The recent release of the NEP Draft is welcomed with a lot of dismay and protest against the ‘Hindi imposition’ in the non-Hindi states. Not discounting the merit of these concerns, the media flagging towards the same has limited the 484-page exhaustive report into just one issue. Here, we present to you a critical analysis of the report that is going to change the face of Education post-2022.
“Curriculum and pedagogy will be transformed by 2022 in order to minimise rote learning and instead encourage holistic development and 21st-century skills such as critical thinking, creativity, scientific temper, communication, collaboration, multilingualism, problem-solving, ethics, social responsibility, and digital literacy.” (NEP Draft, 2019)
On 1st of June, the Human Resource Development Ministry (HRD) opened the draft of New Education Policy (NEP) 2019 for public review. This 484-page exhaustive policy is crafted by an expert panel ‘Committee for Draft National Education Policy’ led by Padma Vibhushan Dr Krishnaswamy Kasturirangan, a former chief of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). The Committee has reported that the process has been interactive at all times with consultations and opinions from the public forums encouraged and debated, leading to the development of a 6-month project into a 4-year long production.
A new policy in place is very crucial for a country where the population of youth is larger than the entire population of Europe, hence the supposed investments in the education and skill development is an obvious step.
Equitable Education serves as one of the solutions (for empowerment) to nearly all the kinds of disparity present in the country, whether they are caste-based, class-based, religion-based, gender-based or disability-based. The previous New Education Policy (formed in 1986 and amended in 1992), was not able to anticipate the post-liberalization developments that have taken place in India and thus has become redundant in today’s time. The implementation of the previous education policy is still irregular and incomplete.
BJP Government and New Educational Policy
The NEP also holds relevance to the BJP Government, primarily for two reasons. One, this will be used as a blanket to the criticism that the Term 1 of the Government has faced in context of cutting down the budgets from the public schooling, removing scholarships of the marginalized communities for higher education, removing contractual school level teachers, issuing the ‘Institute of eminence’ stature to a yet-to-be build Jio Institute, meddling with appointments of the Vice Chancellors and inner college politics (which also lead to the death of Rohith Vemula), replacing University Grants Commission (grants giving authority) with Higher Education Financing Authority (loan giving authority) and appalling drops in the functioning of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (31% in 2017) and Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (71% in 2017).
Now when voices will be raised in regards to how systematically BJP Government has destroyed the fabric of education, they can claim how they have transformed education through NEP. Secondly, this will lead to control on curriculum (an entirely new set will be created by NCERTs and SCERTs) in direct hands of the right wing; leading to the inculcation of plenty of soft Hindutva in the name of ‘rich and cultural’ traditional knowledge.
It will not be a surprise if the language of the history books will change from “Muslim Rulers” to “Muslim Invaders” and names of RSS leaders such as Savarkar and Deen Dayal Upadhyay are mentioned in the list of Freedom Fighters (while in reality, RSS did not participate in the Independence Movements). It will not be a surprise if there are chapters on brutality during the Emergency and corruption of Congress are present. Rather, it will also not be a surprise if stories of Bal Narendra are presented as literature chapters for young kids. Third, was the Hindi imposition that was stopped by the unrests in the Southern States.
If implemented, the new draft will require a lot of investment, (creation of new school complexes and merging, establishment of new institutions National Higher Education Regulatory Authority (NHERA)-in place of UGC, National Research Foundation for funding of researches, expansion of mid-day meal program for breakfast, brand new set of curriculums, extensive teacher trainings) which interestingly in the last 5 years, the government has been cutting down.
If the government does not increase the budget in the education sector, it can lead to two outcomes:
- The policy will be pushed to a Public-private partnership (PPP) model extensively, with a larger control of the Private sector- in terms of finances and administration. PPP has been initiated in Chandigarh, Rajasthan and 2500 schools of the Centre in the last 5 years, and have met with a lot of criticism in Rajasthan for increasing the rate of education immensely. The PPP intervention in the education sector is inevitable in future; a study by Pankaj Jain and Ravindra Dholakia (2009) argued that with 6% of GDP budgeted for education, it is extremely difficult for the State to achieve universalization of education.
- The Indian estimate of the education budget is at a much lower 2.7% of GDP, in 2018. Nevertheless, the scale on which PPP (Public-private partnership) is formulated and the degree of the State’s control over such schools has to be monitored, or else it can lead to disastrous consequences of gigantic leaps of inequality over the access of education.
- The policy will be inadequately funded, making it a failure in parts not visible to the Media (i.e. all of India except Delhi and Noida) or a cumbersome anointment over the end-level implementors, i.e. the teachers and the school administration.
So What is ‘New’ in the New Economic Policy?
The makers of the NEP have brought out some radical recommendations for School Education in order to decrease the idea of rote learning as study and enable the students to focus on developing their scientific temper and a logical mindset. They have intended to change the structure of the school entirely: starting school from 3 years of age, merging 9-12 standards into an 8-semester framework, replacing current assessment with application-based assessment pattern, creating new School Complexes and Special Educational Zones for backward areas.
Starting with the structure of a detailed 3-year Comprehensive Early Childcare Education (ECCE) framework guideline for low-cost cognitive stimulation of 0 to 3-year-old and subsequently, basic communication and numerically based syllabus for 3-8-year olds (including Grades 1 and 2).
While the earlier report (1986/92) had resigned itself in a half page of informal guidelines on early childcare, NEP (2019) has recommended National Curriculum Framework, to create a curriculum and Ministry of Women and Child Development, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and Ministry of Human Resource Development, to finalize the operations and finances by the end of 2019.
The ECCE Framework is not only essential but an implementable framework since the end-responsibility is given to Anganwadis Centres, which are present all over the country in local levels, as a part of Integrated Child Development Scheme.
Further, in the next four years of primary education (till class 6th), they have given strong emphasis to reading, writing and numeric skills. With one in two students in India, still not able to read and write up to their standards this is again an essential move to improve the quality of education.
They have also given spaces for Moral and Community level Problems for classes 6th to 8th in regards with health safety, socio-emotional learning, personal freedom and responsibilities, constitutional knowledge, sex education, the literature of India, ethical and moral reasoning as well as for Current Affairs in classes 9th to 12th. Apart from them, the importance of vocational studies has also been acknowledged, with guidelines for NCERT to create detailed curriculums for vocational courses such as carpentry, electric work, metal work, gardening and pottery making.
Another key feature of this policy is the introduction of Remedial Instructional Aides Programme (RIAP) and National Tutor Program (NTP) for capacity building purposes, especially for the dropout students who re-enrol in the classes. This programme will be facilitated by peer students, local instructors (particularly woman) and volunteers such as retired teachers, army officers, amongst others. The plan has also, as a first, talked about how to make inclusive spaces for transgender children: sans discrimination, specific restrooms, curriculum accommodating their identities and needs and involving civil groups.
Issues with the New Educational Policy
While the report is anointed with plenty of impressive elements, it carries some imminent challenges visible in it. The biggest issue with the Policy is that it is not able to identify the bottlenecks i.e. the real problems during implementation and make policies in accordance with them. Perhaps, the ‘social science’ missing from the Preamble of the Policy, is missing in the construction of the Framework as well. The Policy talks about ‘exits’ for children to drop out and re-enrol in the new structure from school, and in the same breath also talks about enacting Right To Education till class 12.
Free and compulsory education cannot happen with the provisions of exits from the school; the government may call it ‘realistic’ and ‘progressive’ as it said when it approved for child labour for children younger than 14 years in family businesses. Major reasons for dropping out of school include expensive education, migration, push in child labour, menstruation, marriage and ‘lack of interest’ in children to study i.e. lack of motivation to study.
23 million girls drop out every year when they attain puberty (10-13 years), the main reason being they cannot travel with menstruation and another fact that the education is not considered necessary for them as much as learning domestic work and marriage is.
Around 58.6 million children indulge in child labour (from 5 years to 18 years of age; majorly from SC/ST population) due to various socio-economic constraints. How will the policy intervene in these areas to increase enrolment?
By removing the ‘exits’ as a normal way-out and making education a compulsory venture for all the children below 18.
Identifying the problems and making proper target-based approaches than writing single line guidelines such as ‘adequate toilets and sanitary napkins will be provided’ in the gender section.
By not making frivolous guidelines such as digitalization of open schools for ‘migratory’ children, when the majority of migratory children belong to informal labourers. Let alone affording digital aid, they do not have the access to provide basic education to their children. How are these children, without any aid, supposed to study from ‘digital open schools’ on computers?
Similar is the problem with the recommendation of including breakfast in the mid-day meal scheme. Yes, breakfast is needed but so is the improvement in the quality of the already existing mid-day meals- implying that strong monitoring mechanisms are needed to curb adulteration in the meals prepared. So is how to remove the caste barriers from the mid-day meal scheme for equal access with dignity.
The Policy has also recommended the ending of Junior Colleges and creating a systematic syllabus from 9th-12th. Segmentation of ‘Humanities’, ‘Science’ and ‘Commerce’ has been sought to remove with more freedom to choose subjects of choices. Both these decisions will face difficulties during implementation, with some of the biggest states in India (Maharashtra, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, Karnataka and Assam) having the Junior College System that will have to be converted or shut down.
The latter decision will also be based on both what subjects the school offers (which will not automatically be sprung up with the implementation) as well as what is the criteria of professional colleges (the requirement for Engineering, CA or Medical) for admissions. Given that both these criteria are going to remain static, this seems like an incompetent guideline.
One of the most prominent issue that the policy has addressed but not covered properly is the quality of education taught in schools. With elaborate plans of inculcating new teachers and placing them through Continuous Development Program (CDP), the older teachers and their capacity building (the majority of implementors of the new courses) are not given adequate attention.
If the majority of teachers who are already present in the system is not involved in the dialogue of change and enabled to improve their quality of teaching, this ‘whole new course’ turn out to be a failure just like Continous and Comprehensive Evaluation (CCE) or Four Year Undergraduate Program (FYUP) in Delhi University or any other top-to-bottom imposed policy.
Another focused point was the use of technology in the teaching process, but nothing has been clearly said about how digitalization of classrooms can take place. Subsequently, there is no discussion on how to make sports and other physical activities (such as dance, karate and yoga) a significant part of the academics. Such activities are essential for the inculcation of a lot of life skills: physical fitness, teamwork, increasing concentration, strategy building, healthy competitive skills, confidence, perseverance, hard work and strengths (both physical and mental).
Sexual abuse was another issue of ponderance that was ignored. According to Delhi Police, around 60% of child abuses cases reported in Delhi are incidents from schools. The real number would be much higher: children going through such horrifying crimes but not understanding what has happened and whom to talk no. Neither mechanisms of redressal/complaint are created for schools, nor children are taught what good touch or bad touch is. Although this policy has given space for sex education in 9th to 12th-grade time, it is still inadequate to deal with the issue of child abuse.
Also, with this government’s inclinations to do away with sex education entirely, it does not seem like they would allow a curriculum for younger children on understanding the ideas of consent, physical boundaries, sexual abuse.