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New Education Policy Brings Confusion

The draft proposal shows lack of clarity on key issues and raises questions about government priorities in education

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The draft proposal of the new education policy is being debated. Though the final outcome is yet not known, based on inputs from various sources, there are voices of concern being vocal. There is a need for step by step analysis of few issues of the proposed draft. At the outset, there are concerns being pointed towards the deliberative overtone of the policy. When the policy debate was introduced in Parliament, very little time and quora was appropriated for all party discussion.

As young Shubhrashtra shikha, Research Fellow and Head of Operations in North East India, office of BJP General Secretary Ram Madhav, adds that the draft-in-progress NEP 2016 is a step towards universalization and standardization of quality education in India. It recognises the cultural, social and economic diversity and disparity in the country and has humbly positioned itself for public activity and feedback. To that there are critiques and sceptics like Varun Chaudhury, National Coordinator National Students Union of India who adds that the 43 pages draft is a bad leap towards delinking education from learning.

As we move beyond this, there are serious issues being raised over the substance and content of the policy. The draft lays emphasis on Ancient languages. It is a good thing that efforts are made to reach out to history to built up the narrative of the future. However, this claim receives a sceptical answer when one observes that the ambit of historical teleology is not clear in terms of focus. Many languages which are part of history may have not been well represented or over-represented, so the focus on ancient languages seems vague in terms of future perspective and present orientation. Therefore, any claim of a language in terms of total representation of history seems problematic. There are multiple narratives lurking in and at that juncture to claim that a particular language represents the national milieu better than others demands an answer to the query that whose interests are being tendered.

Further in the quest to nurture the ancient languages, namely Sanskrit as it holds, it does not pay attention to social languages of the states and gives no emphasis on education through mother tongue. Language is essential to nurturing identity. In this case, the draft proposal do more ham than good by imposition from above. When one hears about the additional significance being attached to-teaching Sanskrit in schools, it indeed presents an uneasy case. Education cannot be used as coercive way of learning. It is important that the onus for learning comes from bottom down approach namely students and not forced from above by authorities.

The draft intends to speak about inclusion of value education. If one is read between the lines, what comes forward is the common sense logic that our Values are relative. What may be correct for one, may be wrong for other. In this scenario, this draft policy stands on a dangerous slope where values can be used as shield to impose one form of thinking process.

The draft intends to tutor learning and education towards the implementation of skill development. No doubt, education needs to be seen beyond degrees and focus on grades. Without disputing the significance of human resource skills in the national development, this aspect needs to be problematised in terms of its cost-benefit analysis. If focus of skill development- is solely based on curtailing avenues of higher learning by cutting funding- we should question- what kind of nation are we heading to? If the paradigm of learning is calculated on mechanical terms only- education becomes the biggest sufferer.

"It is in consonance with a core agenda and facilitates educational entrepreneurship. It further dictatorialises education, students have no say in what and how they wish to learn. It promotes teaching instead of learning and has nothing for non-curriculum schools and alternative learning systems. It does not address the crying need for no-formal education", vociferously asserts Tushar Arun Gandhi.

If we go by the budgetary allocation, there are clear-cut fingers being mooted towards decline in funds towards higher education, and research and development. The debate on draft policy does not throw any light on financial aspect - whether budget on research and development shall be increased or not.

Taking away powers of states

There are federal aspects in discussion as: NEP tends to centralise decision-making and therefore attempts to usurp the state’s rights in education. As per the constitution, education is a state subject, but this proposed draft attempts to give the directing chords to the centre. This shall be detrimental to diversity of nation.

Access, equity, quality - three variables are thoroughly compromised. In the draft there are no mechanisms being talked about to address the problems of the past, namely high-drop out ratio, rural-urban divide in education, and absence of adequate teachers amongst other things. Instead of new education policy, it is a vision of education on 'negative' lines where no attempt is being made to solve crisis of the past.

"Grand intentions aside, the NEP draft proposals fall short on pragmatism. While it is imperative to consolidate the implementation of the Right to Education Act, there is no clear path to impact quality through teacher training and capacity building. Language focus is diluted as the proposals lack depth and sustainability. Clarity on strengthening the UGC and refining accreditation procedures, employable skilling, research linkages, seamless movement of faculty to Industry and vice versa which are all essential to make higher education qualitative seemed to have been ignored in the draft', opines M.M. Pallam Raju, former Human Resource Development Minister.

As the debate rages, there is no clarity as to what type of nation and learning we are headed towards. It states that governing bodies of higher education to have representation from industry and alumni in order to construct a link between tutoring and education. There is nothing new about it as even in the past this link has existed but this time it is being done with an uncanny agenda to drive out education on a path that suits a particular way of rationality.

There are cases of unpaid and underpaid anganwadi workers, rise in contractual labour, mushrooming of private schools and colleges in every nook and corner of the country. The draft policy does not attempt to address any of these issues. It rather presents a picture where it denies avenues of learning by using carrot and stick policy which gives over-emphasis to job orientation and better marketisation.

It talks about induction programs for teachers on lines of industry standards. Any attempt to add innovative touch to pedagogy is welcome but features as mentioned in draft like collaborative learning etc, take the focus away from already existing perils like rise of ad-hocism in tenure of faulty, disparity in pay with reference to industry, our divergent learning atmosphere from West.

As seen in discussion of preceding paragraphs, this policy does not add anything new to already existing structures. By failing to address pre-existing issues, it puts things on negative tenor. However, the road does not stop here. Reform and change are dire need of education sector. It has to be factored in judicious way by composite dialogue with various factions.

It is high time that various stakeholders in education and national development come together to deliberate the shortcomings of the draft policy. It is unanimous that any policy will have both bouquets and brickbats. The need of the hour is to address that lacunae of the draft in order to built education and learning on sane lines for the nation.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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Amna Mirza

The author is an alumini of DPS Mathura Road, St.Stephens College (Bachelors Degree), Hindu College (Masters Degree), M.Phil & PhD from University of Delhi where she is currently Assistant Professor of Political Studies. An avid traveller, voracious reader, her academic initiatives took her to University of Duisburg Essen (Germany), University of Fribourg (Switzerland) amongst others. She is recipient of 'Godfray Philips Golden Ovary Award', St.Stephens College Centenary Medal for 'character combined with learning', amongst others. She has three books to her credit which were well received by academic and others alike.

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