National Education Policy 2020: Heal or Nil

Dr. Sameer Shekhar, (IIFT)

The world has come a long way from ancient age to the age of modernity. During this journey what has changed from north pole to south pole along 360-degree longitude can be observed in all discipline of life i.e. art, culture, society, politics, demography, biology, psychology, science and n number there may be. In compliance to the need of the contemporary hours, the changes have been acquired world-wide in the education system by the different governments of their own geography from time to time. If we discuss about our own, India has witnessed two major reform during 20th century in its education sector. The first was during the regime of the then Prime Minister Smt. Indira Gandhi in 1968 based on the recommendations of Kothari Commission which focussed on National School System stating that all students, irrespective of caste, creed and sex would have access to education of a comparable quality up to a given level. The second one was during the regime of the then Prime Minister Shri Rajiv Gandhi in 1986 when which has been landmark in Indian education policy and continued for about three decade and half.  been Indian education policy framed 34 years back in 1986 certainly needed an amendment looking at the current alterations in the job sector and fast changing global educational structure. What was laid down in NEP 1986 was relevant and best suited as per the need of the then India and keeping in view the need for change in the education policy, the government seems to have made right move. Thepolicy 1986 recorded major update in 1992 based on the recommendation of Acharya Ramamurthy Committee set up in 1990.With the major objective of common educational structure, international understanding, national curricular for common core, equality of opportunity of education, minimum level of learning, understanding of socio-cultural system, pooling of resources, strengthening national educational institutions etc. the NEP 1986 has catered long way. But over the period of time all round changes has taken place in the nation and science. Since than no remarkable change has been observed. The digitalisation and technical advancement as well as the nature of society and economics needed fresh air of educational fragrance to breath and grow as the old one seemed not able to comply with the contemporary requirement.

BJP in 2014 proclaimed to bring the new education policy as a part of election agenda raise a wave of good hope among people, and the long-awaited policy came into existence in July 2020 along the recommendations of the committee formed for the reforms in education sector in 2017 under the chairmanship of Dr. K. Kasturirangan. The policy clearly indicates the massive structural change in Indian education through the new National Education Policy 2020. It can be easily recognised from early childhood and education up to intermediate to that at graduation and post-graduation level. Through the NEP 2020 the education journey in India up to intermediate is to be replaced by 5+3+3+4 which was earlier 10+2. Further, the graduation degree will now be awarded in 3 and 4 years, and post-graduation will therefore be of one year.In this, a detailed plan has been drawn to make all children compulsorily reach school, avail at least one employment in the hands of every student who leaves school and make the country a knowledge-based economy. Obviously, the academic community were looking for revolutionary changes in line with the global educational mechanism and technological advancement worldwide. Certainly, it has emphasised on the enrolment issues and sustenance through making the curricular innovative in approach by digitization and newly incorporated teaching methodology towards which continuous efforts are being made. There is a provision to provide full training to every student for jobs and self-employment which will eliminate unemployment from the country in the coming times and is for sure a good clause. From various perspective it seems to bring considerable changesin the education system, but the policy needs assessment with a rationale about its structure, ability, potential, implementation, seriousness about higher education and resources availability etc. to supplement and succeed.

The economic condition and technological advancement of the nation define the path of educational development and successful implementation of the visionary strategy. In lieu of that there is a big promise to increase the public spending up to 6 percent of GDP to achieve this goal. Here, it important to mention that though the government kept on spending around 4 percent of GDP but the public spendingof up to 6 percent of the GDP was set already in 1964. Therefore, if the government's intentions are right, it will not be difficult to achieve it.Amidst the promises and promises in the policy document, no information has been there about actual conditions of the schools and colleges. There is no wonder in observing the truth that there are still millions of schools/college operating depending on single teacher/faculty. Why not to wonder thatin a country where all the schools have not been provided till now with a concrete roof, how will such a big goal be achieved there with set of daydream promises ? Education policy is completely silent on raising economic resources. Keeping all these facts together, it seems that the policy seems to be golden document with paralysed set of rules. In 2013-14 the expenditure on education was 4.14 percent of GDP, but the then government has continuously reduced this expenditure and now it is only 3.2 percent. In the economic downturn caused by Corona, it is expected to decrease further in the environment of resource scarcity. In this way, there is a big difference between the government's proclamation and actual actions.

NEP 2020 emphasises on vocational education and skill development, which will make the students fully self-reliant. Keeping in view the structure of graduation and post-graduation durations have been redefined. Certainly, it seems to be a great move that if somebody fails to continue graduation after one or two years,his efforts and investment of time would not get wasted. But with that allowing them to opt for any other subject after one year or two years are not going to get them expertise in subject specific, rather it will create a mess of the academic career of the candidate and will let them of no use. The government has set a target of a minimum 50 percent marks for admission to higher education, but it has not been clarified how students from this education policy will be able to meet the challenges of the market. It has to be kept in mind here that an Annual Status of Education Research (ASER)Report, 2019 on the quality of education revealed that 50 percent of children studying in the fifth grade could not even read the second-grade book.It was also told in the same report that 72 percent of children up to the fifth grade could not even solve the second-grade questions.

The central government has envisaged education through online and correspondence for hundred percent enrolment. But experts say that the internet and computers in the country do not have access to large sections of the society. Even the availability of these in government schools has not been ensured till date. In such a situation, teaching everyone through online medium seems more imaginative and less real. It is easy to provide degrees online or through correspondence, but the government should have a clear idea about how the quality of their education will be decided and ensured. Providing degree will merely help the government to show off the literacy rate and educational demographic strength but will lead to create hollow human resources which will not add to the national production or development in reality.According to a report by the Unified District Information on School Education, Department of School Education (2018-19), only 9.85 percent of government schools have computers and only 4.09 percent of schools have internet access. This also puts question mark over the government’s vision.

There is another important aspect to be discussed as a part of the new education policy, that isto admit young children between the ages of three to six years to formal education through Anganwadi Centers (AWCs). Anganwadi workers and teachers will be trained as per the syllabus developed by NCERT to prepare the initial cadre of Early Childhood Care and Educations (ECCE) teachers. They will be given 6 months certificate course and one-year diploma. The Ministry of Education will be responsible for the ECCE curriculum and teaching method will be cooperated by Ministry of Women and Child Development and Health and Tribal Affairs. But the major concerns areabout how these 6 months certificate of 1-year diploma would impart skills to the AWCsworkers or make them proficient with an expectation that they will be able to lay the foundation of education of the children of the country better. More than 3.5 lakhs AWCs do not have toilet facilities and more than 1.5 lakhs AWCs lacks in drinking water supply. In such a situation, it is natural to question the claim of giving proper formal education to crores of children of the country through these AWCs.

The academicians across the country submitted their suggestive marks on the policy draft, but it was implemented without any brainstorming or debate over those suggestions.Dr. Kasturirangam committee’s recommendations and the government’s thaught process made their way to head for making the NEP 2020. If we look at the management of the universities in wake of NEP, the Executive or Academic Council will be replaced by a Board of Governors (BoGs), so that the elected components will end in the university. The BoGs will take responsibility for their appointment, salary increase and withdrawal so that there will be a kind of dictatorial atmosphere. When higher education is privatized, higher education will also become expensive. Due to this, possibility of social change for the SCs, STs, Women and Dalitswill be disturbed again.Dr. Rajesh Jha, a member of Academics for Action and Development remarked that the new education policy has brought out the policy of privatization and contracting of jobs of the present government. This policy is a policy to promote private and foreign universities at the cost of public sector universities.If such talks are going on by the academicians or experts who are part of policy making and action taking agencies, the talks are not baseless, rather it opens up scope for consideration of necessary amendments indicating the ineffectiveness of the new education policy. The government thus need to think and rethink over the policy implementation.