NEP: Role of private sector can’t be ignored

Our Bureau Chennai | Updated on August 22, 2020

(Clockwise from top right) Anil Swarup, former Secretary, School Education and Literacy, Ministry of Human Resources Development; S Ramadorai, former Chairman, National Skill Development Agency and National Skill Development Corporation; and N Madhavan, Senior Associate Editor, BusinessLine, at the BusinessLine Knowledge Series

The real problem is the financial viability and administrative doability, says Anil Swarup

The National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 approved by the Cabinet last month is the first omnibus policy on education in the last 34 years. Does the government have enough plans to implement it? Will the government get concurrence from all States? Does the government have enough funding to implement the policy at ground level? These are some of the points deliberated at the BusinessLine Knowledge series webinar ‘National Education Policy: Can it make India a Knowledge superpower?’ on Friday.

The webinar, powered by IQRA IAS Academy, Pune, was moderated by N Madhavan, Senior Associate Editor, BusinessLine.


Visionary policy

Anil Swarup, Former Secretary, School Education and Literacy, Ministry of Human Resources Development, said the NEP is probably the most comprehensive and most visionary policy that India ever had but the solutions suggested in the policy is too good to be true.

“The problem is for any idea to fructify in this country, it must be politically acceptable, socially desirable, technologically feasible, financially viable, administratively doable and judicially tellable,” he said. “The real problem is the financial viability and administrative doability. That’s where the policy is likely to run into problems,” the former civil servant said.

Swarup also noted that NEP’s suggestion of increasing educational allocation at 6 per cent of GDP has been there for decades, however, in reality the allocation is nowhere to be seen.

“At the conceptual level it’s a brilliant policy, but the only problem with the policy is virtually ignoring the private sector at least in the school segment,” Swarup said, adding, “The government will not have the money to fund this policy. They could have easily allowed the private sector to profit and taxed them but it has missed a huge opportunity.”

Lauding the comprehensive yet readable 67-page policy document, S Ramadorai, former Chairman, National Skill Development Agency and National Skill Development Corporation, said, “The details are in the implementation and not in policy. The policy framers must at least have taken some facts of finance and human capital both from policy implementation and human capital on how you do it on the ground in the last mile.”

Swarup suggested that the government should ‘prioritise’ only those aspects where too much funding is not required such as training existing teachers while simultaneously working on raising funds. “Despite the education cess, in real terms the budgetary allocation was coming down,” he pointed out. With the government likely to allocate more funds towards healthcare and safety net expenditures for migrant labourers affected by the Covid pandemic, Ramadorai suggested that overseas borrowing (ECB) can be encouraged to address the funding gap.

Emphasising that the role of the private sector cannot be ignored, Ramadorai stressed that the implementation of any policy will be successful only if the private sector as well as civil society and NGOs are part of the solution.

Swarup lauded that for the first time in the history of our country, the policy has placed vocational training at the same level of any other courses which was earlier at the fourth level. “There is a stamp by the policy that vocational training is as good as any other. That takes away the major psychological barrier with regard to the vocational training,” he added.

Research focus

Panelists also stressed the need for research focus.“The research spent by both the private or public sector is absolutely inadequate. While problems are plenty, researchers are available in plenty, collaborative research opportunities with the outside world is plenty, one of the most difficult things in our country is access to data,” Ramadorai pointed out.

Published on August 21, 2020

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