NEP 2020: National Research Foundation paves a way for self-reliant India

Updated: Aug 13

The objectives of NRF include providing a merit-based but equitable peer-reviewed research funding, suitable incentives for and recognition of outstanding research, and to seed and grow state university and other public institutions.

Manish Barthwal

On 29 July 2020, the Union Cabinet gave its approval for the National Education Policy (NEP, 2020). The committee for National Education Policy was headed by Dr K Kasturirangan along with eight other members. The first draft of the report came in the public domain on 31 May 2019 for suggestions from academicians, educationalists, and common citizens. So, what makes this policy a landmark reform for India? It is important to note that the last time education policy was changed was back in the year 1986. However, the policy failed to address various important issues and could not preempt the needs of the Indian education system. With rapid changes in the field of global education standards, and to match the level of top global universities NPE 2020 is the need of the hour.

Ancient Bharat was known for its rich culture, philosophy, scientific temperament, and spiritual knowledge. Over time, the Indian education system gradually declined. Under the Colonial regime, the ancient Indian education was either wiped out or abandoned with the introduction of Macaulay’s system that was meant to create a supporting labour force for the colonial masters. The legacy and importance of ancient Indian knowledge system was never taught to generations thereon. The previous education policy of 1986 lacked multidisciplinary approach, coordination among the funding agencies, and paid little attention to the problem-solving nature of research. NEP 2020 has focused more on indigenous culture, Indian languages, and experiences that comprise scientific dynamics of multiple disciple genres that began right from the school to higher education level (University and Colleges).

To place India in the group of world superpower it is important to focus on indigenous knowledge creation and research. Currently, India is way behind other leading countries in the field of innovation and research. India invests or spends only 0.69% of its GDP on innovation research while the figures are much higher in countries such as USA 2.8%, Israel 4.3%, and Korea 4.2%. Dadabhai Naoroji in his book Poverty and Un-British Rule in India (1901) had coined the term “Drain of Wealth”. In the early 20th century, the British government took away Indian resources and left Indian masses to live in poverty. In the 21st century, we have been witnessing a similar brain drain in which Indian students are forced to go abroad for higher education and research since their ideas and inputs do not receive appropriate response and support from funding institutions.

According to the Ministry of External Affairs, in the academic year 2017-18 around 7.53 lakh Indian students were studying abroad. NEP 2020 tries to address the issue of brain drain by encouraging innovative research by allocating appropriate funds for all disciplines through National Research Foundation (NRF) and further decided to spend up to 6% of its GDP in the education sector.

National Education Policy 2020 has called to establish National Research Foundation (NRF) to encourage quality and quantity of research in India and to work closely with already existing institutions which fund research as per their need or priorities such as Department of Science and Technology (DST), Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR), Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), University Grant Commission (UGC) and some private and independent organisations. The NRF will closely coordinate with these funding agencies to avoid duplication of research and proper coordination among them related to research innovation. The objectives of NRF are to provide merit-based but equitable peer-reviewed research funding, suitable incentives for and recognition of outstanding research, to seed and grow state university and other public institutions, where research capabilities are currently limited, and to act as a bridge between researchers and concerned government departments as well as industry so that researchers can be informed about the present need of industry or government in respective fields and government departments and industries can be informed related to recently innovation or breakthroughs in the particular field.

The idea behind NRF looks more problem-solving in nature as it encourages interdisciplinary research, supports innovative activities, and tries to address major problems in the field of research which students generally face, and emphasis upon indigenous knowledge creation and development in the field of research. The reformative steps would take India forward to become a self-reliant nation. There will be no need to import policies, ideas, or technology from other countries which are expensive as well as not appropriate to solve India’s problems since those policies are made while keeping those societies in mind, not Indian society. The NEP 2020 is one of the steps to take India forward in the field of Research and Development (R&D) so that India can regain its tag of Vishwa Guru by converting this policy into reality, the government needs to invest extensively in the field as well as monitor it regularly so that the problems which are presently faced within existing agencies like, delaying in realising the funds, duplication of research, lack of coordination among the institutions and researches can easily be dealt.

The National Education Policy 2020 has been receiving positive response from all sections of the society such as academicians, educationalists, and students. The National Research Foundation can be looked at as an important component of NEP to encourage academicians and researchers to innovate and research in India while keeping Indian problems in their minds. It will also limit Indian student’s migration for higher studies abroad and top Indian minds will end up contributing to India’s development and progress to make India a superpower in the world.

(Manish Barthwal is an Intern with Academics4Nation. He is also doing PhD in Political Science from CUG.)

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