‘New Education Policy Has Issues, Saffronisation Not One of Them’

Congress MP and former HRD Minister of State, Dr Shashi Tharoor, shares praise for the NEP 2020 with caution. 

2 min read

Congress MP and former HRD Minister of State, Dr Shashi Tharoor, shares the hits and misses of the New Education Policy 2020 in this exclusive interview with The Quint.

While appreciating the New Education Policy 2020, announced by HRD Minister Dr Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank, for its “flexibility” and “ambition” Tharoor raises some of his concerns. While Dr Pokhriyal had discussed an earlier version of the NEP with all the parties, and was receptive of suggestions, the new draft was not discussed in the last two parliament sessions, he says.

There is a parliamentary system for doing such things. 
Dr Shashi Tharoor, Congress MP  

The ‘Hits’ of New Education Policy

  • Flexibility of 'streams'
  • No Hindi imposition
  • Minister receptive to suggestions
  • Attempt to build university-industry interface
  • No attempts at ‘saffronisation’

The ‘Misses’ of New Education Policy

  • Procedural issues: no parliamentary discussion before announcement
  • Unrealistic target of 6% GDP allocation
  • Research needed more focus and targets could be achieved
  • Problematic remedies like school clusters
  • Anganwadi can't fill in gaps in primary education
  • Tendency to centralise
  • Tendency to privatise, which will drive costs up

NEP Beyond ‘Hits’ and ‘Misses’

Is Modi government carrying the UPA agenda forward? University of Delhi got 4-year undergraduate programme in 2013, and subsequently rolled back, but now it will be adopted nationwide.

This is not a bad idea. The proposed policy has multiple entry/exit points for college certificate and degree. Even if a student drops out after first year of college, she will get a diploma.

Through these multiple exit points is NEP 2020 giving false sense of employability to students?

During my brief stint in the ministry under UPA, I added ‘employability’ as a priority. Yes, a university education is not for everyone. Skill building is necessary. We entrusted Mr Narayan Murthy of Infosys to undertake a study and that report showed little to no industry-academia collaboration in India. This is something that routinely happens in the US. A mutually beneficial industry-university interface must happen in India.

But there is a school of thought that University can’t only cater to Market demands.

An Oxford study suggests that by 2030, 30% new kinds of jobs are to emerge. University education must teach how to think and adapt. The new policy has shown signs of India’s willingness to bring more flexibility to its higher education system.


Will NEP 2020 improve Indian universities’ global rankings?

The government will have to move beyond too much centralisation. We need and actionable plan plus adequate funding for this to happen.

Has NEP 2020 tried to saffronise education?

Saffronisation happens in practice in states where saffron led governments are in control. To be fair, I have seen nothing like this in the current document. Even those elements being brandished as ‘nationalist’ like teaching in the mother tongue or establishing research institutions for Pali, Prakrit and Sanskrit are based on well argued pedagogical principles.

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