KAUTILYA OPINION

NEP 2020 : How can India become center for public policy education in next five years?

    • Sridhar Pabbisetty, Founding Director – Kautilya School of Public Policy

Instead of looking at public policy professionals to be anchored in just arts and humanities, India must create a new generation of nation builders trained in Public Policy and learn from diverse disciplines such as law, management, technology, economics, and humanities.

India is a desirable destination in the global higher education space. Our demographic dividend will allow us to have the highest population of young people globally over the next decade. We need to reset our higher education offerings that will be in sync with our nation’s emerging needs and our region and the world.

When we take a closer look at the arena of public policy, specifically – India’s Act East policy has far-reaching implications in entire Southeast Asia. Over the years, China’s policies ranging from greater engagement with ASEAN, the formation of the Shangai Cooperation Organisation, debt diplomacy, and the recent Belt Road Initiative, show a reordering of the regional dynamics.

The US-China standoff, changing relations between countries in the middle east, etc., will lead to the emergence of new world order.

Domestically speaking, the repealing of close to 1500 acts during the 2014 to 2019 Lok Sabha tenure is an impressive feat considering that less than 2000 acts were repealed over the previous six decades. The emphasis on “Minimum Government Maximum Governance” and attempts to increase the “Ease of Doing Business” all point to a fresh impetus to change the way governance was done in India till recently.

As the 2012 article by CommonWealth Foundation says – “Governance is too important and complex to be left to governments alone.” Good governance will be brought about only when Society, Businesses, and Government come together and explore ways of working together to usher in more citizen-centric governance mechanisms. For a long time, in India and many other countries, public policymaking has been the domain of mainly the bureaucracy. What began in the UK under John Major, the “Citizen Charter” movement, has over the last decade resulted in various states starting to deliver the “Right to Public Services.”

Innovation in different fields: Further innovation by multiple states like Delhi, Karnataka, and other states, many public services are being offered at the doorstep. Other stakeholders’ inputs and opinions are rarely sought in a welcoming manner, and even if suggestions are received, they are less likely to be incorporated. The journey of “Changing the way we govern ourselves” demands the best and the brightest to be involved in nation-building and continue to become more citizen and business-friendly.

NEP aims to increase gross enrollment ratio: The National Education Policy 2020 rightly identifies the need to double the Gross Enrollment Ration to 50 percent by 2035 from the GER of 2018, which stood at 26.3 percent. The higher educational institutions across disciplines will have to add over three crore seats.

New generation of nation-builders: Instead of looking at public policy professionals to be anchored in just arts and humanities, India must create a new generation of nation builders trained in Public Policy and learn from diverse disciplines such as law, management, technology, economics, and humanities.

In addition to the reconfiguration of geopolitics, innovation in public services delivery, rapid advances in technology, and its implications necessitate progressive regulation to protect the privacy and thwart the threat of a jobless future. All of this adds to the need for professionalizing public policy. NEP rightfully encourages holistic and multidisciplinary education.

Emphasis must be to provide lifelong learning as compared to the long-standing – “finish college” and then “start working” mindset.

The logical fallout from NEP should lead well-functioning higher educational Institutions to dream big and move away from centrally controlled by cumbersome and lengthy Government regulations. NEP implementation should encourage them to become board-administered autonomous institutions that will respond to the country’s diverse needs and beyond.

The present-day, low-trust, high-touch regulatory approach needs to be replaced with a trust-but-verify mode, giving the better performing institutions greater autonomy to develop long-term roadmaps for emerging areas like public policy.

Different public policy courses: Public policy courses designed to keep Indian ethos with the western public policy frameworks will be essential ingredients to move towards a better-governed nation given the above set of conditions. Our students and faculty must blend ancient wisdom from texts like Kautilya’s Arthashastra, Bhartrihari’s Niti Shatakam, and others that capture the local realities and cultural context.

These texts cover various aspects of governance, ranging from ethics, economics, law, politics, military, spies, intelligence to logistics when combined with proven western governance mechanisms that have given excellent results.

With every crisis comes an opportunity to leapfrog to a new normal. Many lessons from India are relevant to the Commonwealth countries, South and Southeast Asian countries that share similar governance mechanisms.

As cooperative federalism is taking more center stage, many more opportunities will open up at the state level along with the national level for bringing in these reforms in the government sector. Many new areas are getting deregulated and opened up.

Many businesses will look out for public policy specialists who can advise them during this transitionary phase. India’s CSR spends from BSE 100 companies itself crossed 10,000 crores in FY19-20. Also, many not-for-profits raise large grants nationally and internationally will benefit from professionals with a good grounding in public policy education.

All the above aspects augur well for India powered by the National Education Policy to become a hotbed for public policy education. India will become a powerhouse for innovations that will usher in a citizen-centric and inclusive future for all.


(This article was originally published here)

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