By Ashok Pandey & Amit Kumar
The National Education Policy 2020 arouses varied emotions for practising educators, parents and students. Given the pandemic, the policy comes across as an instrument of reconstruction of the education sector. To overcome the challenge of education continuity for millions of children is a humongous task, given the lack of access to technology and other support systems to a large population of children.
A three-phased approach of survival, reconstruction and leading-by-example, supported by the PRMM (Preventive Risk Mitigation Model) and ECP (Education Continuity Plan), is a potent strategy (see graphics).
A study by the Fortune magazine established that 90% of unsuccessful strategies owe it to a single most important cause: weak execution. Conclusion: only the best executions make the best strategies. The success of the NEP 2020, likewise, depends on a meticulous execution pursuing global standards of programme and project management.
The NEP 2020 has triggered the thinking hats.
How do schools look at their structure of primary, middle and secondary to act as skill-building hubs aligned with higher education, industry and human capital formation? How will schooling produce the holistic personalities imbued with culture, character and curiosity? The recruitment, retention, professional growth and wellbeing of teachers will play a significant role in the policy rollout.
Francis J Aguilar of Harvard argued that political, economic, social and technical (PEST) factors are significant influencers on the business and service environment. PESTLE, a variant of PEST, is a strategic planning and risk-prevention approach with legal and environmental influences included.
While the NEP 2020 is yet to enter implementation phase, it would be prudent to learn the lessons from past experiences (policies of 1968, 1986, revised 1990 and 1992, and educational initiatives in the past two decades) through a PESTLE lens. A candid admission of political, social and financial constraints in the NEP 1986, as modified in 1992, reads, “The general formulation incorporated in 1968 Policy did not get translated into detailed strategy of implementation accompanied by assignment of specific responsibilities, financial and organisational support.
As a result access, quality, utility and financial outlay accumulated over the years have now assumed such massive proportion that they must be tackled with utmost urgency.” An example of how policy needs legal and constitutional support is the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act (RTE 2009). The provision in the Directive Principles of the Constitution (not enforceable) to provide education to every child reiterated in each policy could be implemented after it became an Act, making free and compulsory education to children between the age six to 14 a fundamental right. The Act will face another scrutiny of law if RTE’s provisions have to include children between three to 18 years.
Another case in point is the moral emphasis on early child care and education (ECCE) in the NEP 1986. However, at the implementation phase, it did not meet the challenges of political, social and economic streams. As a result, early child care did not become a national mission.
The PESTLE analysis for education vis-à-vis the NEP 2020 presents four challenge matrices:
Critical-severe: A major challenge in the implementation phase will come from political consensus. Past experiences suggest that education often becomes a political issue between the Centre and states during the implementation phase. Similarly, how the government prepares educational rehabilitation in the wake of natural or human-made calamities is also a risk in this matrix. Allocation of funds (proposed 6% of GDP) should not remain a dream unfulfilled.
Critical-medium: The purpose of education is to build society. Health and socio-emotional wellbeing of its stakeholders is of prime importance. Does the policy provide adequate emphasis on these? How will the education system ensure a comprehensive mapping of future skills and putting in place the means to impart them?
Important-severe: The NEP 2020 states that public, private and philanthropic partnership will be encouraged in the education sector. What will be the terms of engagement? Will the government incentivise the private sector, or will it continue to regularise? The ‘light and tight’ approach raises risks of interpretation. Another risk element in this matrix is non-alignment of school education with higher education. The industry-school collaboration is altogether missing.
How would teaching be made an attractive profession for graduating students?
Important-medium: Ensuring age-appropriate learning levels, within national and international frameworks, is a concern we have not addressed adequately. The World Bank has flagged India as suffering from learning poverty. Our record of learning levels submitted under SDG 4.1.1 could be much better. The role of parents as partners in learning and their obligations are not defined. Steering clear of legal hurdles in discharge of educational services has become a concern. Initiatives taken in good faith often come under legal scrutiny, negatively impacting the morale of educators.
The PESTLE analysis of the NEP 2020 helps in identifying potential risks and challenges. A well-crafted policy has saved itself from harsh criticism. However, both the supporters of the policy and detractors have raised reservations about its implementation. As the government burns the midnight oil to roll out a programme of action, a proactive, preventive and inclusive approach to looming gaps require bridges. A robust education continuity plan at the school level, coupled with lifelong learning opportunities as envisaged in the NEP 2020, will build a seamless supply-chain for Atmanirbhar Bharat.
(Pandey is director, Ahlcon Schools, and Kumar is founder-director of Shabda-Risk Assessment and Consultancy Services)