Union Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan (File image)
Dharmendra Pradhan is no stranger to student issues. The country’s new education minister who started off as an Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) student activist during his school days in Odisha, is now at the helm of affairs for school education and higher education.
Taking on the baton from Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank, Pradhan an MA in Anthropology from Utkal University, Bhubaneswar, will have the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 implementation as his top priority.
NEP 2020 that was approved in July last year aims to bring a sea-change in the academics in schools and colleges. It also envisions allowing students to choose subjects of their interest across various streams without being confined to a compartmentalised system.
While work has already begun on NEP 2020 including introduction of financial literacy in schools, committees on interdisciplinary education in institutions like IITs, the implementation timelines will have to be fixed by Pradhan.
"It is an ambitious project and close to 181 tasks have been identified under the new policy. The implementation will involve a series of consultations with stakeholders to come to a consensus," an official said.
Also read: NEP 2020 implementation on fast lane
The Ministry is also setting up an implementation and review committee that will be headed by higher education department officials, whose brief it will be to closely monitor the progress of the tasks.
As of March 31, 2021, India has 425 state universities, 125 deemed-to-be universities, 54 central universities and 375 private universities. The newly-setup dashboard will review progress at the level of each state, with special focus on the central universities.
Among issues that need clarity on timelines are coding in schools from Class 6, teaching in mother tongue in schools and colleges as well as entry-exit flexibility in college degree programmes.
A ministry official said that while work has progressed in full swing, there could be modifications made on the directions of Pradhan.
"For instance, when it comes to mother tongue-based education there has been a hue-and-cry among certain quarters even though we have clarified that is not mandatory. Hence, a few more consultative discussions could be done," he added.
On the higher education front, the rules for flexible entry-exit have been declared under NEP. But the deadline hasn't been presented yet. It is likely that this would be one of the items on the top of the agenda for Pradhan.
Board exams and learning outcome
At the school education level while on one hand there is a focus on improving the gross enrollments of girls and boys in schools and curb dropouts, policy changes are also expected on improving learning outcomes.
The education ministry had earlier indicated that a scheme of holistic report cards in schools will be implemented. Now, Pradhan is entrusted with the responsibility for this initiative.
Under this system, students will be given a score on the report card based on the new skills they have acquired, extra-curricular activities and their interpersonal skills.
When it comes to schools, the concerns around board exams will also be addressed. In 2021, CBSE Board Exams for Class 10 and 12 were cancelled in the wake of COVID-19.
Pursuant to this, revised assessment schemes for the board exams have been declared. Pradhan will be responsible for ensuring that the process is completed without hiccups and results declared on time considering that CBSE is an entity under the government.
Considering that Pradhan also is heading the skill development ministry, it is expected that there will be a higher emphasis on skill-based courses from the school education level itself. This could also help bridge the skill gap at the employment stage.