The long-awaited New Education Policy (NEP) is finally made the headlines with great relief to the students glued to the textbooks and homework given by the coaching classes. The committee did an excellent job, in its 440 odd pages, explaining in detail the drawbacks in the old policy and how they have been improved keeping in mind the early development to adolescent stages of a child. The policy framework for ECCE is carefully drafted taking into account all aspects of states of development of a child. To execute them, the schools should have dedicated, trained and strongly committed teachers and support system. Who will oversee this? Many pre-schools have untrained teachers. The present generation parents, both employed, have little time to check the system. To speak the truth, Anganwadis in rural India (RI) areas are better than the pre-schools centre in urban India (UI). In the Anganwadi system both teachers and parents are involved in the development of a child. This is not seen in UI as many parents look at the preschools as Ayah centres. One has to wait and see the implementation and monitoring the system of these policies. In the current UI primary schools the children are “interviewed” to get admitted with high fee structure. This is absolutely nonsense. The NEP does not address this issue while it recognised the harm done by coaching classes to the 12 grade students!. A strong law should be enforced in NEP to derecognise such primary schools and put a ceiling on the fee structure. There should be a mechanism to monitor these important issues faced by the toddlers. The NEP envisages free pre-school education ( Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act. RTE; ECCE) and keep the onus on the States. Instead of blanket rule, all RI pre-school children education should be free and fees ceiling may be imposed for those in UI. India expects to implement this rule by 2025. Five years may be too long period but as I said earlier, a strong leader at the helm of affairs can make it happen. It is not implemented since 2009……11 years. Still we need 5 years to put this act in place? Start with districts, locations that are socio-economically in a disadvantageous position. It is better ECCE comes under one ministry instead of TWO (MWCD and MHRD). This will result in blame game.
The 5+3+3+5 scheme of education envisages the school drop outs will have a chance to rejoin the school at any time. This is a good initiative taken by the NEP 2020. But then a large part of RI depends on one person salary which is grossly insufficient to run a family of four. This forces the children to discontinue the school and take up jobs to supplement the family income. Today a large part of such drops are engaged by service providers to deliver goods. Once the dropouts get into this “earning” mode it is difficult for them to get back to school. This is a bit serious and tricky issue and goes beyond NEP hold. Though NEP makes education compulsory, how do they address this family issue? Will this be addressed by MoE or MHFW/MWCD? Unless this major issue is resolved especially in societies who live below the poverty line, there is no meaning in making education compulsory for youth in RI. I have see many young men (schools dropouts) making good money by selling food (fast food ) along the road side in Telangana ( and I am sure such system must be existing in other cities/towns too). Though these men have desire to complete their school/college education, circumstances does not permit them to get back to school. In fact these men/women go out of their way and educate their children and we see now several children of this class excel in the exams!! In fact NEP should make a provision to these second generation children from such families to continue their higher education by giving adequate financial support. This provision should be a part of the NEP of MoE. Rural India has an extremely talented youth who are not able to come up and serve the country due the above issues. Thus the major issue of dropouts is not those listed in the NEP like 1) safety, 2) toilets, 3) Harassment,4) loosing bicycle, 5) adolescent age etc. These issues can be solved but the income generation issue can not be solved only by MoE.
The NEP recommendation of “show and tell” at ECCE is the best way to remove stage fear among the students at higher degree level. Many Ph D students have this stage fear even now due to lack of Public speaking skills during their formative learning stages and at college level education.
The ease of board examination is a great relief to the students of 12th standard. This is a wise move targeting the coaching classes that drain 80% of students’ energy and resources. But then coaching centre is an industry now and these centres will find an innovative way to change their pattern of coaching to meet the needs of the students. IITs tried their best to fight this industry and failed. After 12th the students have to appear for competitive examinations to seek admissions into premier institutes. It is likely that more students may join the coaching classes to get prepared for entrance examinations as the pressures on 12th board exam have eased. Perhaps when NTA takes over all the tests related to admissions, there may be a major transformation in the coaching industry.
Whether it is pre-school, primary, or secondary or college education, any policy to sustain, we need good and dedicated teachers. They are the backbones of educational structure. If teachers are under paid then NEP goals will not be effective. “A Hungry stomach can not teach”. To attract teacher to teach in RI is a task but NEP has a provision but should be implemented. All good things come at a price.
The National Curricular Framework for schools education is a welcome move to all the students. It is high time India develops a common HE curriculum so that life becomes easy for students who migrate from one state to another.
Establishing one large multidisciplinary HEI like IITs and IIMs, in or near every district of India is sensible policy provided good teachers are selected on tenure basis aiming at GER of 50% in another decade.
NEP as of now appears to retain 3 year degree programme and initiate 4 year degree programme. There is no clarity between 5+3+3+4 school structure and 3 and 4 year degree programme in NEP.
The most important policy the NEP laid down is transfer of credits by students. This is a long waited policy change that all higher education institutes are looking for. IITs have initiated this process but this should be expanded to other HEI of the country in due course. This will be achieved only when the curriculum structure in all HEI are standardized.
Various measures discussed and due for implementation aims at attracting students from other countries thus making India an international learning hub and also allowing students to have greater mobility between institutes of higher learning across the world. This is vary important in a situation like what the world facing now. In this context it is pertinent to mention that many HEI including IITs are struggling hard to reach to the top in the international ranking system. The drawback is, these institutes are not able to attract students from other countries and the number of foreign faculty willing to come and teach in these institutes is very few. The main issue that needs to be addressed here is infrastructure facilities like accommodation, messing facility with international standard of hygiene and laboratory facilities. When an international student gets back his/her country he has to compete for job with his peers who studied in local universities. When recruiters look at the Indian degree certificate he/she is kept in reserve for jobs. Hope NEP 2020 will remove this mental block of recruiters.
Experienced teachers / researchers are valuable assets to HEI. Expertise of a large number faculty who are active in teaching and research are not utilised in our country. India is losing this rich asset. NEP does not address this issue but the HEI will evolve guidelines to induct this asset in the higher education system. Setting up incubation centres in HEIs for Research and innovation will gain immensely by the rich experience of senior faulty who are superannuated at 65-70 years. As long as a retired faculty is active in research he/she should be engaged in National building activity. Age is no bar for teaching and research.
NEPs golden statement “ there is no better investment towards a society ’s future than the high-quality education of our young people.” Education in India has always been side lined In 1968, 1986 and 1992. The current NEP should not be another 2020.!!!
Finally…….names does not mean much….. whether it is MHRD or MoE. A strong task master at the helm of affairs is what India needs to bring Indian education at par with Internationals institutes. This policy is sensibly drafted because the leader is a sensible and a taskmaster with his equal calibre committee member. Successive governments failed to realise this and hope this will be realised now to make NEP a reality. Hope Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE) will be effective. Youth is India’s asset. A second part of this blog will focus on the research in the new NEP.
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.