Overcoming Potholes: Implementing the National Education Policy- 2020 in Rajasthan Universities

Rajasthan State Higher Education Council (RSHEC) discusses implementation of National Education Policy and measures to enhance quality and access to higher education in the state.
Overcoming Potholes: Implementing the National Education Policy- 2020 in Rajasthan Universities

India's large and young population emphasizes the urgent need to revamp the country's educational system, particularly the higher education framework. The National Education Policy 2020 (NEP) aims to make India a knowledge superpower through a focus on holistic development, innovation, and technology.

NEP has started gathering pace with Karnataka becoming  the first state to implement it. Madhya Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh recently  launched a series of NEP initiatives giving a much needed push to this mega policy.

While many southern states including Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala ,  etc have taken commendable steps toward implementing NEP, the largest state in India - Rajasthan - still struggles to meet the policy's timelines and cope with the pressure of NEP implementation in higher educational institutions. 

Rajasthan has 93 state funded and private universities which is the largest number of higher education institutions in India. While the NEP has begun to gather a fair degree of momentum, the road to its realization in Rajasthan is filled with endless potholes.

Assessing status of NEP implementation in Raj

On Tuesday, May 2, the Rajasthan State Higher Education Council held a meeting with 15 Vice Chancellors of State-Funded Universities (SFU) at Jaipur, to discuss the challenges and status of implementing the NEP in these institutions.

As an intermediary agency, the Council is helping the state government and universities to implement the new policy effectively. The meeting aimed to identify the difficulties faced and seek possible solutions to ensure that the NEP is implemented effectively in these universities in the stipulated time line. The discussion would likely help in identifying the key areas that need immediate reforms and set a roadmap to achieve the policy goals. 

One of the major points pondered over in the meeting is whether universities should maintain their autonomy and implement the NEP policy as per their own plan framework. While some are of the view that the state should prepare and dictate the norms on NEP that would be implemented at the university level.

Prof. Sanjay Lodha, the Member Secretary of RSHEC, in a detailed conversation with Mooknayak, discussed various impediments to the effective implementation of NEP in Rajasthan. "The twelve out of the fifteen Vice-Chancellors of state-funded universities attended the meeting and made a presentation on the status of NEP implementation at their respective institutions. They discussed in detail about the associated challenges " Prof Lodha said. 

He further added that considering the regional imbalances and  Rajasthan being the largest state area wise with the highest number of universities, has long way to go when compared to the Southern and Western states in India.

Majority of the universities and colleges are centered in and around the capital city of Jaipur, while the remaining institutions are scattered across the state, posing a challenge for students, especially those from remote areas, to access educational opportunities.

Major hurdle : Staff Crunch

In Rajasthan, the universities may be put into three categories. The first category includes the older ones like Mohanlal Sukhadia University Udaipur, Rajasthan University Jaipur, Jai Narain Vyas University Jodhpur, etc. The second category is of the universities that were established in the late 80s eg Bikaner, Ajmer. The third category consists of those universities that were established in the past 8 to 10 years like those in Alwar, Bharatpur Sikar etc.

The major challenge in implementing the NEP in Rajasthan colleges and higher education institutions is the staff crunch, Prof Lodha pointed out.  The ideal teacher-student ratio is 1:20; however, in Rajasthan, there are roughly around 15,000 permanent positions in the 93 universities to cater to the educational needs of approximately 15 lakh students in the state. This creates an available teacher-student ratio of approximately 1:100, indicating an extreme shortage of staff in universities.

It is notable that in some five to six universities, there is no permanent staff other than the Vice-Chancellors. These are universities that were recently established, within the last five to eight years. This lack of permanent faculty is a significant challenge as the NEP requires trained teachers to impart education aligned with its goals.

Prof. Sanjay Lodha also commented that in universities where there are teachers, there is still a significant workload challenge in implementing the NEP and transforming traditional universities into Multi-disciplinary Educational Research Universities (MERU).

Overcoming Potholes: Implementing the National Education Policy- 2020 in Rajasthan Universities
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"The responsibility of implementing the NEP is immense, and this process requires a considerable amount of work from teachers and other staff. In many cases, the existing workforce is not enough to handle this workload. The transition to multi-disciplinary institutions involves significant changes in the curriculum, teaching methodologies, and research methodologies, and this inevitably places a strain on the already overworked staff" the member secretary said. 

He also said that many universities and colleges have not adopted Vidhya Sambal Yojana as applicable in school education system since the scheme would provide teachers only for the sanctioned number of seats in any institution while the actual requirement is quite high which, presently is met by means of guest faculties.

Multiple entry & exits to create back log

As per the NEP provisions , students would have the option for multiple entry and exit in universities to complete their opted courses. There would be an Academic Bank of Credit (ABC). 

Students who have taken a break from their undergraduate courses and wish to return can earn their degrees without missing the credits earned in the previous session. However, this may create significant problems as there could be a huge backlog that may be difficult to handle. "A student who takes admission in 2022 may continue the course till 2027, which could result in overcrowded enrollments without much achievement," Dr. Lodha asserts.

Unequals cannot be equated

Prof  Lodha says that even our constitution has envisaged special provisions for special categories. When the Panchayati Raj Act was enacted, it had to be modified for tribal areas and socially backward communities. Then, PESA was formulated. Similarly, NEP seems like an idealistic concept, but it cannot be applied to all states equally, as unequals cannot be equated. With the inputs and perspectives of the Vice Chancellors of the universities, a detailed report will soon be prepared and submitted with recommendations to the state government.

Objectives of the RSHEC meeting 

- To bring different players in a single platform and initiate dialogue and discussion among them 

-To create a viable opportunity to form a state wide network of policy makers for sustainable knowledge building

- To prepare a community acceptable plan for  transformation towards expectation of NEP

-Capacity building of stakeholder for implementation of NEP

-To identify the challenges faced by the state funded University in implementation of NEP 

-To form SLQAC for the university to device a coherent role for RHHEC in implementing NEP

What is NEP 2020 

The National Education Policy 2020 (NEP) focuses on holistic development, innovation, and technology to make India a knowledge superpower. It aims to improve school and higher-education programmes, blur the lines between academic streams, open up HEIs to the world, and include more students, with the addition of 3.5 crore new seats. These reforms will increase the quality of education in India and make it a preferred choice for education and training globally. The NEP has been given a fresh impetus with 6% of the GDP to be invested in the education sector.

Salient features of NEP-2020

- Creating world class multi- disciplinary education and research universities Meru and autonomous colleges at least one in each district 

- By 2040 all higher education institutions to become multi disciplinary

- The integration of arts and humanities with STEM ( Science Technology Engineering Management )

- Imaginative and flexible curriculum structure  CBCS ( credit based choice system) 

- Multiple entry and exit system (MEES)

- Courses and projects in community engagement service ,environmental education, value based educationg, lobal citizenship, internships and apprenticeship with local industry business art and craft 

- Academic Bank of credit and digilocker

- Increase employability potential of HEIs

A mammoth exercise

As per the AISHE 2019 report, India's higher education sector consists of 3.74 crore students in nearly 1,000 universities, 39,931 colleges, and 10,725 stand-alone institutions. Thus, a countrywide implementation of this mega education policy is going to be a mammoth exercise involving multiple stakeholders at the state, district, sub-district, and block levels. Creating shared responsibility and ownership amongst key stakeholders, including the private sector, at the state and district levels that have an extraordinary diversity is going to be a major challenge for the education leadership.

Overcoming Potholes: Implementing the National Education Policy- 2020 in Rajasthan Universities
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