A policy document as a vision ahead offers an intellectual direction to achieve the goals of nation-building. After 34 years, Government of India has announced the National Education Policy-2020. The policy seems to be ambitious and devised in an inclusive, holistic manner. It's participatory in nature, and responds to the new challenges confronted by India in the 21st century. The policy has its foundation on five central pillars of access, equity, quality, affordability, and accountability. It also claims to promote innovation and research to make India a knowledge superpower.
The policy aims at analyzing education in a gamut rather than seeing it in terms of the various sub-stages for which it stands. The policy looks to be comprehensive from the standpoint of covering not only School Education and Higher Education but also vocational, professional, inclusive, and adult education.
The policy document is very small in comparison to its draft which was in the public domain for comments and feedback in 2019. The final document of the policy is 66 pages spread over four parts, School Education, Higher Education, Professional Education, and Implementation Mechanism. The language of the document is very lucid and simple.
The new structure of education recommended is 5+3+3+4 in place of 10+2 which seems to be complex and misses the links between the stages. The age group covering the structure is from 03 years to 18 years. To implement this particular pedagogical structure, it is mandatory to amend the Right to Education Act-2009 and extend it to 03 to 18 years of age group.
The policy has assured the nation that high-quality access to Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) will be delivered in a phased manner. The policy rightly has accepted that the first five years of life are extremely important for the holistic development of the child and in-fact throughout the world, ECCE has been given the high priority and place in education, owing to its importance in everyone's life. To our limited understanding, there seems to be a paradox when this very important stage of life is being handed over to Anganwadi Centres besides other institutions which we believe are not equipped enough to take care of children, belonging to this vital stage. Though, the policy recommends 01 year and 06 months training to these Anganwadi workers, but the question arises, will this much of training suffice the needs of these workers.
The policy has envisaged that philanthropic organizations shall play an important role in promoting quality education and has been given a considerable place in the document. If we consider the conventional definition of philanthropy, it leads us towards "private initiatives". Per se, we are not against the privatization, but the fact is that privatization in this country has always been for profit-making and is it possible that now these organizations change their approach. It seems that the state is trying to shy away from taking the responsibility of education, and moreover it compromises on one of the fundamental pillars of the policy called affordability.
The policy document has recommended that the mother tongue as the medium of instruction at the primary stage which is globally accepted dictum. But at the same time can we overlook the significance of the English language especially for an aspiring and developing society like India. This is the fact that English is a global language and it gives an added advantage to a person who uses it. One of the important attractions towards the private schools in India is probably the English language. If the mother tongue as a medium of instruction is being implemented in public schools, can it be equally implemented in private schools?
The policy has come up with the concept of the core curriculum and at the same time it has also recommended that there will be a significant reduction in the syllabus which is a very good initiative, but the question arises what will be included or excluded in the core curriculum and who will decide it, keeping in view the fact that education is in the concurrent list of the constitution.
School complex as a concept recommended by the policy has some pragmatic issues and at the same time difficult to implement especially in hilly states of the country due to the varied topography. The integration into clusters will create an urge to merge schools that will remain unfavourable to universal access which again is a violation of the right to education.
Vocationalization of education is indeed a very good initiative but at the same time, the policy has recommended it from class 6th . We are of the opinion that pushing the vocationalization of education at the elementary level might hamper the intellectual growth of the child and there is every possibility that it might also push them to child labour.
Open learning as a concept has been recommended at the school level which to our understanding is not feasible and practicable. As education is not all about enrolment and getting certificates or degrees but socialization as well. The policymakers should have looked at the feasibility of Open Schooling at the elementary level. The Policy as it seems is pushing for online education. In the light of the latest survey conducted by NCERT wherein, it has been found that at least 27% students do not have access to smartphones or laptops to attend online classes, while 28% students and parents believe intermittent or lack of electricity is one of the major concerns hindering their learning, we need to tread a conscious path regarding online education lest we may end up pushing the marginalized out of the system.
To conclude, we believe that a document howsoever progressive and ambitious it may be, is of very little use, unless there is not a proper commitment and the required mechanism to implement it. We are hopeful that after further debate and discussion this policy document will see the light of the day.
Dr. Mohammad Sayid Bhat is Sr. Assistant Professor, Department of Education, Central University of Kashmir.
Manzoor Ahmad Parey is Assistant Professor, Higher Education Department, Govt. Degree College Ganderbal Kashmir.
Views are personal