The New Education Policy will boost equity and access and provide education to millions of people, higher education secretary Amit Khare told Amandeep Shukla in an interview. Edited excerpts:
What impact will the NEP have in the short and long run?
The NEP will have major impact on access, equity and quality, all three of them. One, the universalisation of school education will be up to Class 12. More than two crore children will be brought to back to school. In higher education, access will be improved. The GER [gross enrolment ratio] will be raised from 26% to 50% which would mean another 3.5 crore seats. Multidisciplinary colleges including vacation and general education will improve the quality of learning. Similarly, research will be improved by the formation of the National Research Foundation (NRF). For improving equity, there will be gender inclusion fund. For SC [scheduled caste], ST [scheduled tribe] and other disadvantaged sections, the policy has recommended provisions. For backward regions, the policy advocates Special Education Zones. Thanks is due to Dr K Kasturirangan and his team for drafting it.
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The NEP moots a single regulator. What will happen to existing regulators UGC and AICTE?
Their functions will be redefined and they will be merged into the single regulator. A bill will be moved in the parliament for the formation of the HECI [Higher Education Commission of India]. There will be a repeal and saving clause in the bill. That bill is under process. Consultations are required, so may be in winter session it will be there.
The NEP also allows foreign universities to come to India. Can you elaborate?
Only the top 100 (foreign varsities). Indian universities’ quality will be improved so that they attract foreign students. Indian universities that are in the Top 100 will be allowed to set up campuses abroad. And since, we are allowing our universities to go abroad, we are also allowing top 100 world universities into India. Right now deemed universities, there are restrictions on having campuses, so regulatory provisions will be changed for Indian institutions to have campuses abroad.
The policy says IITs will be encouraged to teach non-science subjects to turn multidisciplinary. Will it not dilute their core strengths?
It actually improves. The quality of research improves when it is multidisciplinary. For instance, Covid has a medical side, a scientific side and also a social side about behavioural change. So if an institutions is looking at all (aspects), it will be more effective than only doctors doing the treatment or only sociologists looking at behavioural change. That ways multidisciplinary institutions will be better.
What is the status of National Research Foundation?
It is at an advanced stage. It will have 10 wings. Social science also has been included as a wing. A note has been circulated by the Principal Scientific Advisor.
The initial draft had suggested that breakfast also be provided in schools?
It has been included. It was felt cooking may not be easy early in the morning. So nutritious supplements like chana [gram] may be given.
Foreign universities have been allowed, but will there be systems to ensure there is no commercialization?
Any university coming here, policy clearly says commercialization will be curbed. If there is any surplus it will have to be invested in education sector. Funds cannot be taken out of education. Somebody makes money and then starts making telephones or opens transport business, that is not allowed.