Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) has a proposal of Rs 1.5 lakh crore action plan to improve the accessibility and quality of higher education over the next five years. They have named this ambitious project as ‘EQUIP’ and the budget for the same will be earmarked in the coming five years.
The central government has explained it as the implementation plan for the National Education Policy (NEP), which is a promise BJP government made in 2014. This proposal is likely to be made public in a week’s time after delays and extensions during the tenure of the past 5 years. The last NEP was issued in 1986 and it was amended in 1992.
Higher Education secretary R. Subrahmanyam said that when the whole nation was captured by the election fever, our 80 experts were working on the EQUIP project to introduce transformational changes to the education system. EQUIP can be elaborated as an Education Quality Upgradation and Inclusion Programme. This project was fabricated by ten different committees chaired by the experts. These committees included the dignitaries like NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant, principal scientific advisor K. Vijay Raghavan and former revenue secretary Hasmukh Adhia, as well as the chiefs of top corporate houses.
The committees have drafted strategies with objectives of improving the accessibility of higher education, gross enrolment ration, teaching & learning processes, research & innovation, etc. While drafting the strategies, also the committee focused on building academic infrastructure, using online technology tools, and working on accreditation systems, financing, and government structures.
The government is planning to release the implementation plan of NEP by 31st May once the new cabinet is decided. Few of the officials engaged in the planning of NEP and EQUIP indicated that the implementation plan will be released in early June.
Previously earmarked budget of Rs 37,461 crore to the higher education department would not be sufficient for the successful running of EQUIP projects. In such a context, the government is planning to raise money through marketplace mobilization with the help of Higher Education Financing Agency (HEFA).
This would surpass the current ambit of HEFA. The central government has instructed the joint venture of HRD Ministry and Canara Bank to raise Rs. 1 lakh crore by 2022 for infrastructural development of academic establishments. In January, then MHRD Minister Prakash Javadekar mentioned that the projects worth Rs. 30,000 crore have been approved by the government.
According to senior officials of the ministry, the prime purpose of EQUIP is to fill the gap between implementation and policy. A senior official anonymously quoted, “Policy is always idealistic, but it needs clear cut strategies to be carried out. Otherwise, there are goals mentioned in every education policy from 1948 onwards which are yet to be fulfilled.”
The committee involved in drafting EQUIP is yet to get access to the 400-page draft of NEP document as per the official. However, once NEP makes this report public, the EQUIP will be tweaked accordingly.