A critical insight into NEP 2020

While the policy has been called visionary, it has also been criticised as exclusionary
Representational Image
Representational ImagePxhere [Creative Commons]

The NEP 2020 is the result of long and sustained process of consultations and deliberations. With more than 1.5 million schools, 40,000 colleges and 720 universities the country has the second largest education system in the world, after China.

The first policy after 30 years in line with 21st century and aligned to 2030 agenda of sustainable development built on pillars of Access, Equity, Quality, Affordable and Accountable. NEP has been hailed as a ground-breaking and progressive policy with some of its reforms being long due.

The policy aims to achieve 100 percent gross enrollment ratio (GER) in school education by 2030 and 50 percent GER in higher education by 2035. The emphasis on making higher education multidisciplinary and holistic by making the curriculum more flexible, creation of e-courses in regional languages and adapting to times by advocating for increased use of technology are welcome reforms. NEP 2020 comes short on providing an enabling milieu for many areas.

Notably, the policy commits to increasing public expenditure on education to 6 percent of the GDP from the current 4.43 percent. However, it is unclear how this increased expenditure will be shared between the central and state governments.

A clear plan to implement the vision had been missing. The central and state governments’ effort to increase expenditure on educational sector, 6% of GDP unfortunately this has been the stated goal since 1960, since the Kothari Commission’s report, but is yet to be achieved and the current government has been cutting the funding’s constantly.

We should also not be uncritical in our reception of the NEP, particularly because not many of the promises of the NEP are time bound. While the policy has been called visionary, it has also been criticised as exclusionary and a closer look at its implications for minorities and the nature of the education system is necessary.

The policy talks about universalisation of school education from 3 to 18 years without making it a legal right and has taken the soul of the right to education away from school education. Education Policy does not adequately tackle issue of inequity arising out of medium of instruction.

The sharpest criticism against the NEP has been that it would lead to the privatisation of higher education which is a denial of social justice. The NEP aims to gradually phase out the system of affiliation to a university in 15 years and grant autonomy to colleges which will open the doors to privatization.

It is ironic that NEP’s claims to ‘provide education to historically marginalised, disadvantaged, and underrepresented groups’, lays the roadmap for privatisation of higher education.

It is quite clear that this visionary policy might end up serving the interest of the rich and may lead to intellectual colonization of our institutions and increase the caste and class based inequalities in education further. The intent of policy seems to be ideal in many ways but it is the implementation where lies the key to success

The key reform areas recommended are as under:

Early Childhood Care and Education: The problems of access and several quality related deficiencies in the existing early childhood learning programmes including: (i) curriculum that doesn’t meet the developmental needs of children, (ii) lack of qualified and trained teachers, and (iii) substandard pedagogy. Policy recommends developing a two-part curriculum for early childhood care and education. This will consist of: (i) guidelines for up to three-year-old children (for parents and teachers), and (ii) educational framework for three to eight-year-old children.  This would be implemented by improving and expanding the anganwadi system and co-locating anganwadis with primary schools.

The Right to Education Act, 2009 (RTE Act):Currently, the RTE Act provides for free and compulsory education to all children from the age of six to 14 years. The Policy recommends extending the ambit of the RTE Act to include early childhood education and secondary school education.

This would extend the coverage of the Act to all children between the ages of three to 18 years. In addition, the Policy recommends that the recent amendments to the RTE Act on continuous and comprehensive evaluation and the no detention policy must be reviewed.

It states that there should be no detention of children till class eight. Instead, schools must ensure that children are achieving age-appropriate learning levels.
Curriculum Framework: The current structure of school education must be restructured on the basis of the development needs of students.

This would consist of a 5-3-3-4 design comprising: (i) five years of foundational stage (three years of pre-primary school and classes one and two), (ii) three years of preparatory stage (classes three to five), (iii) three years of middle stage (classes six to eight), and (iv) four years of secondary stage (classes’ nine to 12).

The policy recognises that the current education system solely focuses on rote learning of facts and procedures. Hence, it recommends that the curriculum load in each subject should be reduced to its essential core content. This would make space for holistic, discussion and analysis-based learning.

School Exam Reforms: The current board examinations force students to concentrate only on a few subjects, do not test learning in a formative manner, and cause stress among students.  To track students’ progress throughout their school experience, the Policy proposes State Census Examinations in classes three, five and eight.  Further, it recommends restructuring the board examinations to test only core concepts, skills and higher order capacities.  These board examinations will be on a range of subjects.  The students can choose their subjects, and the semester when they want to take these board exams.  The in-school final examinations may be replaced by these board examinations.

School infrastructure:  Establishing primary schools in every habitation across the country has helped increase access to education.  However, it has led to the development of very small schools having low numbers making it operationally complex to deploy teachers and critical physical resources. The Policy recommends that multiple public schools should be brought together to form a school complex.  A complex will consist of one secondary school and all the public schools in its neighbourhood that offer education from pre-primary till class eight. The school complexes will also include anganwadis, vocational education facilities, and an adult education center. Each school complex will be a semi-autonomous unit providing integrated education across all stages from early childhood to secondary education.  This will ensure that resources such as infrastructure and trained teachers can be efficiently shared across a school complex.

Teacher Management: Recognising there has been a steep rise in teacher shortage, lack of professionally qualified teachers, and deployment of teachers for non-educational purposes.  The Policy recommends that teachers should be deployed with a particular school complex for at least five to seven years. Further, teachers will not be allowed to participate in any non-teaching activities ,such as cooking mid-day meals or participating in vaccination campaigns during school hours that could affect their teaching capacities.
For teacher training, the existing B.Ed. programme will be replaced by a four-year integrated B.Ed. programme that combines high-quality content, pedagogy, and practical training. An integrated continuous professional development will also be developed for all subjects.  Teachers will be required to complete a minimum of 50 hours of continuous professional development training every year.

Regulation of schools: The Policy recommends separating the regulation of schools from aspects such as policymaking, school operations, and academic development. It suggests creating an independent State School Regulatory Authority for each state that will prescribe basic uniform standards for public and private schools. The Department of Education of the State will formulate policy and conduct monitoring and supervision.

Dr. Farooq Ahmad Wasil, a published author, and an educationist, is Consultant and Advisor, to Thinksite. He has over 3 decades of experience in the field of education Management – setting up, operating and managing schools.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.

The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.

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