By Dr. Arun Kumar
Preamble and Vision It is getting clearer with time that none of the national policies are formulated keeping in view the political philosophy, economic character, as well as social and cultural attitude of ruling dispensation. The present draft policy, NEP 2019, is also no exception. It is a reflection of the historical conflict of forces to dominate the education process, that is to say between democratization and captivisation. In this policy draft democratic, welfare and inclusive agendas have been ignored. There is also no reference to global outlook that has its own significance and cannot be underestimated.
Education is the greatest treasure for a country, but the national policy has adopted a narrow approach. It keeps only the imageries from of ancient India and goes on eulogizing them. The rest of the history remains unmentioned. There is nothing about the freedom struggle against British colonialism, fight against imperialism, ideals of education as propounded by Mahatma Gandhi, B R Ambedkar, Subhash Chandra Bose, Maulana Azad, Bhagat Singh, Jyotiba Fule, Savitribai Fule,Sahu Maharaj, Sayaji Rao Gaekwad, Balgangadhar Tilak, MG Ranade, Gopal Krishna Gokhle, Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar. Directive principle of state policy and preamble of the Constitution also are missing in the draft. The powerful ancient Sangam literature is also not found as a source of reference. Secularism is not even mentioned once.
The first university education commission popularly known as Radhakrishnan Commission (1948-49) speaks of democracy, secularism, social justice, respect for our multicultural diversity, scientific temper, autonomy and less state interference in education. Kothari Commission (1964-65) champions the common school neighbour hood system, pivotal role of teachers, decentralisation of structure, parity between urban and rural and more emphasis on scientific education. The NEP 1986 saw the emergence of a neoliberal agenda of privatisation, dual educational system , and also centralisation of educational administration.
For a brief period Acharya Rammurti Review Committee (1990) suggested equality and social justice, decentralisation of educational management, active participation of all stake holders, emphasis on human enlightenment and empowerment for work. Since 1991 till today (including the present DNEP), the policy reflects full scale LPG economy with disastrous manifestation of commercilisation, communalisation, bureaucratisation and regimentation of thought in the educational system. India became a signatory of WTO and GATT where education was being treated as commodity.
The draft policy has targeted every child in the age group of three to six years, has access to free, safe, high quality, developmental appropriate care by 2025. Free and compulsory quality school education of all children in the age group of three to 18 yrs in 2030. Inclusive education by 2030. Increase GER (Higher Education) at least 50 per cent from the present 23 per cent (18-23 age group) by 2035. By 2032 all higher educational qualifications including all degree and diplomas shall be granted by type-1, type-2, type-3 higher education institutes (HEIs).
Closure of substandard and dysfunctional teachers’ training institutes by 2023 has been suggested. By 2025 every student in grade 5 and beyond should achieve fundamental literacy and numeracy. Excess will be increased specially in grade 9-12 to achieve100 per cent GER across school stage by 2030. Curriculum and pedagogy are to be transformed by 2020 by revising the National curriculum frame work of 2005. All this is to be developed by 2030 along with one of the three types of institutions. All currently affiliated colleges must develop into autonomous degree granting colleges by 2032.There is ban on opening of affiliated colleges by 2020.
By 2035 the Indian Higher Education System will consolidate into a far smaller number of institutions (40,000 colleges and 800 universities to 15,000 institutions). All institutions offering either professional or general education must organically evolve into centres offering both by 2030. Vocational education is to be integrated with educational institutions, like schools, colleges and universities and provide access to education to at least 50 per cent by 2025. There is the target to achieve 100 per cent literacy among the youth by 2030. They have also targeted the formation of Rashtriya Siksha Ayog by 2019, redesignation of MHRD to ministry of education by 2019, higher Education Grant Council by 2023 and NHERA by 2030.
The draft policy 2019 covers all aspects of education system like general, technical, professional, vocational, information technology, adult education, teachers’ education, students support, secure condition of teachers, assessment and accreditation, early childhood care education and financing of education. The language of draft and contents appears to be most attractive and keeping with the aspirations of the people. There is also emphasis on revival and pursuit of classical languages. The observation that the teachers are in the heart of the system, importance to research, care for inclusive education by the concept of special education zone for unrepresented groups, extension of RTE Act from pretty primary to secondary education, tagging early childhood care education to primary education, importance to teacher’s education and various support to students appear to be more positive input in education policy. For the first time education policy has come with a definite time frame for implementation.
The DNEP has suggested sweeping structural changes both in academics and management. It suggests doing away with the present pre-primary, primary, middle or upper primary, secondary, higher secondary and college and university education. Foundation five years, preparatory three years, middle or upper primary three years, four years of secondary education and finally higher education in universities and colleges. It also suggests bringing pre-primary under formal education, merger of schools, merger of colleges, university with large number of students, multidisciplinary universities, introduction of vocational education from 14 yrs of age, then semester system right from secondary education, census examination at the end of grade 3, grade 5 and grade 8, secondary board score will not be considered for higher studies.
Students are supposed to appear for aptitude test to be conducted by National Testing Agency. Private parties will be given franchise for NAAC .Then choice of different boards for examination purpose and provision for multiple exit and entry at different level of higher education. In the governing structure, the draft suggests many regulatory bodies such as RSA, NHERA, PSSB, NHEQFW, NSQFW, GEC, NRF, NTP, NET, NAB, HEGC and NCFW. At state level they suggest State Education Commission, state level regulatory authority, merging of SSA, RMSA, Teachers Education under one umbrella. They are also planning to merge all directorates of primary, secondary and higher secondary into one directorate of school education.
The DNEP 2019, after an in depth study, reflects a mismatch of diagnosis and prescription, a contradiction between dream and reality, hidden agenda of ideological domination, consolidation and expansion of indigenous and international capital, strengthening of the neoliberal forces, ignored the common school system, violating the norms of social justice, opened the road for more exclusion and negated the fundamental pillars of Indian Constitution. The DNEP 2019 camouflaged with sugar coated words advocates commercialisation, corporatisation and communication of education. This policy will create a situation where the children of affluent section will have the facility to attend the school of their choice but the children from disadvantaged communities would have the only option to study in the school available nearby.
The secular ethos of our Constitution is completely missing in draft policy. The communal overtone is clearly reflected by emphasising the glories of ancient India and ignoring the cultural heritage of other periods. Excessive importance to Sanskrit, study of yoga, astrology and astronomy, appreciating the role of religious organizations and their involvement in educational development, mission Nalanda and mission Takshashila and desire to modify NCFW 2005 clearly reflects the medieval, sectarian and unscientific contents of the policy.
The voluminous policy document needs far greater scrutiny than it has received so far and that a hasty implementation will have a great consequence, diluting if not reversing pains taking attempts made to democratize the contexts and contents of education for decades. Hence the government should have a wider consultation with all stake holders to arrive at a national consensus on education policy. Any policy that also includes education should translate the aspirations of the people of the nation. In order to arrive at a more democratic policy government should extend the period of consultation and open debate. Also there must be debate at a national level for another six months. (IPA Service)