Vineet Gupta Ashoka University Founder says NEP reforms will need adequate funding

The National Education Policy reforms hold the promise of transforming the educational landscape of our nation. However, this transformation can only be realized with adequate funding, says – Vineet Gupta.

Vineet Gupta Ashoka University

India’s National Education Policy

(NEP) is playing a pivotal role in shaping the future of the country’s education system. There have been several schemes and intiatives outlayed by the Govt. of India with adequate funding support in some areas and gaps in funding in others. Funding is crucial for the successful implementation of any reform, including NEP and the impact it can make on the educational landscape. Vineet Gupta Ashoka University founder says, “Higher education needs proper funding and resources. It is a vital element for making the transformative NEP reforms successful. ’From investing in infrastructure to improving the teaching-learning process, it’s an investment in our nation’s intellectual capital.”

Teacher Training and Development:

NEP reforms emphasize the importance of teacher training and professional development. Funding enables the establishment of training programs, workshops, and seminars that empower educators to align with the policy’s new pedagogical approaches, ensuring a high-quality learning experience for students.

In the 2023 Union Budget of India, a record-breaking allocation of ₹1.12 lakh crore was dedicated to the education sector, marking an approximately 8.2% increase compared to the previous year’s  budget. Notably, significant reforms are planned for teacher training, which will undergo a transformation involving creative teaching methods, curriculum delivery enhancements, and ongoing professional growth. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman emphasized the revitalization of district institutes of education and training, envisioning them as dynamic centres of excellence to facilitate these initiatives.

Infrastructure and Technology:

Adequate funding is also essential to revamp and modernize the existing educational infrastructure. From building state-of-the-art classrooms to upgrading technology facilities, NEP reforms require a solid financial foundation to provide students with an enriched learning environment. The Chief Minister of Meghalaya, Conrad Sangma, noted that a significant challenge in implementing the NEP revolves around the necessary workforce and infrastructure. However, he highlighted that any system transition involving changes presents unique challenges.

The absence of any reference to the allocation for the Higher Education Funding Agency (HEFA) is notable in the Budget documentation of 2023. HEFA plays a pivotal role by providing extended 10-year loans to higher education establishments to enhance their infrastructure. Infact, the budgetary provision for HEFA experienced a significant reduction in the fiscal year 2022-23 from the previous year 2021-22. This move is in line with the Government of India’s equity involvement in HEFA. The ‘Demand for Grants 2023-24’ report underscores that the current equity investment made by the government in HEFA sufficiently addresses the prevailing infrastructure requisites of different establishments. This rationale has led to a symbolic allocation in 2022-23 and a deliberate omission of any budget for the subsequent year, 2023-24.

Increased funding will also facilitate the integration of advanced technology in educational institutions like digital tools and platforms, enabling interactive learning experiences, virtual classrooms, and personalized education pathways as envisioned by the transformative policy.

Also read: Transforming Indian Education for Global Competitiveness – insights by Ashoka University Founders.

To uphold the essence of the NEP, premier Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) across the nation, overseen by the central government, have been granted additional Rs 4235.74 crores. This allocation reflects a notable surge of 12.8% compared to their financial allotment from the previous year. Commending the Union Budget 2023-24, Shri Dharmendra Pradhan lauds its all-encompassing, citizen-focused, and growth-inducing nature. He emphasizes the Budget’s commitment to enhancing education, skill advancement, entrepreneurial endeavours, research and development, digital infrastructure, eco-friendly progress, and job generation. “This budget intricately sketches a roadmap for India’s journey to its 100th year and lays down a robust groundwork for the nation’s evolution into a technology-driven, knowledge-oriented economy,” he stated.

The process of establishing 100 labs within HEIs dedicated to crafting applications utilizing 5G services has also been proposed. This initiative aims to unlock fresh realms of possibilities, innovative business models, and employment opportunities. The labs will encompass various application domains, including Smart Classrooms, Precision Farming, Intelligent Transport Systems, and Healthcare.

Curriculum Overhaul and Accessibility:

One of the core aspects of NEP is revamping the curriculum to encourage critical thinking, creativity, and holistic development. Proper funding allows for creating innovative teaching materials, textbooks, and digital resources that cater to this updated curriculum, enhancing the learning process.

The new policy also promotes inclusivity by catering to diverse learning needs and bridging educational gaps. Funding enables the development of resources for students with special needs and supports initiatives to make education accessible to marginalized communities, ensuring that no one is left behind.

Establishing a national digital library and providing physical libraries at the ward and panchayat levels mark a significant stride toward fostering an inclusive learning atmosphere. The National Book Trust has been tasked with promoting a culture of reading through the publication of content in diverse regional languages. This budgetary allocation guarantees the practical realization of the NEP, even at the grassroots level. The combined digital and physical infrastructure, focusing on the most marginalized youth residing in remote areas, will play a pivotal role in enhancing student engagement.

Research and Innovation:

A well-funded education system encourages research and innovation in teaching methodologies, educational technology, and curriculum design. Institutions can adapt to evolving educational trends by investing in research projects and contribute to the global knowledge pool. “Increased allocation of funding and investment towards research is imperative. The current state of research funding in India is notably inadequate, and it stands as a significant factor contributing to the dominance of Western nations in pioneering scientific and technological innovations,” stated one of the Ashoka University Founders and Chairman of the Board of Governors, Pramath Raj Sinha.

With sufficient financial backing, educators and researchers can delve into novel methodologies and integrate state-of-the-art technologies. NEP focuses on enriching the learning experience and empowering individuals with the skills essential for success in a perpetually changing world. With the goal of proper implementation of NEP, the Government of India recommended the establishment of the National Research Foundation (NRF), which will enable a grant system for R&D in higher education institutions. The allocation for research and innovation in the fiscal year 2023-24 stands at ₹210.61 crore, slightly lower than the previous ’year’s Budget of ₹218.66 crores in 2022-23.

However, there has been a significant reduction in Startup India and Design Innovation initiatives. The allocations for IMPacting Research, Innovation, and Technology (IMPRINT) have been reduced along with the Scheme for Promotion of Academic and Research Collaboration (SPARC). The Budget also mentioned nothing about Impactful Policy Research in Social Sciences (IMPRESS).

Implementing NEP reforms requires a cohesive effort involving policymakers, educators, administrators, and communities. Funding aids in capacity building, enabling stakeholders to collaborate effectively and ensure the successful execution of the policy’s vision. As Vineet Gupta of Ashoka University points out, “The National Education Policy reforms hold the promise of transforming the educational landscape of our nation. However, this transformation can only be realized with adequate funding. Funding acts as the driving force behind the successful implementation of NEP reforms. As we move forward, a shared commitment to investing in education will pave the way for a brighter and more prosperous future for generations to come.”

Also read: Founder of Ashoka University Pranav Gupta Highlights – How COVID 19 played the biggest role in Digitising Education.

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