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New Education Policy High On Rhetoric Less On Substance

New Education Policy is More on Talks less on Substance

The New Education Policy 2019 was passed by the union cabinet today on July 29, 2020. While the government went hammer and tongs calling it reforms in the education sector, further details like curriculum and syllabi are awaited. The opposition parties criticised the government for bypassing Parliament and announcing.


Some of the major announcements include:

  • All higher education institutions, except legal and medical colleges, to be governed by single regulator.
  • Home language, mother tongue or regional language to be medium of instruction up to class 5 and preferrably till Class 8 where English will be optional.
  • MPhil courses to be discontinued under new National Education Policy approved by Union Cabinet,
  • Board exams to be based on knowledge application, as per New Education Policy
  • Common norms to be in place for private and public higher education institutions.
  • Common entrance exams to be held for admission to universities and higher education institutions,
  • Sanskrit to be offered at all school levels and higher education as option, including in three-language formula.
  • The Union Cabinet also renamed the Ministry of Human Resource Development Ministry as the Ministry of Education.
  • The 10+2 structure of school curricula has been replaced by a 5+3+3+4 curricular structure. This corresponds to ages 3-8, 8-11, 11-14, and 14-18 years. The new system will have 12 years of schooling with three years of Anganwadi or pre-schooling.

Impact of New Education Policy

While the government as expected deployed its PR machinery as the announcement was being made, and the media lapped it up with praises calling it a reform though it is yet to be seen if these so called reforms actually get implemented and turn out successful. The blue print of the education policy had the stamp of what many private universities wanted.

Private Sector Will Be Happy with New Education Policy

While the New Education Policy aims to be “unambiguous and explicit that education must be a not-for-proit activity and enterprise in society”, the reality has been way different.

Talking about the compulsion of pre-primary education, many of the critiques, might be considering it as a welcome step, as must be, but they fail to realise that till today, it was parent’s wish whether to send their ward to pre-primary schools or not. But, with the NEP, this will be made a compulsion. The policy makers have failed to understand the role private pre-primary institutions play in this regard. This is not only disturbing, but also bears a resemblance to the numerous times an industry has lobbied for its financial gain and policy-makers have succumbed to their demands without an analysis of the consequences.

As we move up to primary and secondary schooling, private tuitions are well documented which are often being imparted by their own schoolteachers. This inherent conflict of interest is a harsh reality, which has not just been ignored, but the autonomy to schools and boards to determine the structure and content of their own curriculum has given further ammunition to the schools and teachers to drive more and more towards tuitions.

While the new education policy proposes admission in universities through NTA, claiming it to reduce burden of ‘high stakes’ 12th Board exams, but forgets that this will increase the dependency on entrance exams as can be seen in JEE and NEET. Coaching centres will continue making profit and will thrive on the gigantic divergence between school and entrance exam curricula. If NTA is widened, one may watch out for more IPOs on stock exchange from coaching sector.
 

Catching the Wrong End of English

One of the most contentious points of the new education policy is the government while claiming that it wants to improve the skills of students to make them employable, the new policy will ensure that till age of 10 at least students are likely to be deprived of not having English as the preferred medium of instruction. Expecting them to pick up English after that as a medium of instruction from the vernacular medium will not be easy for many students. One of India’s biggest advantages in the services sector globally has been having English as its USP that got many of them employed in the last three decades.

A lot of the companies are already preferring Vietnam and the Philippines to India as ideal destinations. Even China which is a much bigger economy than India made English an important part of its education policy to compete with other Asian countries like India who had an edge in English. This move by the government is regressive and is seen as a step backwards by many.

Universities are also likely to face major changes with 3 and 4 year courses at the undergrad level but what is even more worrying is the discontinuation of M,Phil courses which employed a lot of people in academia and research especially in the social sciences. It was also a precursor to a Ph.d for many aspirants who benefit after pursuing M.Phil.

The three language formula is also likely to once again raise its ugly head with a likely backlash from the southern states who protested against it in 2019. Sidelining English for home languages, regional languages and mother tongue may benefit some states but may not go down well with the southern states, the northeast region, and the urban areas in India where English as a medium of instruction has helped Indians compete in the markets globally.

Critical Thinking Treated as a Consequence and not as a skill set

The New Education Policy has laid critical thinking and liberal thought as one of its core objective, with policy makers considering the education in schools and colleges as enough to develop a culture of critical thinking, while it is just the first step and more robust and thoughtful strategy should have been deployed keeping in mind the existing curriculum and student capacities. The draft policy makes the development of critical thinking and liberal thought as one of its core objectives.

Wrong Determinants to Set up IVY Universities

An idea of establishment of five IVY league universities have been given in the new education policy with the requirement matrix as “a large tract of land, say 2000 acres, at an ‘attractive’ location and provide up to 50% of the funding requirements of the universities.” The attractive location misses out the parameters like student density in an area, nearby industries for employment, which area needs development, equitable regional representation etc.

No talks on sanitary needs of girls and ragging

The drafters of the New Educational Policy have completely missed out to mention the sanitary and medical needs of the girl child which drop out from higher education due to the above mentioned reasons. Not only this, ragging across educational institutions find a miss in the NEP. Such issues need a special attention so that the mental health of students is not impacted.

Moving Professional Colleges to Multi-disciplinary Institutions

The idea of moving professional colleges to multi-disciplinary institutions is surely going to have an adverse impact on the very essence of the professional courses being carried out in the country and the toil of the policy makers who have raised the professional colleges of the country to this height. There are globally established reasons for professional colleges to be standalone, but its removal seems to bring to question the objectives that we as a nation have earmarked as being critical for India’s future.

School Teachers Again Find a Miss

While a big round of consultation on the NEP is being talked about, not even a single school teacher has formally been acknowledged to have given his/her inputs. This omission tells a lot amount the mind space that continues in the minds of the policy framers of a country like India, which has been historicallystruggling with school education as compared to our colleges or universities.

Policy Implementation

The government has already declared it path breaking but as we have seen whenever this government has announced a major decision its implementation has been awful and a lot of things are not thought through. The New Education Policy is no different, there is a lot of excitement hyped up by the government but the devil lies in the details and the implementation which is yet to be seen. Meanwhile as countries look to empower its student force to compete globally India has gone backwards with the new policy and there is nothing exactly to be too optimistic or gung ho about.

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