Government of India has come up with the draft of National Education Policy-2019 for inputs and very soon the policy may be out in its final shape. The draft was submitted to MHRD by Kasturirangan Committee constituted in 2017. This draft policy is formulated in an inclusive, participatory and holistic manner to meet the changing dynamics of the needs and aspirations of new India. The draft policy is developed on five foundational pillars of access, equity, quality, affordability and accountability. It also promotes innovations and research, aiming to make India a superpower in knowledge by equipping students with the basic skills and eliminating shortage of manpower in the fields of science, technology, industry and academics.
The draft is different from the earlier policies and aims at analysing education in a continuum rather than analysing it in terms of the various sub-stages for which it stands. The draft policy is comprehensive in perspective of covering not only school education and higher education but also professional education including medical, legal, technical, agriculture and teacher education. It also looks at verticals of vocational and adult education.
At present, the draft is in public domain for comments and feedback to make it more operative and practical. It recommends new education structure of 5+3+3+4, where compulsory education shall start from the age of 3 upto 18 years.
Keeping in view the pace of brain development at the early stage of life, a child will now be compulsorily put to school at the age of 3 years and shall remain there up-to the age of 18. The draft policy has labelled the first stage of education as foundation stage where learning by doing, learning through activity and learning by play and discovery will be the modes operandi. The main focus in this stage will be on the development of some foundation skills of literacy and numeracy.
To bring inter-connectedness, and address genuine but local problems including shortage of teachers, the draft recommends that school education will be restructured for infrastructural, curricular and pedagogical reasons. The schools will now be reorganised into school complexes to reduce the content load with no hard and fast rules to separate curricular and co-curricular aspects of education. Now education will be more liberal than before.
It also seeks to setup a National Education Commission, increase public investment, strengthen the use of technology and increase focus on vocational and adult education. Besides this, National Tutor Programme, Remedial Instructional Aids Programme and National Nutrition programme will be put in place.
The policy addresses the quality concerns of higher education and focuses on the restructuring of higher education system. The main focus of higher education will now be on research and teaching at three levels. Firstly, the draft recommends the establishment of 150-200 such institutions within 5 to 10 years which shall entirely focus on research so that global standards are met. Secondly, teaching universities will be established and restructured and these shall focus on teaching besides research and thirdly, all degree undergraduate colleges will with the passage of time be autonomous degree granting colleges with focus on teaching and basic research. Thus, at higher education level, massive focus will be on research and it is recommended that National Research Foundation (NRF) will be established to propel research in all streams. The main focus of NRF shall be to incentivise and encourage undergraduate and postgraduate students for quality research.
The draft also focuses on promotion of languages with an aim to create symbiotic relationships between the regions. The draft spotlights classical, local, regional and modern languages which can be taken after a particular grade. The main focus of language formula in the draft is development of language so that semantic integration is developed.
• In most of the countries compulsory education starts at the age of 6 or 7 years. The draft recommends the age for compulsory education as 3-18 years. Whether a consensus is made on this age at the national level is a matter of concern. Hence it needs to be debated because a child at the age of three needs parental love than the care which is hired. It would have been better to focus on mother’s education than the education of tender child. To keep the adolescent in the school forcibly upto 18 years is also a matter of debate.
• The structure of education suggested in the draft is 5+3+3+4 and there is every chance of high dropout rate especially at the secondary level keeping in view the socio-economic conditions of people and other causative factors besides it will be too expensive and shall require a lot of public funding.
• Foundation learning including the life skills at pre-primary stage looks attractive but the integration of it with schooling is a matter of concern and may have least consensus and how to develop these skills is also a matter of debate. Whether to develop literacy and numeracy at the first stage of education can also be debated.
• The draft policy recommends specialization of 2 to 3 areas at early stage of education. Is it possible to have mastery over 2-3 areas without resources including infrastructure and expert support is also a matter of debate.
• If consensus is developed then constitutional amendment is needed because RTE Act-2009 under article 21A speaks about free and compulsory education from the age 6 up-to 14 years and ECCE is a provision falling in directive principle under article 45.
• The draft recommends closing of substandard stand-alone teacher education institutions which is also a matter of concern. There are more than 10000 stand-alone teacher education institutions mostly under private management which yardstick will be used to identify sub-standard ones and if teacher education is imparted now within the universities only, the matter of intake may also be a concern.
• The number of research scholarships is kept very less that may not attract good researchers within the country and will thus encourage brain drain.
• The draft talks much about the B.Ed. that has been kept as entry level for becoming a teacher but what about M.Ed. which also deserves a due space in the policy.
• Thus far, in school education the government has played the role of funder, operator and regulator. In policy draft the role of the Govt. will now be restricted to funder and operator only. A separate School Regulatory Authority (SRA) will be established to recognise the educational institutions. It will act as a tribunal, but does SRA have the mandate to derecognise/disaffiliate or disaccredit any Govt school is also a matter of debate.
Since NPE-1986 or PoA-1992 much water has flown and our country witnessed restructuring in socio-economic, political, educational and industrial sectors which demands exceptional system of education to realise the bigger goals. This draft policy document will if implemented in letter and spirit push India towards a “New India”. The draft of NEP is comprehensive, ambitious and a broad based policy document to achieve academic excellence. It is the collective voice of India!
Keeping in view educational concurrence, the centre and the state governments are equally responsible for its implementation and before it is finalised consultations at state level are also needed. Let us hope good will prevails, good inputs are given and the policy sees the light of the day in 2019 itself.
The author is Assistant Professor, Department of Education, Central University of Kashmir.