NEP 2020: Multiple entry and exit system in higher education

Dr. Rakesh Bharti
“Stay committed to your decisions but stay flexible in your approach”. ~Tony Robbins
The National Education Policy which was effective till now was formulated almost 34 years ago. A more felicitous vision was needed to meet the aspirations of the New India. The National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 is an ambitious and futuristic policy that strives to remove rigid boundaries and create new possibilities for students to choose and learn the subjects or courses of their choice.
The policy proposes a large number of changes that can transform higher education in India. One such change that has caught everyone’s attention is changing the 3-year undergraduate course structure into a 4-year pattern with multiple entry and exit points to make higher education more suited to get jobs later. At present, students who leave the course in between are labelled as drop-outs and they get no qualification certificate or diploma for the credits earned during the period in the college.
NEP 2020 seeks to pave the way for flexible and lifelong learning and encourages students to choose their academic path leading to the award of certificate, diploma, and degree. Hence, Multiple Entry and Exit System (MEES) is the corner stone of the new National Education Policy in higher education. The system allows students to drop their course and resume it at a later stage as and when they desire or deem it worth pursuing. This arrangement will prove to be a boon for those students who cannot continue their studies due to financial, social or any other reason and desire to resume their studies when the conditions become favourable in due course of time.
How the system will function? As per the draft of the NEP 2020 the undergraduate degree will be of either 3 or 4-year duration with multiple entry and exit options within this period, with appropriate certifications — a certificate after completing 1 year in a discipline or field including vocational and professional areas, a diploma after 2 years of study, or a Bachelor’s degree after a 3-year programme. The 4-year programme may also lead to a degree ‘with Research’ if the student completes a rigorous research project in the major area(s) of study as specified by the higher education institution.
NEP 2020 states that innovative and flexible curricular structure under multiple entry and exit points will abolish the currently prevalent rigid, uniform and mechanical structure to create new possibilities for students to choose and learn the subjects of their choice as per their preference, convenience, or necessity. Major benefits associated with the system can be outlined as under:
Benefits of Multiple Entry and Exit System (MEES)
* This is a kind of stress-buster move. It is likely to reduce the pressure of pursuing a course with an opportunity of zero year loss in the academic journey. The move is likely to become a big boon for the students as they do not need to fear about losing a year or two if they have been studying one course for two years already when they plan to move into a different one.
* A large number of undergraduates quit the course after one or two year with zero benefit after paying huge fee and spending their valuable time. Awarding certificate or diploma after completing 1 or 2 years will have some worth in the long run.
* Students will have the greater flexibility and liberty to join a course or leave a course as they like, and they shall be also provided the opportunities to change the courses if they want to learn about a different sector as per their future career needs.
* Increasing Gross Enrolment Ratio at higher education is one of the objectives of NEP 2020. This move will reduce the drop-out rates of students especially for those who want to switch courses and desire to re-enter as and when they deem fit to resume their studies to earn full fledge college degree.
* The credits that the students obtain in their first and second year will be stored using the Academic Bank of Credits (ABC) system. So, at any point of time, if students want to take a break and continue their course within a fixed period, they can utilise these credits for further education.
* The system will allow students to take a sabbatical and then join back their studies without losing any credits. The move will allow students to build their own degrees. Students shall be granted more autonomy than before to decide what kind of major and minor courses they want to pursue.
* This is likely to revolutionise higher education system in India as only interested students will complete the degree through multiple entry and exit point system. Those who are not interested to pursue the course shall have no compulsion to complete the same by all means.
* This path breaking move will make our higher education system more like the global format with continuous reforms in this direction.
In the light of above stated facts, multiple entry and exit system seems to be a very positive change. However, a more in-depth analysis of the concept raises few practical hitches as well. Hence, following concerns need to be addressed for the effective implementation of Multiple Entry and Exit System (MEES):
Concerns to be addressed
* Students can exit after one year with a certificate, after two years with a diploma and a Bachelor’s degree after three years and Bachelor’s with research after 4 years. Curriculum construction is a big challenge in implementing this system. What type of proficiency will be attained by a student after one or two year of a degree course? Thus, curriculum needs to be reworked in order to incorporate the specialised competencies, knowledge and skills required in a particular subject area.
* In the absence of proper guidance, confusions and doubts can arise in the minds of the students leading to a state of chaos. Student support services need to be encouraged and developed at different levels for students who are more likely to drop out due to personal, social, emotional, cultural, economic or any other reason.
* What type of opportunities will be available for the certificate and diploma holders in different sectors at the same time when degree holders are finding it hard to get jobs? Students may face difficulty to find employment on the basis of an early certificate or diploma unless it is technically specialised.
* Shall we be able to develop a pool of efficient entrepreneurs by awarding certificate and diploma after completing 1 or 2 years of a course through multiple entry and exit points? There is an apprehension of treating early exit certificates as a stamp of failure in the world of work.
* Educational institutions are required to develop a hassle free mechanism of admissions while implementing this system. The situation is likely to become critical, suppose when the total intake of a degree course is fixed in a particular institution. How to tackle the situation when under this system suppose 15 students decide to exit in the second semester and about 25 students who left years ago are in queue for entry? Obviously, it will disturb the required teacher-pupil ratio and other infrastructural facilities available in the institution.
* Another concern that is bothering everybody is that a large population of the students who will leave the courses in between may not return back due to some trivial reasons. It is to be ensured that a large section of the students may not get deprived of higher education in the absence of strong motivation and proper guidance.
* The execution of this system in its true spirit needs to develop an impeccable mechanism of fees at the time of admission under multiple entry option. It is to be ensured that the system may not become a golden opportunity for private or other institutions to charge exorbitant fees from students who seek entry back to resume their studies.
In short, Multiple Entry and Exit System (MEES) can be considered a major reform aimed at making the higher education system more student-friendly and equitable. The strategic execution of this path breaking move will provide seamless mobility to learners ensuring their zero-year loss with the opportunity of learning from anywhere, anytime.
(The author is an Assistant Professor)