By Gyan Pathak
‘Education is that which liberates’, says the core Indian philosophy of education in Sanskrit, and the ‘basic purpose of education is to make the mind creative and analytical’ says the Greek philosopher Plato. The National Education Policy (NEP) 2020, in place of focusing on such core philosophies, focused at infinity creating ‘back focus error’ which needs to be corrected or readjusted for the ‘right focus’ if at all we do not want to make humans, mere slaves and tools, non-creative or even destructive, non-analytic or synthetic. Policies must not be based on mere ideas, they must be empirical.
Our Prime Minister and other Union Ministers have resorted to self back-patting on this policy, and accorded it undue praise and epithets like ‘major transformational reforms’, ‘result of largest consultation and discussion process of its kind in the country’, ‘immense potential for better learning and employment outcomes’, ‘most comprehensive, radical, and futuristic’ and so on. It seems they are believing in ‘Barnum Effect’, a psychological condition in which one tends to accept whatever they are told to be true even when they are so vague as to be worthless.
It has been already admitted that the policy is based merely on perceived ideas about educating a child, but not on the basis of scientific study of the real requirement of development of a child into a great human being. The Union Minister of HRD has himself said that ‘2.25 lakh suggestions received after the draft was placed in public domain for consultations’. It makes the government position clear that they are trying to make yet another experiment merely on the basis of ideas and so called suggestions without empirical studies, this time with the future of our children. With the implementation of this policy India will emerge as a great knowledge centre and education destination in the world, says the union minister. This is too heroic a claim when we compare this policy with education policies of the developed countries, where educational institutions rank far ahead than our own.
How it is going to create a ‘new India’ as claimed by the government is shrouded in mystery which only time will reveal. Narendra Modi has promised us a new India by 2022, and we are in the second half of 2020 with crises created by mishandling of COVID-19. All the educational institutions have been closed for the last four months, and there is no chance of their normal operations immediately. Therefore, this new India claim is untrue unless it refers to a very distant time. The policy includes great words in abundance, but lacks clear cut measures as to how they are going to be achieved.
This is the first education policy of the 21st century which replaces the thirty-four year old National Policy on Education (NPE), 1986. The work on this policy was started in January 2015. It has been claimed that it is built on the foundational pillars of Access, Equity, Quality, Affordability and Accountability, this policy is aligned to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and aims to transform India into a vibrant knowledge society and global knowledge superpower by making both school and college education more holistic, flexible, multidisciplinary, suited to 21st century needs and aimed at bringing out the unique capabilities of each student. These are all but claims, because of their being not based on any empirical study of the 21st century needs of multilingual and multicultural Indian children who are greatly suffering from all sorts of inequality.
It has also been claimed that the policy does not recognise any barrier in bringing quality and outcome-based education to each and everyone. It is so vague that it implies nothing. We know that each and every child has its own barrier in their way to emotional, intellectual, physical, or even educational growth. The barriers must be recognized first to remove them. There must be universal and equal education for all, if we want a fair competition among all. One student gets better education and another gets a lower quality of education, but we never talk about ‘fair opportunity of education’, and only talk about ‘fair competition’. It is simply injustice.
The new policy includes children during their most foundational years, that is 3-5 years, for their care and education. We must know that during these years wealthy students go to pre-school, while poor students remain out of school. Many poor students go to anganwadis during these years. For educating a child we need a teacher having ‘diploma-in-education’ or B.Ed. We have lack of such educated teachers, and anganwadis do not have such teachers. Due to lack of finance, we do not have even required number of schools and teachers. We have appointed ‘para-teachers’ and give them meager salaries.
The whole system is exploitative in which the atmosphere of education has suffered. Even in higher education, we have been witnessing coaching classes and private tuitions are flourishing even when we know that tutors there are generally not B.Ed qualified. It speaks about the quality of education in schools and colleges by so called qualified teachers. The policy totally ignores this real ailment of our education system and don’t talk about curing this. Even the best policy can perform worst if that is erroneously conceived and implemented.
New 5+3+3+4 school curriculum will have 12 years of schooling and 3 years of Anganwadi/Pre-schooling. It is just a change for change’s sake, and it ignores the problem of lack of resources, which we cannot provide by 2030, and hence cannot be properly implemented. Emphasis will be on Foundational Literacy and Numeracy and no rigid separation between academic streams, extracurricular, vocational streams in schools will be maintained. Such a synthetic thinking is opposite to analytical thinking in the government. Vocational Education is to start from Class 6 with internships, but we must note that ‘training’ is not ‘education’. Teaching upto at least Grade 5 to be in mother tongue/ regional language, is vague because there is much difference between a mother tongue and a regional language and this will give room for manipulations.
It is not yet known as to how much ‘assessment reforms with 360 degree Holistic Progress Card’ will be effective. Raising GER in higher education to 50 per cent by 2035 is a promise as ‘doubling farmers’ income by 2022’ but is not clear how it can be achieved, especially when higher education has been at receiving end under the BJP rule. It bats for ‘graded autonomy to colleges’ which has been a highly debated issue. It advocates increased use of technology with equity, but how the under privileged will have it, remains a mystery. Changing the name of the Ministry of HRD to Ministry of Education is not going to solve the overlapping of ‘training and skills’ if vocational training starts from early childhood in this ministry while there are other ministries for those. (IPA Service)