The New Education Policy (NEP) and Management / Business Education

New Education Policy

India’s New Education Policy was launched on July 29, 2020, and has a stated objective of making “India a global knowledge superpower.” It is quite a short document of about 66 pages and consists of four parts covering school education, higher education, other key areas such as adult education and life-long learning, and finally an implementation section that aims to have the complete policy operative in the fourth decade of this century, after which there will be another review. That really means that the implementation has to start immediately, and has to be completed in ten years, by the end of 1930.

The New Education Policy 2020 (to differentiate it from previous policy documents and labelled NEP for short) has attracted much attention and has been both applauded and criticized by various groups. Obviously, the education sector has taken both sides, with school educationists concentrating on the policy for primary and secondary education, although the NEP classifies these as Foundational, Preparatory, Middle, and Secondary “classes;” while educationists of Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) have ruminated on the kinds of changes that the NEP will bring to schools and colleges.

I’d like to take an even more focussed view of the NEP, insofar as it relates to management and business education. In the past, business education has been classified under technical education, and the NEP does not make any changes in that. Surprisingly, technical education all by itself rates only one paragraph in the NEP, although technical education does find mention while discussing the transformation of HEIs under the NEP. Paragraph 20.6 in Part II on Higher Education talks about the role of technical education in the NEP.  The paragraph enumerates the different kinds of technical education, and includes management as one of the types of technical education, along with engineering, technology, architecture, town planning, pharmacy, hotel management and catering technology. It affirms that we are likely to see higher demands for people with this education, but also mentions that this requires a close connection between industry and academics. This nexus is required to drive research and innovation in these areas. It also mentions the role of technology in fashioning human behaviour, and how this is likely to break down the barriers between technical and general education. It emphasizes a multi-disciplinary approach to the availability of technical education in HEIs. It also declares that technical education should bring India into the lead in creating professionals well-versed in cutting-edge technologies, such as artificial intelligence, big data, machine learning, as well as various medical and health disciplines such as genomics, biotechnology and nanotechnology. It envisages that these advanced technologies could be woven into undergraduate education, so that Indian youth are able to make careers in these areas, and contribute to sustainable development.

While that does not give us too many details as to how business/management education is likely to change in the future, we also have to look at the general higher education proposals and how that will impact business/management education. The NEP envisages that the structure of HEIs should change from the current hodgepodge of universities, affiliated colleges, autonomous institutions offering disparate, and in many cases, only one type of education at the undergraduate and/or graduate levels, into a structure where universities offering an omnibus approach to higher education would prevail. This means that affiliated colleges, autonomous institutions and narrow-scope HEIs would disappear, to emerge as fully-fledged universities, undertaking research in both traditional areas as well as technical areas (again emphasizing a multi-disciplinary approach). In many ways, the NEP appears to be influenced by an American model of either land grant universities or private universities, but mainly of the R1 and R2 types, with an emphasis on research. In fact, the NEP also envisions the establishment of a National Research Foundation, similar to the American National Science Foundation that funds much of the research in American universities.

The massive reorganization that we can foresee in higher education is both needed and troubling. We have heard stories about how engineering and management schools have been forced to close due to lack of demand. Thus the change to a more centralized system will, by necessity, weed out the weaker stand-alone management or engineering school or an affiliated college, but it has important ramifications for rural and first-generation students who cannot travel far from home to get a higher education. The concept of an affiliated college is to make up for the lack of resources to set up universities in remote and rural areas. In many ways, the affiliated college serves the function of a community college in the American environment. The affiliated college exists to satisfy the needs of the local community and provides an opportunity for many first-generation college students. The NEP is also not clear on the role of ITIs and polytechnics in the future. While it desires to move vocational education further down into the high school level, and also talks of the cooperation between these vocational schools and the high schools, it does not make explicit the role of vocational schools in the future.

Indian higher education has evolved into the way it is structured based on many factors, but not necessarily in a unified style. For instance, the evolution of the PGDM school, itself as a by-product of the establishment of the IIMs by the central government, function as a means of providing a higher quality management education than the traditional MBA degree offered by universities. Over the years, the function and rationale of the stand-alone institution offering a PGDM have crystallized into what it is today. While it is in the nature of things that change is inevitable, the proposed NEP does not offer much clarity as to how these stand-alone institutions will evolve, and what their new role, if any, will be.

In the next instalment, we will try to understand how management/business education will change with the policy of allowing foreign educational institutions into the Indian higher education environment.

Dr. Ashok Natarajan
Professor, Rajalakshmi School of Business, Chennai
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