A Deep View of the National Education Policy 2020
The National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 is one of the most significant announcements by the government this year. A roadmap for moulding the young mind, the true impact of the policy will only be visible after many years.    
 
Some of the key phrases in the policy document include reference to the rich heritage of ancient and eternal Indian knowledge. “The pursuit of knowledge (jnan), wisdom (pragyaa), and truth (satya) was always considered in Indian thought and philosophy as the highest human goal... The aim of education in ancient India was not just the acquisition of knowledge as preparation for life in this world, or life beyond schooling, but for the complete realisation and liberation of the self;” noted the policy. The policy, therefore, wants education to move towards less content, and more of learning about how to think critically and solve problems, how to be creative and multidisciplinary, and how to innovate, adapt, and absorb new material in novel and changing fields.
 
If the execution of the policy is true to this sprit, then it will not just change the outer appearance of the Indian education system but will transform its very core. And why would one say so? 
 
The present system was inherited from what British transplanted and words of Lord Macaulay still resonate on the very purpose of English education in India. The system underwent many changes but essentially retained the core reductionist principle on which the Western system of knowledge is based. The Western system assumes that knowledge of reality/object can be gained by dividing it into simpler parts. How will the atomistic view be integrated to derive the complete view remains an open question. This explains the plethora of university departments, each working in silos and developing its own world view. Attempts have been made to cross fertilise such areas as law and economics, behavioural economics, econo-physics in social sciences, etc, to derive a better understanding, with limited success.
 
The follies of this approach have been recognised even in the West. John Henry Cardinal Newman authored a book the Idea of a University which critiqued the state of education in England in the 19th century. In particular, he coined the terms ‘liberal’ and ‘servile’ education to explain the difference. Servile education is one which is tied to a utility, say employment, or economic growth. This education has a detrimental impact on the moral fabric of an individual and does not develop the discriminatory power of the intellect which liberal education develops as it is not tied to a utilitarian end. 
 
Now, the Indian knowledge system is in complete contrast to the Western system. Vedanta propounds that reality can be identified at two levels – the pramarthika (the ultimate) and vyavaharika (the relating to business or practice). The knowledge of the former is para vidya and later the apara vidya. Both ought to be acquired and both are equally important. Nor are they mutually exclusive because the ultimate reality manifests itself in diverse form. That one is, therefore, incomplete without the other, is emphasised by the Isa Upanishad.
 
The implication of this insight touches Indian life at many levels. The entire journey of an individual from student to householder to retirement is a gradual motion from vyavaharika to pramarthika. Even scientific disciplines, such as Ayurveda, recognise two levels of human body: the gross and the subtle and good health is a delicate balance between the two. In political science, as explicated in the Arthasatra, complete education involves knowledge of – Ä€nvÄ«ká¹£ikÄ« (scientific/philosophical enquiry), trayi, varta (commerce), danda-niti (law and public administration).
 
Even quantum physicists were aware of the correlation between quantum mechanics and the way the ancient Indians described reality.
 
The Indian system then progresses to explain how knowledge is acquired, what are the right means of acquiring knowledge and methods of logical reasoning. Only when an individual is exposed to such a diverse thought process since childhood that the discriminatory power of the buddhi (intellect) develops and education becomes a way of life. Of course, within this, an individual is free to choose his own subjects based on his natural inclinations. 
 
Thus, what is liberal in the Indian system is very different from what is propounded by Newman – the underlying tension between the ‘liberal’ and ‘servile’ does not exist as is visible in recent debates on educational reform in Australia to move students away from humanities courses and towards those deemed more likely to result in a job at the end.  
 
In conclusion, what path the policy adopts in future is not certain. How will the proposal of multidisciplinary education integrate to form a creative, motivated, economically productive and balanced individual? If the approach is truly Indian, then things will ultimately fall in line because of the integral unity but if the multidisciplinary education is a reaction to ‘liberal’ and ‘servile’, then not much will change. 
 
Nevertheless, the step deserves praise as it recognises the failure of the past system and has moved to rectify the same. Stress on regional and local languages, inclusivity and the use of technology are emphatic. One also hopes that the Euro-centric bias in the history of many disciplines (not just political history) such as mathematics, architecture, medicine, metallurgy, etc, are also conveyed in a proper perspective to cultivate a sense of “pride in India, and its rich, diverse, ancient and modern culture and knowledge systems and traditions.” 
 
(Saket Hishikar is an economist in the banking sector. Views are personal)
 
Comments
Varun123
10 months ago
"Even quantum physicists were aware of the correlation between quantum mechanics and the way the ancient Indians described reality"
whom does author kidding here?
dkgupta
Replied to Varun123 comment 10 months ago
Hi Varun , The writer is right and is well know fact. Pl. read book written by father of Quantum Physics Erwin Schrödinger in 1961; "My View of the World" ( original in German) ..

Pl. see what britannica says -- ref https://www.britannica.com/biography/Erwin-Schrodinger
mywopy
10 months ago
Here is the real challenge for policy makers.

"How do you convince the upcoming generation that education is the key to success when they are surrounded by poor graduates and rich criminals?" Robert Mugabe
yerramr
10 months ago
Freedom to learn in a new environment is unleashed by the New Education Policy. A thorough clean up of educational infrastructure is the beginning of NEP without which the policy will remain just an ideal. Buddhi, Gjnana and Nipunyata will be the rock bed of education whether view it in the context of historical past when Nalanda and Taxasila were the international universities in India or in the context of future. Let us wish our future children will have all the opportunities that intellect can grab with least cost. As one moves to laboratories and scientific education one should develop the capability to pay for the provisions. This is no aping the west but sheer common sense. Children are enabled to earn for their further pursuits while they are in the school through internships. This is one policy that has all the virtues of a good policy. The draft had wide consultations and diverse opinions have been truly absorbed.
k2712m
10 months ago
This article is about education or India's past?
One thing is sure. Medium of education in non English Indian languages which are very underdeveloped will only make Children uncompetitive in the Modern world. This will only benefit already educated and English speaking families by discouraging competition in higher learning which is all English.
No effort has been made by our feudal elites to develop any Indian language to World Class.
Please don't punish future generations by imposing backward languages as medium of education.
in4tunio
10 months ago
There is nothing in this article except lots of big words.
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