The National Education Policy 2020 focuses on strategies needed to promote research and innovation across all disciplines, promote inter-disciplinary research and make India a global hub of R&D.
Monika Gupta and Dr. Shantesh Kumar Singh
The new National Educational Policy comes with major structural changes within the current educational system, especially in terms of research and innovation. The policy exclusively lays stress on establishing stronger research institutions and promoting Research and Development (R&D) at university level, state level and national level. The National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 categorically focuses on the strategies needed to promote research and innovation across all disciplines, promote inter-disciplinary research and help India in becoming a global hub of R&D. The changes suggested in the policy provide a massive push to higher education institutions and lay special emphasis on their role in promoting research.
The overall current public expenditure on education in India has remained around 4.43% of GDP. This will be increased to 6% of the total GDP under National Education Policy. The expenditure on Research and Innovation (R&I) investment in India has been only 0.69% of GDP which needs to be increased to compete with major global players in the field - US, China and South Korea etc. NEP 2020 clearly states that the HEIs, as part of multidisciplinary education, will have to focus on research and innovation through start-up incubation centres, technology development centres, centres in frontier areas of research, greater industry-academic linkages, and inter-disciplinary research including humanities/social science research.
The primacy of research and innovation has been missing from both financing agencies and higher academic institutions in India since Independence. For the first time, the present Modi-led government has prioritized a diverse range of issues related to research and innovation in NEP 2020; attracting funds for R&I, administering funds, networking with global financing agencies, project drafting, implementation, monitoring and evaluation etc. Furthermore, considering outstanding research as a prerequisite for education and development, the new education policy suggests introducing following changes in present institutional and financing system of research and innovation in the country.
National Research Foundation (NRF)
The National Education Policy 2020 envisions a new entity called the ‘National Research Foundation’. The goal of this body will be to promote and expand research and innovation along with funding and seeding research in universities and colleges across the country. An institution dealing exclusively with research is likely to put R&D on a path of long term sustainability and rapid growth, thereby broadening the existing research horizons and filling the existing gaps. Furthermore, the NEP also talks about developing active research communities across disciplines to increase resource efficiency, both material and human.
This National Research Foundation (NRF) will be established by an Act of Parliament, providing it greater credibility and legal authority to promote research within the country. The institution would be given an annual grant of Rs 20,000 crores, which is approximately 0.1 per cent of the GDP and is expected to be increased progressively over the years considering the level of development in research.
The NRF would work to address the research centric needs pertaining to funding across all disciplines, building research capacity, creating effective linkages between various stakeholders like researchers, industry, government etc. In its initial phase, this institution will have four major divisions including Science, Social Sciences, Technology and Arts and Humanities. Thus, catalyzing quality research and promoting a research friendly environment will be the key goal of NRF which would also ensure that quality research is rewwarded and given due recognition through prizes, awards etc.
MERU: Model Multidisciplinary Education and Research University
To address 'lack of research at most universities and colleges, and transparent and competitive peer-reviewed research funding across disciplines’ the NEP brings significant focus on multidisciplinary approach to education. It provides greater leverage and academic freedom to researchers in higher institutions at different levels of research, including Masters and PhD. These institutions would work to build strong educational communities, providing teachers and researchers the freedom to choose across all disciplines and fields. This is a very significant step considering the existing system which restricted choices both for the researchers and faculty and forced them to work in a closed-centric academic space.
The policy comes with three different types of research institutions in place - Type 1 will focus on world class research and high quality teaching across all disciplines; Type 2 will focus on high-quality teaching across disciplines with significant contribution to research; and Type 3 will focus on high quality teaching across disciplines at undergraduate level. All the above institutions will be known as research-intensive universities (RUs), teaching universities (TUs), and autonomous degree-granting colleges (ACs). Thus, we see that there is a constant assertion towards ‘high quality’, ‘research’ and ‘teaching’ which forms the bedrock of any successful academic institution. This multidisciplinary approach to research was a major existing gap that hindered the growth of research and innovation in India. With NEP 2020 in place, it’s time to be more optimistic towards the research dimension in education.
Aliening Research with Academic Programmes
The NEP 2020 proposes to integrate research with academic programmes for youth led innovations, because it believes that young minds find possible solutions to any problem promptly. Keeping research in focus, new education policy proposes to offer different designs of Masters programmes to students. First, it suggests continuing with a two-year Master’s programme but the second year will entirely be devoted to research. This programme will be offered to those students who will have attained the three-year Bachelors programme. Second, one-year master’s programme will be offered to those students who will be completing a four-year Bachelors programme with research; and third, there could be an integrated five-year Bachelor’s/Masters programme with research. Pursuing a PhD degree will require either a Master’s degree or a 4-year Bachelor’s degree with research. The NEP 2020 proposes to discontinue the existing M.Phil programme from universities which has failed to address its objective since its introduction. The objective of this exercise to align research with academic programmes to make youth trained, skilled and innovative in their field of studies. By doing so, the government wants to engage the students in finding and implementing solutions to contemporary problems arising in social, environmental and economical fields.
Mission Nalanda and Mission Takshashila
These two missions have been launched thoughtfully to restructure the existing research institutions and build new ones. Institute of Liberal Arts and MERU will be set up as part of these missions, primarily aimed at infrastructural and architectural development in research institutions.
As part of Mission Nalanda the plan is to establish a minimum of 100 research based universities and 500 high quality universities by 2030. This will be to promote research on a wider scale, make the system inclusive and promote research interests and progress of the scholars and faculty. As part of this mission, there will also be a strong focus on Indian knowledge systems, promotion of Indian languages in research and greater emphasis on traditional Indian values. The purpose is to bring to the front the great richness and diversity rooted within the Indian system through research and that would also facilitate in the making of a global reputation for India.
Similarly, Mission Takshashila aims at building at least one high-quality residential institute in or close to every district in India. All institutions (public or private) will be either universities or degree granting autonomous colleges. This would provide greater academic space and credibility to each high quality institution and promote greater dedication towards facilitating research.
With the National Education Policy 2020 and its specific provisions pertaining to higher education and research, the R&D sector in India is going to benefit immensely. This will also lead to creation of vibrant knowledge hub based on the principles of access, affordability, accountability, equity and quality, providing an inclusive platform for its citizens to learn, contribute and grow, thereby not only diversifying India’s global image but also making the education system in India at par with some of the best education systems in the world.
(Monika Gupta is Commonwealth Scholar, University of London and Research Scholar, JNU, New Delhi. Dr. Shantesh Kumar Singh is Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, Central University of Haryana, Mahendergarh.)