By Rakesh Thapliyal
‘Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.’
This is one of the very popular quotes of late Nelson Mandela, a former President of South Africa. The one biggest quality of Narendra Modi govt. is that they believe in change for a better future. For this, they showed courage to change controversial & historic traditions and long-pending policies with brave decisions, which they think are good for today and better for tomorrow. In Modi’s words ‘We take decisions with courage, execute them with conviction.’
The centre govt., under the leadership of Prime Minister Modi, do get irritated by the criticism, but it tries to left no stone unturned to make sure that the steps taken by them are correct and in the favour of common citizens.
The National Education policy 2020 is the latest example of it. It will make way for large scale, transformational reforms in both school and higher education sectors. This Policy will be a game-changer in India’s education system. The path-breaking reforms will bring about a paradigm shift by equipping students, teachers and educational institutions with the right competencies and capabilities and also create an enabling and reinvigorated educational eco-system for a vibrant New India. It has to be seen whether all the state governments implement it or not? The implementation by States is the road to success for the National Education Policy 2020. As we know that most States having their own school boards, state governments would have to be brought on board. In this case, the centre has to convince States that this policy will benefit all.
Earlier Education was in State List but through the 42nd Amendment Act of 1976 five subjects were transferred from State to Concurrent List and Education is one of them. It is said the ‘One nation one education policy is the best’ and this is opted by most nations in the world.
The Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted: “I wholeheartedly welcome the approval of the National Education Policy 2020. This was a long due and much-awaited reform in the education sector, which will transform millions of lives in the times to come. Framing of NEP 2020 will be remembered as a shining example of participative governance…” but Some Politicians think that it’s an attempt to lead to total privatisation, commercialisation and over-centralisation. They are of the opinion that, the result will be higher fees, attacks on autonomy of universities and no permanent jobs in teaching.
Leaders of political parties have started asking questions. Congress Lok Sabha member and former Minister of State of Human Resource Development Shashi Tharoor questioned the government for not bringing it before Parliament first for discussion. General Secretary of the Communist Party of India D. Raja also slammed the government for bypassing Parliament.
Politicians are also accusing govt. for working on the RSS agenda of ‘Indianisation’ of Education in the country as this policy has emphasized mother tongue/local language/regional language as the medium of instruction at least till Grade 5, but preferably till Grade 8 and beyond. Sanskrit to be offered at all levels of school and higher education as an option for students, including in the three-language formula. Other classical languages and literature of India also to be available as options. No language will be imposed on any student. Students to participate in a fun project/activity on ‘The Languages of India’, sometime in Grades 6-8, such as, under the ‘Ek Bharat Shrestha Bharat’ initiative.
One interesting fact about this policy is that “Waiting” has become the keyword since the highlights of the National Education Policy 2020 were announced by HRD minister on July 29, 2020. But even after two days have passed the State governments, Politicians and academics are waiting for the actual document in Hindi or English to be uploaded on the ministry’s website. Even HRD ministry officials are also waiting for written approval to come from Cabinet Secretariat so that they can upload it on the website.
This is the first education policy of the 21st century and replaces the 34-year-old National Policy on Education (NPE), 1986. Now, this policy is approved by the Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi and wait is on for the notification. 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.
Union Minister for Human Resource Development Dr. Ramesh Pokhariyal ‘Nishank’ has claimed that NEP2020 was drawn up after the largest consultation and discussion process of its kind in the country, 2.25 lakh suggestions received after the draft was placed in the public domain for consultations. It’s true that NEP 2020 has been formulated after an unprecedented process of consultation that involved nearly over 2 lakh suggestions from 2.5 lakh Gram Panchayats, 6600 Blocks, 6000 ULBs, 676 Districts.
The MHRD initiated an unprecedented collaborative, inclusive, and highly participatory consultation process from January 2015. In May 2016, ‘Committee for Evolution of the New Education Policy’ under the Chairmanship of Late Shri T.S.R. Subramanian, Former Cabinet Secretary, submitted its report. Based on this, the Ministry prepared ‘Some Inputs for the Draft National Education Policy, 2016’. In June 2017 a ‘Committee for the Draft National Education Policy’ was constituted under the Chairmanship of an eminent scientist, former ISRO chief, Padma Vibhushan, Dr. K. Kasturirangan, which submitted the Draft National Education Policy, 2019 to the Hon’ble Human Resource Development Minister on May 31, 2019. The Draft National Education Policy 2019 was uploaded on MHRD’s website and at ‘MyGov Innovate’ portal eliciting views/suggestions/comments of stakeholders, including the public.
Dr. Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ is of the opinion that with the implementation of this policy India, will emerge as a great knowledge centre and education destination in the world. This policy will bring transformational reforms in both school and higher education sectors. It will ensure universal access to high-quality Early Childhood Care & Education across India. We will focus on developing social capacities, sensitivity, good behavior, ethics, teamwork & cooperation among children through a joyful pedagogy.
Sanay Dhotre, MOS for HRD Ministry is of the view that NEP 2020 is most comprehensive, radical and futuristic policy document in the educational history of this country. It does not recognise any barrier in bringing quality and outcome-based education to each and every one. It now includes children during their most foundational years, that is 3-5 years, for their care and education. Critical thinking, experiential and application-based learning, flexibility in learning, focus on life skills, multidisciplinary, and continuous review are some of the salient features of this policy. Bringing back 2 crore out-of-school and drop-out children and universalisation of school education from 3 years onwards reflect on our commitment to the philosophy of ‘no one to be left behind’. Academic Bank of Credits, National Research Foundation, and National Mission on Foundational Literacy and Numeracy are some of the landmark policies, which will radically transform our educational ecosystem.
One can see that impact of Covid-19 Pandemic is very much evident in NEP 2020 as a comprehensive set of recommendations for promoting online education consequent to the recent rise in Covid-19 pandemic in order to ensure preparedness with alternative modes of quality education whenever and wherever traditional and in-person modes of education are not possible, has been covered. A dedicated unit for the purpose of orchestrating the building of digital infrastructure, digital content and capacity building will be created in the MHRD to look after the e-education needs of both school and higher education. The Centre and the States will work together to increase the public investment in the Education sector to reach 6% of GDP at the earliest.
An autonomous body, the National Educational Technology Forum (NETF), will be created to provide a platform for the free exchange of ideas on the use of technology to enhance learning, assessment, planning, administration. Appropriate integration of technology into all levels of education will be done to improve classroom processes, support teacher professional development, enhance educational access for disadvantaged groups and streamline educational planning, administration and management.
One of the big changes is that NEP 2020 emphasises on ensuring universal access to school education at all levels- preschool to secondary. Infrastructure support, innovative education centres to bring back dropouts into the mainstream, tracking of students and their learning levels, facilitating multiple pathways to learning involving both formal and non-formal education modes, an association of counsellors or well-trained social workers with schools, open learning for classes3,5 and 8 through NIOS and State Open Schools, secondary education programs equivalent to Grades 10 and 12, vocational courses, adult literacy and life-enrichment programs are some of the proposed ways for achieving this. About 2 crore out of school children will be brought back into mainstream under NEP 2020. With an emphasis on Early Childhood Care and Education, the 10+2 structure of school curricula is to be replaced by a 5+3+3+4 curricular structure corresponding to ages 3-8, 8-11, 11-14, and 14-18 years respectively. This will bring the hitherto uncovered age group of 3-6 years under the school curriculum, which has been recognized globally as the crucial stage for the development of mental faculties of a child. The new system will have 12 years of schooling with three years of Anganwadi/ pre-schooling. All students will take school examinations in Grades 3, 5, and 8 which will be conducted by the appropriate authority. Board exams for Grades 10 and 12 will be continued, but redesigned with holistic development as the aim. A new National Assessment Centre, PARAKH (Performance Assessment, Review, and Analysis of Knowledge for Holistic Development), will be set up as a standard-setting body.
Recognizing Foundational Literacy and Numeracy as an urgent and necessary prerequisite to learning, NEP 2020 calls for setting up of a National Mission on Foundational Literacy and Numeracy by MHRD. States will prepare an implementation plan for attaining universal foundational literacy and numeracy in all primary schools for all learners by grade 3 by 2025.
It’s good that NEP 2020 aims to ensure that no child loses any opportunity to learn and excel because of the circumstances of birth or background. Special emphasis will be given on Socially and Economically Disadvantaged Groups (SEDGs) which include gender, socio-cultural, and geographical identities and disabilities. This includes setting up of Gender Inclusion Fund and also Special Education Zones for disadvantaged regions and groups. Children with disabilities will be enabled to fully participate in the regular schooling process from the foundational stage to higher education, with support of educators with cross-disability training, resource centres, accommodations, assistive devices, appropriate technology-based tools and other support mechanisms tailored to suit their needs. Every state/district will be encouraged to establish “Bal Bhavans” as a special daytime boarding school, to participate in art-related, career-related, and play-related activities. Free school infrastructure can be used as Samajik Chetna Kendras. The policy also aims to achieve 100% youth and adult literacy and aims to increase the Gross Enrolment Ratio in higher education including vocational education from 26.3% (2018) to 50% by 2035.
Another highlight of this policy is, a new and comprehensive National Curriculum Framework for Teacher Education, NCFTE 2021, will be formulated by the NCTE in consultation with NCERT. By 2030, the minimum degree qualification for teaching will be a 4-year integrated B.Ed. degree. Stringent action will be taken against substandard stand-alone Teacher Education Institutions (TEIs). Efforts will be made to incentivize the merit of students belonging to SC, ST, OBC, and other SEDGs. The National Scholarship Portal will be expanded to support, foster, and track the progress of students receiving scholarships. Private HEIs will be encouraged to offer larger numbers of free ships and scholarships to their students.
In Mahatma Gandhi’s words “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” It will be a new learning experience for students, educationists, parents and policymakers but the key to success is how successfully this new education policy is implemented.
(Rakesh Thapliyal is a senior journalist and Consultant Editor with National Chronicle. He can be reached at [email protected])