ‘Jai Anusandhan’. It means that we will lay the foundation for a National Research Foundation. We will turn our weakness into our strength. In the area of knowledge, we will get faculty from abroad.
On the apprehension that foreign universities will poach faculty
Who has these concerns? The figures that I have given, 7.5-8 lakh students are going abroad. They are spending so much money to go. If they study at home, will that be more expensive?
Second, the concern regarding faculty is good; there will be competition. We are establishing our faculty, we are not weak. It has been the Prime Minister’s vision that our teachers should be so able, that they can go and teach anywhere in the world. We will and we are doing that. The results will be good.
On whether the government will step back from trying to control universities
I have been observing things at this ministry for the past one year and I have never felt that the government is trying to exercise some sort of control over universities. If you are the vice chancellor of a university and if you have to appoint people, all we are saying is that don’t leave positions vacant, fill them up immediately. Everybody is independent, they have powers and they are using them.
Ronnie Screwvala, Co-founder and Executive Chairman, Upgrad
First of all, congratulations on the strong vision of globalisation, accreditation and digitisation that has come out in the new education policy. Allowing the top 100 universities to give online classes is a welcome decision. The challenge in India is that we have to increase at least 30 million seats in higher education, and have the right blend of online and offline classes, and especially online should push this. We all know that one in every five working professionals in the world will be in India, or will come out of India. That puts a great onus on us, and hence the NEP is timely that way. We can make India the knowledge economy of the world. This is the time to build mutual respect and trust between all constituents — state governments, regulatory bodies, universities and colleges, technological enablers and the people who are looking to future proof our education system. We also work in the not-for-profit space — with 1,200 schools and anganwadis in rural Maharashtra — and it’s life-changing for many. Your new policy will help us a lot.
Aakash Sachdev, Managing Director, Foundation Holdings
Should the government look at leveraging the PPP model to ensure the last mile reach of the online model?
There is a lot of conversation about globalisation and digitisation, and this online versus offline model. I think India was the only nation in the world that started providing 33 crore students with online classes in the wake of the pandemic. There were some difficulties in starting online classes — then we started e-Pathshala, Swayamprabha and Diksha programmes. We realised that many children might not have access to smartphones and tablets, or even the internet. To ensure last-mile reach to every child, we started the Swayamprabha platform, where curriculum could be spread through its 32 TV channels that are available 24 hours and in some places, we are also going through radio. With e-Pathshala, we are teaching the curriculum in 15 languages. And through the national digital library, we have more than 4.5 crore files of e-content, including video and audio. We have made sure that all the top 100 universities from among 1000 in the NIRF – both government and private – are giving online classes, and earlier while they only gave 20 percent online classes, they are now giving 40 percent.
The PM E-vidya platform has been created keeping in mind the PPP Model. We did Vidyadaan 1 and Vidyadaan 2, wherein we asked experts to donate their services, and we asked companies and industries as to what they would donate in terms of knowledge. I am happy to say that everyone contributed and donated under the schemes. Of course, we will bring together the state government and other participants and consolidate our resources better.
Rukmini Banerji, CEO, Pratham Education Foundation
I would like to take your attention to primary education. When the schools reopen, what will be your message to teachers, students and their parents?
A child is the most precious member of any family. For us, safety of the child is the foremost priority, education comes second. We will open schools and other educational Institutions in a step-by-step manner. We are discussing it, but in the meantime, have kept children constantly engaged through Manodarpan, where we give them assignments. A combined effort by teachers and parents has gone a long way in safeguarding the future of 33 crore children. We are constantly discussing how exams can be conducted, and are in constant touch with the Home Ministry and the Health Ministry regarding that. As and when the situation arises, we will consult the state governments on their demands.
Dr. Vidya Yeravdekar, Pro Chancellor, Symbiosis International (Deemed University) & Principal Director, Symbiosis
You spoke about 100 universities from abroad coming to India. So when these universities come to India, they are going to tie up with other private universities, which are all deemed universities. But the word deemed is very problematic and should go. In NEP, you have said that this word should not be used anymore as it is not used internationally. So will you convert all the deemed universities to University?
I am confident that under the leadership of our Prime Minister, we have overcome more difficult hurdles, and we will do the same with this. When the Uchch Shiksha Aayog comes into existence, we will make the policies and chart out a way to execute them. But we will do it on our terms and conditions, along with the educational institutions of the country. They are going to get a lot of power, which will enable them to scale all the heights of glory. As for the word deemed, just have some patience, it will all get sorted.
Ganesh N Devy, Linguist and Cultural Activist
Sanskrit is now a widely open option, as per the NEP. Sanskrit is no longer a living language, so instead, why could we not have a ‘Samvidhaan ki Shiksha’ (A Study of the Constitution) for the benefit of the country, as a widely open option?
If you read the NEP, you will realise that Sanskrit is depicted as a language. Even the Constitution says that all our languages need to be strengthened, and we should make sure they do not die. The spirit that these languages embody should be strengthened and made accessible to the public. Apart from being a language, Sanskrit is also a storehouse of knowledge. It is being taught in 250 universities across the world — the US, Australia, Sweden, Belgium and France, and at universities like Harvard and Columbia. Why? Because Ayurveda, as we know it, written in the Charak Samhita, by Patanjali, is in Sanskrit. Sushrut, who is credited with starting shalya chikitsa (surgery), is written in Sanskrit. The texts of Aryabhat, the world famous astronomer, were in Sanskrit. We will have to take our past and link it to the present. The NEP was formulated after intense discussion, research and development. As for Sanskrit, it’s another language and if globally people are studying it, why not citizens of this country?
Suneet Vats, Vice Chairman, Vivekananda Institute of Professional Studies
There has been a talk about autonomy to be given to educational institutes, in the NEP. The UGC has given us the autonomy certificate, it’s been two years, but because this comes under the concurrent list, the state government has shown some reluctance. I am sure there are many other smaller colleges like ours, that are struggling with the autonomy issue.
This is a matter of the concurrent list where the state governments also play a role, since there is a definite mandate. UGC also has its own limitations, and keeping in mind the limitations, it has given you autonomy, so it is doing the best it can. Autonomy also has to come in through the state governments.
Zishaan Hayath, Founder & CEO, toppr.com
As the technology sector holds enormous potential to transform the educational infrastructure, does the government intend to invite the stakeholders including startups, to formulate an inclusive policy?
We are forming such a platform, the NETF (National Educational Technology Forum), but apart from that, we are working on the vision of ‘One nation, One Digital’ platform, along with ‘One nation, One channel’. There is a whole new chapter in the NEP as far as technology is concerned, as the PM says that we should use technology wherever possible, especially in education. Through technology only, we have been able to get 100 universities to offer online education. The NETF will be strengthened under the NEP.
Saurabh Modi, Chairman, Neerja Modi School
The whole NEP is stressed towards globalisation, and you have said that India had an intellectual prowess, and in the past, we were cherished for that. How is the NEP channeling ancient traditions and thought process?
The NEP is an all-inclusive policy where nothing has been left out. The idea is to stand on the foundation of our ancient wisdom, and we’re known in the world for that wisdom. We are known in the world for human values, which form the foundation of our education policy. The key is to take our traditional wisdom and blend it with modernity and take it forward. We had ancient universities like Nalanda and Takshila, where students from all over the world came to study. I think there is no other university in ancient times which was so prominent like these two. The five Is — Indian, International, Interactive, Impactful and Inclusive — form the basis of NEP.
Meera Isaacs, Principal, Cathedral and John Connon School, Mumbai
How does the government propose — especially in metropolitan cities with a diverse group of children — to teach in the individual child’s mother tongue?
We have kept a provision for the mother-tongue aspect, and left the onus on the states. The child should be able to speak in his mother tongue, and express himself more in it. UNESCO had also said the same thing. There is a provision for bi-lingual studies in the NEP. Most states encourage and prioritise their own regional languages. And for those who have trouble with it, we can sort that out.
Snehal Pinto, Director, Ryan Group
Your inclusion of vocational studies in NEP is something that needs to be lauded. And with virtual learning becoming a new normal, would you use it to create e-schools for children in the villages and those who don’t have access?
We are the first school system in the world that is trying to teach artificial intelligence from school level, which is from the Class VI level. The vocational studies programme that we are starting from Class VI will also have an internship component. This comes with the Skill India and Digital India campaigns. We have asked the states to collaborate with us and put together a lab in their schools. Education is paramount when it comes to strengthening the poor of any country, and we shall do it together. The vocational education will go together with normal education and we have bridged the gap between the two, and help equip the students better. We will issue guidelines for the same soon. This is the first time we’ve had a NEP of this comprehensive nature. Students can opt for any combination of subjects, for instance, pair music with physics, and are also allowed gap years. And if for some reason they discontinue their study, they will get a certificate for the year they have finished.