The National Education Policy (NEP) is not a constitutional documentby Hrishi Raj Anand January 8 2021, 4:00 pm Estimated Reading Time: 6 mins, 55 secs
An analysis, a comparison with the previous policies and development in the new one by Hrishi Raj Anand, who presents the various facets of the New Education Policy
We are living in times where crisis is no longer a temporary breakdown in the system, but on the verge of becoming the system - a time in which the elite and mass media will do anything to deceive and misinform the public and a time, when the opposition is mostly on the receiving end of questions, and those benefiting from the ‘satta’ have almost little responsibility for the actions taken. Before we get into the depth of the new Education Policy, it is important to understand its legitimacy and legal weightage.
An immensely important factor about the document often ignored by the ‘intellectuals’ is that the education policy is not a constitutional document, giving it zero legal validation. It is just a vision that the government aspires to achieve in no fixed time period, hence leaving no obligation on it to implement the policy even in bits and pieces. Therefore there is no scope of even questioning the government on the same.
The present regime had introduced the education policy in its manifesto back in 2014. A committee was formed under the leadership of Subramanian Swamy, which got scrapped. Another committee was formed under Dr Kasturi Ranjan in the year 2017 that submitted a 480-page document in the year 2019, which was trimmed down to 60 pages; it was presented to us and it is what we call today the ‘National Education Policy 2020’.
How ironic is it that in a country where activists face charge sheets of more than 10,000 pages and terror accused people are sitting Members of Parliament, when an education policy is drafted, already no more than a vision, is given negligible attention?
Now, if we look into the previous two policies and compare them to the one introduced in the last part of 2020, we see a clear duplication of particular clauses of the policy, meaning, just elaborating on the same subject time and again by merely elaborating on the same without much achievement. To cite an example, one could look at the stress drawn upon vocational education, or the focus on language and culture. It seems like the points above are never-ending sections with little practical impact and just becoming a better version of it’s previous self. Let us analyze a few important sections of the policy:
- A major development in this year’s policy is extending the age group under the Right to Education Act, where earlier, it guaranteed compulsory education to children under the age group 6-14 years, this policy aims at bringing it to 3-18 years of age.
- It talks about Adult Education wherein the school libraries would be used for the parents of students after the school hours and on weekends.
- It speaks of a 10-day bag-less period for the senior secondary students where they would work with craftsmen, carpenters, metal workers, etc. This if achieved could help align the societal imbalance between the worth of particular occupations.
- Inclusion of a campaign called ‘Ek Bharat Shrestha Bharat’ under which the students would learn basics of tribal languages and the other languages from every corner of the country. This seems to be a great step in bridging the North South gap and the language barrier that we see.
- Allowing the students to choose whatever subjects that they want to pursue from an age as early as 14 (9th grade) and introducing coding in the 6th grade itself seems to be a hit and trial that time shall answer if at all it is implemented.
- Making the books bi-lingual and teaching the students in their mother tongue has been one of the most controversial points of the policy - although I have an optimistic feeling about it. A language to learn does not necessarily need to be the medium of instruction - it can be taught as a separate compulsory subject. This would help create job opportunities for the locals, and would also lessen the unnecessary pressure that students and teachers face due to English.
- A better criterion of qualification for new teachers as well as the existing ones in all streams and groups of education should definitely enhance the quality of education.
If we talk about all the points mentioned above collectively, there will still be one ‘if’ factor that needs to be addressed before even thinking of implementing any of the clauses in the policy. The ‘digital’ and the ‘internet’ factors need to be addressed.
Even today, only 54% of the Indians have an access to the internet, and if you would go on to consider the fact of one person having more than one connection, the band-width problems that have been very evident with the advent of online meetings and studies, India is far behind in the average speed of the Internet list, government telecom facilities like BSNL have been failing miserably, all the problems especially in the rural and tribal pockets of India, need to be resolved before getting into the implementation of the digital programs.
Few major problematic factors impossible to overlook have been listed below:
- Every leader, every bureaucrat stands against rape, when a case comes into limelight, but there is no mention of something that could help dismantle the rape culture, or at least be a stepping-stone towards its end. Sex Education has not even been mentioned once in the entire policy of 60 pages.
- The policy suggests that it tends to end the coaching culture; however, the reason stated for the existence of coaching culture is Board exams, which is not the truth. Board exams have hardly been a problem for the students; it is the competitive exams section that is the real root behind coaching culture.
- IITs and IIMs will be made multi-disciplinary, a good step but the reason stated for this by the Centre is to increase avenues for the students. The question that lies here is whether the acceptance rate of these Universities would change? Also, would making these institutes multi-disciplinary not reduce the legitimacy of the government-aided universities like JNU?
- Setting up of foreign university campuses in India would be a good step for the privileged classes, would that not lessen the quality of education in the government colleges?
- The policy talks about recruitment of teachers, and creating a benchmark of degree requirement for them, but as of now, the teachers are not even being given the little salary that they get on time. Should that not be the priority first?
- In the past couple of months, several surveys have shown us the increasing mental health problems in the youth - the ignorance and lack of acceptance of mental health problems in the society as a whole need to be addressed immediately.
- Gender Studies have merely been mentioned in the document, no mention of workshops, study sessions to recognize genders and educate people about all communities.
- Every policy recognizes the problems faced by the socially and economically backward people but little do any of them including this one do something considerate to resolve it.
We are a third-world country, and need to stop looking for solutions that are likely to be done for first-world countries. A committee needs to be instituted, one that keeps a constant check on the vision produced; otherwise the condition of this policy will be no different from the others.
A policy brought in after 34 years, a policy that apparently is supposed to bring in educational reforms, however, is not a constitutional document. It was not surprising that the media did not even give a 34 days discussion period even though the policy took 34 years to come in. Education policies are brought in after certain tenure, of which, there is no regulation. The focus should be less on numbers and more on efficiency of programs.
Media’s dependency on advertisements should shift to the actual consumers of news, the general public. Only then can we move towards policies that are likely to help us all.