Opportunities and Challenges

Education is one of the key factors in the development of nations; development in real sense is the human development not the construction of Roads, Buildings, Railways, Public Parks, Playgrounds, and Hospitals and like. Although the luxuries of life do count for the quality of life and therefore qualify for the indices of development in the contemporary world but the sustainable development is possible only through the nourishment of a healthy brain and therefore the education is the key factor for the development of a nation.

Now, fortunately this year we have got a new education policy in the country namely NEP 2020. This policy has put the nation in 2020 mode (Like Cricket 2020: fast and superfast, there is hardly any room for making any mistake, every player has to be on tender hooks). So all the stake holders has now to be proactive and every time ready to definitely play a role. Normally every nation in the world reviews its education and comes up with some changes in the form of new policies. Upgrading and enriching the education is the only means we can put ourselves in the race among the different countries of the world.

NEP 2020 is really a wonderful document ever produced in India. Although the previous policies were also full of wonderful recommendations but most of the recommendations are yet confined to the policy documents. Fortunately, this time the Union Government is in 2020 mode for the implementation of this policy and we are hopeful that the challenges confronting this policy shall not become the impediments in the way of implementation of this policy. Today I will through light on the challenges confronting the implementation of this policy in school education at the gross root level.

NEP 2020 has recommended that emphasis may be laid on the early childhood care and education and in this regard NCERT has been desired to prepare the National Curriculum and Pedagogical Frame Work for ECCE (NCPFECCE) for children up to the age group of 08 years. Our country has an estimated child population of 276,000,877 individuals in the age group of 0-9 years thereby requiring at least 8,625,027 teachers for teaching existing child population if at all we attempt to start the full-fledged pre-primary education in the country at an existing student teacher ratio of 32:1. This is of course a big challenge before us but if we can think out of box we can find its solution in Private Public Partnership (PPP) involving Angawadi Centres, Village panchayats, Block sabhas, NGOs and local qualified youth in the pattern of self-help groups to meet this requirement.

NEP 2020 has made one more recommendation of providing vocational education at the age of 12 (From 6th grade). As we are witness to the fact that all previous educational commissions has recommended vocationalazation of education at 10+ 2 level   which we fail miserably and how we can provide it to child population of about 151,800,482 individuals in the age group of 11-14 years. Here in my opinion we must be optimistic as we belong to a nation of powerful resources and nothing is impossible when we are playing in 2020 mode of life. My suggestion to the planners and executing agencies in this regard is that we must establish powerful educational Boards/ Commissions at District level headed by an IAS officer having a mandate to rope in all the stakeholders, local experts in the field, educationists, Agriculturists, and the teachers and then bringing the students into the real life situations and helping them to think out of box and exposing them to the first-hand experience of the local challenges of life,

In the 21st century we are still dreaming to achieve universal foundational literacy and numeracy in primary schools that too by 2025. The existing worst situation in the literacy and education of children cannot be attributed to any single factor. Previously we were thinking that it is the political interference in the school education which has added misery to the system but from last one and a half years here in this part of world we are without any visible political interference in the school education but the dream of rationalization of teachers in the school education seems to be a never fulfilled dream, and I believe the bureaucratic influence and inefficient officers within the department are responsible for this mess. We have schools in rural areas with more than 200 students, 5-7 different classes and 2-3 teachers and at the same time many schools in most of the urban areas with 15-20 students and 25-30 teachers.

Once again thanks to NEP 2020 much needed recommendation of provision for vertical mobility of teachers where in the outstanding teachers with a capacity of demonstrating leadership  and management skills will be given an opportunity to take on academic leadership positions in schools, school complexes, BRCs, BITEs, BIETs as well as relevant government departments. Personally I am fed-up with the time bound promotion system presently in vogue in the education department. I want to share a personal experience with the readers. Once, when I was working as teacher in school education and when the results of 9th class were declared and one of our students failed to make it to the next class, his parent came to school and argued that his son has now grown old and tall as well and he should have been promoted to next class. One of our esteemed colleagues tried to pacify the aggrieved parent but to no avail. Finally the teacher said to him that there is no provision of promotion an the basis of age, and had it been there, he would have prompted his father to 80th grade as his age was 80 years at that point of time. Then why it does not seem us strange when teachers are themselves simply promoted on the basis of years spent in the department.

The appointment of the Chief educational officers, Zonal educational officers, and the heads of the educational institutions shall strictly be made on merit and at least by a three stage selection process viz an aptitude text, a group discussion, and finally a face to face interaction. Then only we can expect a change in the educational scenario. We have to think out of box and the culture of baboos in the management of education at all levels has to be discouraged.

The author is Dean and Head School of Education, Central University of Kashmir.