Conceptualising social justice in light of NEP 2020

The education system of J&K must be re-engineered on progressive lines so that no child is denied the opportunity to learn and thrive
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Representational Image File/GK

Long back my teacher Late Professor A.R Rather was delivering a lecture on Educational Sociology in MEd class, during the lecture he talked about Social Justice. I requested; Sir, please explain it with an example. He cited his own example which I reproduce here.

When he was reading in a school at Pinglana Pulwama, he did not attend the school for many days due to financial constraints. One fine morning his head of the institution Late Pandit Keshav Nath Gurtoo dropped at his residence. It was very early.

After interacting with Rather sahib’s father he told him that the boy is very bright and gifted. Why he is not coming to school for the last 10 days. Rather sahib’s father cited financial constraints and was initially reluctant to send him back to school.

Pandit Keshav promised his father that he will arrange some financial assistance for sustaining the education of his son. He took him back to school.

One of the neighbors working as small street vendor dropped at my residence and requested for writing an application for fee concession of his physically challenged son.

The man belongs to socio-economically disadvantaged group and is entitled to fee concession under 25% quota reserved for poor students.

After attaching the masjid committee report, Gazetted officer certificate, BPL ration card with the application, the school authorities rejected his plea for any type of concession as the quota already stands filled. The poor man decided to withdraw his child from the school.

Meanwhile I advised him to seek information under RTI regarding how many seats have been filled in poor category quota. The RTI information revealed that they had not filled any seat and had misled the poor man. Later the school management apologized before the poor man and decided to give full concession, for the fear of de-affiliation.

Education is the most powerful tool for promoting social justice and equality in a heterogonous society. Education for all is a key component of building an inclusive and equitable society in which every person has the opportunity to dream, thrive, and contribute to the nation.

The Education System of J&K must be reengineered on progressive lines so that no child is denied the opportunity to learn and thrive as a result of their birth or status.

The NEP 2020 understands that education is critical for realizing one’s full potential and creating a more equal and just society. By 2030, the global education development strategy aims to “provide inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all,” as stated in Goal 4 (SDG4) of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which India adopted in 2015.

To realize the important targets and goals (SDGs) of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the entire educational system will need to be restructured to support and nurture learning.

To make our education system more immersive, holistic, integrated, inquiry-driven, discovery oriented, learner-centered, discussion-based, adaptable, and entertaining, we need to evolve hybrid pedagogies of teaching and learning.

Social justice is about distributing resources equitably and treating all students equitably so that they feel safe and secure—physically and psychologically. On the contrary, a look at schools across the nation makes it clear that fair distribution of resources and equitable treatment do not always happen.

Students in poorly-funded schools do not have the access to technology, and other resources that are key for holistic development; while students in affluent areas have the current academic resources, school counselors, librarians, and more to help them climb the growth trajectory.

While the Indian education system and successive government policies have made steady progress towards bridging gender and social category gaps in all levels of school education, large disparities still remain – especially at the secondary level – particularly for socio-economically disadvantaged groups that have been historically underrepresented in education.

Socio-Economically Disadvantaged Groups (SEDGs) can be broadly categorized based on gender identities (particularly female and transgender individuals), socio-cultural identities (such as Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, OBCs, and minorities), geographical identities (such as students from villages, small towns, and aspirational districts), disabilities (including learning disabilities), and socio-economic conditions (such as migrant communities, low income households, children in vulnerable situations, victims of or children of victims of trafficking, orphans including child beggars in urban areas, and the urban poor).

While overall enrollments in schools decline steadily from Grade 1 to Grade 12, this decline in enrollments is significantly more pronounced for many of these SEDGs, with even greater declines for female students within each of these SEDGs and often even steeper in higher education (NEP 2020 6.2) Data shows that certain geographical areas contain significantly larger proportions of SEDGs.

Also, there are geographical locations that have been identified as Aspirational Districts which require special interventions for promoting their educational development.

Hence, it is recommended by NEP 2020 that regions of the country with large populations from educationally-disadvantaged SEDGs should be declared Special Education Zones (SEZs), where all the schemes and policies are implemented to the maximum through additional concerted efforts, in order to truly change their educational landscape( NEP 2020 6.6) New Education Policy looks at the students not as ‘citizens of tomorrow’ but as ‘citizens of today’ who are an equal stakeholder in the policies related to the development of the country. In light of NEP 2020 the following tangible action points can be taken by the Educational authorities in the UT of J& K for achieving the inclusive and equitable education:

a. Mapping of socially and economically disadvantaged groups (SEDG) and preparation of database to analyze the kind, intensity and level of intervention required for each of the SEDG in light of NEP 2020;

b. The Scheduled Castes’ enrollment and retention rates have been negatively impacted by a number of factors, including a lack of access to quality schools, poverty, social mores, stereo based custom and language barriers. Bridging the inequalities in access, engagement, and learning outcomes for children from Scheduled Castes should be the main target. Other Backward Classes (OBCs), who have been historically labeled as socially and educationally backward, deserve special care and attention as well;

c. Tribal children face a number of difficulties due to historical and geographical factors. Children from tribal cultures frequently perceive their school education as culturally and academically irrelevant and alien to their lives. While there few interventions available to uplift children from tribal communities, innovative methods must be devised to ensure that tribal children benefit from these interventions;

d. Minorities are underrepresented in both secondary and postsecondary education, appropriate measures need to be taken for their visible representation;

e. New strategies need to be developed for plugging gaps in school education between underrepresented and disadvantaged groups in terms of early childhood education, fundamental reading and numeracy, access, enrollment, and attendance;

f. In some states some best healthy practices have significantly increased SEDG participation in the schooling system such as targeted scholarships, conditional cash transfers to encourage parents to send their children to school, bicycles for transportation, and so on. These positive policies and programmes must be documented by researchers and expanded throughout the UT;

g. Building moral and spiritual character through unconditional love, tolerance, non-violence and selfless service for others;

h. Using a technique of sociometry where class isolates are directed to share bench with class leaders as experimented by Gandhiji at Tolstoy farm ;

i. Conducting gender sensitization and gender audit exercises at regular intervals;

j. One-on-one teachers and tutors peer tutoring, open schooling and appropriate technological interventions to give access can be very beneficial for SEDG;

k. The preliminary training should consist in teaching children manners, good speech and good conduct’ and release them from the miserable state of conditions they live in;

l. Teachers, Head of Institutions should keep a constant track of potential dropouts and conduct regular parent-teacher meets for realigning these children on the educational track;

m. Rationalizing of staff and providing adequate staff and infrastructure in special education zones;

n. Provision of low cost technological gadgets and electricity in schools within the nucleus of special education zones so that they can have access to E-Resources available on DIKSHA;

o. Schools in our UT should get accredited with National Institute of Open School( NIOS) for strengthening non-formal education base particularly at school level;

p. Mentoring and voluntarily teaching poor children in their vicinity by educated retired senior citizens;

q. Remedial classes in basic literacy and numeracy for poor children beyond school hours by local community in;

r. Creation of Single Window Services System for processing scholarship applications of SEDG;

s. Orientation and refresher courses for teachers, Head of the Institutions regarding how to make school inclusive and equitable;

t. The inclusion of children with disabilities in early childhood education should be given top priority. Head of the institutions and teachers should move with unpunctuated faith that children with disabilities will be able to fully participate in the regular schooling process from the Foundational Stage to Higher Education;

u. According to the RPWD Act of 2016, children with physical disabilities have the option of attending regular or special school.

Resource Centers will serve the rehabilitation and educational needs of students with severe or multiple disabilities, as well as supporting parents/guardians in achieving high-quality home schooling and skilling for such students, in partnership with special educators.

Home-based education will continue to be an option for children with severe and profound disabilities who are unable to attend school;

As is said, Education is a liberating force, and in our age it is also a democratizing force, cutting across the barriers of caste and class, smoothing out inequalities imposed by birth and other circumstances

Showkat Rashid Wani, Senior Coordinator, Directorate of Distance Education, University of Kashmir.

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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