NEP Can Help India In Education Quality

NEP Can Help India In Education Quality

New Delhi: A study that compares elementary education in India and China, which combines about a third of the world’s population, suggests that India is about 20 years behind its neighbour China in terms of taking policy steps towards quality schooling.

The study — a working paper published last month by the Finland-based think tank, United Nations University’s World Institute for Development Economics and Research (UNU-WIDER) — was conducted by two scholars, Naveen Kumar of the University of California San Diego and Vinitha Varghese of the University of Illinois, Chicago.

It seeks to explore key lessons India can learn from China. China shifted its focus from ‘quantity’ to ‘quality’ two decades before NEP 2020 came into effect.

The authors say China adopted New Curriculum Reforms 20 years before. This has allowed China to achieve equitable development of ‘quality’ compulsory schooling.

However, it adds that “India’s NEP 2020 has components that have the potential to improve quality, equity, and efficiency of the education system”.

India’s ‘late realisation’

In the 1950s, Both countries India and China were almost on the same level in terms of approach to education, focusing on higher education, especially science and technology. 

China prioritised mainly overcoming illiteracy while India emphasised laying on higher education in science and technology. India brought free and compulsory education through the Right to Education (RTE) Act in 2009.

Between 1961 and 1981, China’s literacy rate rose to 68 per cent from 43 per cent, while India’s reached 41 per cent from 28 per cent.

The gaps between the two countries’ literacy rates narrowed, India had a literacy rate of 74 per cent while China’s was 97 per cent. 

The UNU-WIDER study shows that most of India’s improvement in literacy has happened in recent years, while China had improved it in the last thirty years.

“China has been close to the 100 percent mark since the early 1990s and India improved from a 62 percent literacy rate (of the 15-24 years age group) in 1990 to 92 percent in 2018.

Approaches to elementary education

The next key difference is in their approach to primary education.

In the 1970s, the working paper states, China made education compulsory for all, and consequently, its school enrolment increased and reached 100 per cent.

China’s push for primary enrolment showed progress in the 1990s when its secondary school enrolment rose. In India, the rise in secondary school enrolment came only after the early 2000s. 

China’s investments in quality 

In 2001, China started revamping its education policy to focus on quality education as opposed to exam-oriented rote learning. Under its new education policy, the Chinese government invested in infrastructure, changed its curriculum, reduced the focus on exam-oriented learning and provided incentives for teaching in rural areas. 

Meanwhile, India invested in compulsory and free education, midday meals, toilets facilities for girls and boys, increasing the number of schools etc, the approach, according to the authors, has mostly been to address quantity measures.

The way ahead

The authors believe India’s NEP 2020 has the potential to bring about educational reform. From early childhood care and education (ECCE), reforms in teachers’ recruitment and training to standardised tests (measuring learning outcomes using a common benchmark in classes 3, 5 and 8), the NEP can provide the quality push India’s education system needs, the authors say. 

But the authors have made some policy suggestions — adding more workers at every preschool centre, and changing the way teachers are recruited, trained and rewarded. They also recommend taking steps to ensure standardised test scores are free from manipulation.


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