One might have to look back 34 years. It was 1986, not long after Ms. P. T. Usha ran in the Los Angeles Olympics that India’s Education Ministry was renamed as the Ministry of Human Resources and Development (MHRD). It was also the year when India saw her last national education policy. And that’s that. Since then, we have had a few eras pass by, we have seen ‘progressive’ and ‘revolutionary’ thinkers leading the nation, yet, there was no revision, no progress, no revolution in our education policy until recently.
The Bharatiya Janata Party’s Manifesto for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections was the first one to promise a new education policy. In January 2015, a committee under former Cabinet Secretary T. S. R. Subramanian started the consultation process for the New Education Policy. Based on the committee’s report, in June 2017, the draft NEP was submitted in 2019 by a panel led by former Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) chief K. Kasturirangan. The Draft New Education Policy (DNEP) 2019, was later released by Ministry of Human Resource Development, and was followed by a number of public consultations. The Draft NEP, a four hundred and eighty four pages document placed in the MHRD portal for next one year. During this period, the Ministry undertook a rigorous consultation process in formulating the draft policy. It considered, “Over two lakh suggestions from 2.5 lakh gram panchayats, 6,600 blocks, 6,000 Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) and 676 districts” and held wide and intense consultations with various stakeholders, experts and practitioners in the field of education, including lawmakers. On 29th July 2020, the Union Cabinet approved the National Education Policy 20202 (NEP 2020).
The last few weeks has seen a wide debate across the spectrum on NEP 2020. With many questioning the policy and many others welcoming it as a heralding a new educational era for India: The question is however what the highlights of NEP 2020 are:
- First of all it announces a paradigm shift in school education. The traditional 10+2 system is now going to be changed to the 5+3+3+4 system. Well, it is a restructuring, from where have these extra three years come? Yes, it is those three years of pre-primary, the nursery classes. Not uncommon for our fast-paced metro toddlers whose education start from the age of three. But, for our village children, whose education mainly rely on public schools usually starts from 6-7 years. This means general education system in village area were lagging almost 3 years as compared to its counterparts in cities. New Education Policy is successfully removing this imbalance making everyone at par from the very beginning.
- The New Education Policy has a very positive implication. Hitherto Right to Education in the Indian Constitution (Art. 21A) covered children aged 6 years to 14 years, i.e., from class 1 to 8. The protection exists for a period of 8 years only. It seems that the new policy aims at extending it upto 18 years of age (i.e., class 12) from the tender age of 3. Thus not only pre-school students, till now excluded from the formal education system, would now be included , the very crucial four years for stepping into the roads of higher education (age 14 to 18) would also be covered benefitting thousands of poor students and leading to a reduction in the number of dropouts. This is revolutionary and thus seeks to provide quality education as a right to all the citizens for a period of total 15 years. (3 years to 18 years of age). We may well imagine how much the marginal people will be benefited from it
- In this new education policy, special importance has been given to our mother tongues. Trying to make the mother tongue / local language as the medium of instruction for both private and public schools, is the main focus area of this policy. The policy says that wherever possible, the mother tongue will be the medium at least up to the second grade (i.e. pre-primary 3 years plus primary 5 years), and is preferable even after that.
- Learning English is also clearly emphasized besides mother tongue. The Modi Government is bringing new tri-language policy. English is given importance next to mother tongue or local language. Students must be able to read, write and communicate on any topic in English by the final stage of fourth grade, as opined by the policy.
- Debunking all rumors and speculations, the Union Government has clearly indicated that Hindi will not be mandatory as the third language. Rather the NEP-2020 proposes to promote Sanskrit as third language. Several centres of excellence will be established to teach, learn, practice and research Sanskrit. To facilitate the learning of Sanskrit learning opportunities at higher level, Sanskrit Universities will collaborate with other Higher Educational Institutes. More to this, other national and international classical languages and literatures can also be learned as third language.
- Massive structural changes are about to come in learning and teaching. Students will be imparted and encouraged to undertake vocational training from 6th standard. Although, educated unemployment has been a center point concerns for many, yet, no visionary measures have ever been taken to encourage skills enhancement or professional education to generate employment opportunity. It has been already proved that 6-9 months of vocational training after 11-12th standard is not at all beneficial. On the other side, education limited to academics, ignoring the development of skills, marginalizing the need for vocational training cannot be a holistic education. This has been emphasized by our thinkers, Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore, Mahatma Gandhi and many others have referred to this imbalance and called for its rectification and have demonstrated it in their respective educational frameworks and experiments. In the Indic systems of knowledge, young people used to learn about their ancestral profession from their parents from an early age. Independent India’s educational policies have often ignored this aspect. Denying our own heritage and blindly following the foreign notions of development has only led to this crisis. The NEP 2020 addressed this omission of the past and aims to encourage the growth of skillful self-reliant citizens, not merely educated job seeker.
- To ensure that Indian languages flourish and leaners attain greater proficiency in it, not only text books but various instruction manual of appliances and machines, workbook, apps, magazines, and plays will be written in Indian languages. For better accessibility, e-versions and videos will also be prepared. To modernize languages, more colloquial terms will be amalgamated, vocabulary will be updated and Dictionaries in Indian languages will be revised by continuous practice.
- Special focus will be given to engage students in ‘extra-curricular activities’ like drawing, crafting, playing and writing poems. Local prodigies in several such fields will be invited and attached to schools to nurture our young generations. Students will also be introduced to our heritage and culture via summer trips to different locations in India.
- A new organization namely National Curricular and Pedagogical Framework for Early Childhood Care and Education (NCPFECCE) will be formed to monitor improvements of all children up to 8 years of age. This is going to be revolutionary step, a path directly leading us from a ‘developing nation’ to the ‘developed’ one. The country is now taking full responsibility of its own future.
- A complete makeover of the evaluation system has also been proposed. A novel 360° holistic evaluation will be introduced instead of the number based examination. Not only languages, science or arts but vocational training, skills, passions, attitudes and conducts of students will also be considered at the time of evaluation. In short, there will be no compartmentalization in curricular, co-curricular and extracurricular activities. The evaluation will not be one dimensional either, rather students will do self-evaluation/appraisal, they will express their choices, likes and dislikes. Teachers-trainer-supervisors’, feedback will also be taken into account. A central A.I system will do the evaluation based on these two dimensional inputs. Yes, the final exam standard 10 will not exist anymore.
- Major-minor concepts will be introduced in place of science, commerce, and arts. There will be no stream division in colleges and high schools. Just imagine the impact of this one decision. The day when there will be no “my son is studying in the science stream”, will be the day when Ram Shankar Nikunj will no longer be for an Ishan Awasti! Your child can study physics with fashion designing, chemistry with cooking. I would surely opt for a combination of chemistry, history, literature, physics, statistics and drawing.
- NEP proposes to bring in revolutionary changes in higher studies as well. In 2014 the gross enrolment ratio was 24% which rose to 26% in the next 4 years. The Modi Government is aiming at making this 50% by the year 2035. It is trying ensure that half of the total students become graduates by the year 2035 and for this purpose 1.5 crore new seat will be generated in higher studies.
- Not only this, a centralized entrance system will be there for all colleges and universities and this will be conducted in as many local languages as possible unlike previous the policy where only English and Hindi were medium for this kind of exam.
- Even after this, if anyone has any doubt regarding language imposition, for them, the NEP aims to build more than a thousand translation centres which will be devoted for all Indian languages including Sanskrit, so that, anyone can go for any level of higher studies in their preferred language. Besides these center will also work for restoring and preserving the science, arts, literature and philosophical works that were once written in our classical languages and shall make them widely available.
- There will be only one regulatory body for Higher Education Institute (HEI). Multiple parallel regulatory bodies not only slow down the development but also induce corruption. NEP 2020 took a hard decision on this and brings every HEI except law and medical colleges, under one umbrella.
- The concept of major minor shall also be introduced in the higher education too and also with more versatility. All engineering institutes including IITs and NITs have been instructed to include literatures, languages and liberal arts; at the same time traditional non-engineering universities like JNU shall also include various curriculum on science and engineering. Everything will be interdisciplinary, there will be special inter disciplinary institutes as well. The exchange of students and faculty members in two different genre of colleges will be promoted. History students will be able to take computer coding as a minor subject. From now onwards the subject of history will not be merely remembering the tax policy of Raja Todarmal, it will also include reinventing the our past – structures, cities, architectural wonders that once existed – using satellite images and data analytics.
- A very important aspect of NEP 2020 is the separation of language from literature. Many don’t speak good English because we were not taught English language in the right manner. We were often taught only English literature. Learning language is a necessity for all, but studying literature is not. Unfortunately, such a simple thing was beyond the comprehension of Macaulay followers and later Nehruvian educationists. So there were times when we saw a surge in spoken English classes which has now converted to an outbreak of English medium schools everywhere. NEP will teach English language to everyone. After that it will solely be their choice if they want to study English literature.
- Another great aspect of NEP 2020 is the multiple entry exit system that it proposes. There are many occasions when we have to leave our study in between, with no scope of returning. We lose many a potential researcher and inventor in this way. But when the competing neighbour is a techno super power, we too also need to give full scope to develop the full potential of each of our aspiring researchers. Keeping that in mind NEP 2020 offers a great scope of a Multiple Entry –Exit System. One need not complete at a time all 3 or four years of courses. The learner shall be eligible to receive a certificate after one year, a diploma after two, a degree after three and degree with research after four. But on top of that the learner will be able to hold her/his study at any point of time and again come back and join later. The student need not start afresh, she/he will just resume her/his study.
- But how will that be possible? For that the NEP 2020 proposes to bring in a Central Credit Bank system. Whenever you study a subject at any level, a credit will be deposited to this bank and this credit shall remain there till you earn the degree certificate. If you match the total credit necessary for obtaining degree certificate, then it will be given to you. You will study the subjects of your choice at your free will and a time preferable to you. If you are a keen learner, you must know that the new education system is going to support you in every manner.
- And to implement these visionary policies, 6% of total GDP will be allocated for education. For years it was only 2%. Not only that the policy says that within next 10 years the Government of India and all State Governments are also instructed to use their 20% of public expenditure for education. Yes, a similar demand has been made from the early years of independence, however, it is only the Modi Government which hugely focused on education and has conferred on it great priority. A true and visionary education policy is what removes poverty and creates a strong nation, a convoluted and ill-conceived, irrational policy like NYAY can never be a substitute for a comprehensive, far-seeing and visionary educational policy.
A true nation never emerges from blood-soaked revolutions. Education without a vision is only a tool for making cadres clamouring for lockouts and chaos. The NEP 2020 directly has overturned an outdated education system and understanding of education. Yes, it will require time to implement this comprehensive and path-breaking policy, but at least the NEP 2020 can now enable the common Indian to think of and envisage an India of twenty first century, a true super power in techno-innovation and entrepreneurship. The common Indian can aspire to be an active part and stakeholder in the creation of that twenty first century India. It has unleashed India’s educational potential, it has introduced a new energy and dynamism in the education sector. It is an important driver for a “New India” as envisaged by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
(The author is an Assistant Professor and Researcher in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bhilai. Views expressed are his own.)
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