Draft National Education Policy-2019 | Cluster University, Srinagar Conference recommendations

The draft national policy on education is in public domain for more than a month now. Institutions, educators, intellectuals and the people have been putting forth their suggestions in this regard.The School of Education, Cluster University, Srinagar on June 29, 2019 also took upon itself bringing people together at IASE, Srinagar for discussion and suggestions how the policy is going to affect us in the coming years. Since the policy is quite overarching, spread across school education, higher education, teacher education encompassing research, governance and other key curricular and pedagogic areas, therefore, it is imperative to flag issues of concern. We require seeing the document in light of the previous policies, and how it proposes to restructure education to guide us towards the future. We know education is not, and cannot be neutral; therefore,we always require dissecting the ideology the any document is based on. There could be competing ideologies in education wrestling for the front birth, and perspectives too to how we see these ideologies in proper light; whether the document is forthright or diplomatic in the proposing the recommendations, whether the document shows inclusive and progressive spirit towards knowledge and education, or exclusive and greater puritanical predisposition.These, among others, are the various lenses that could be held in-between this document and ourselves so that we get a broad spectrum vision of the draft policy document. The people on the panel, among others, were Dr Farida Khan, Prof. Nadeem, Prof. Madhosh, Prof. M. Y Peerzada, Prof. Yasmeen, Dr. Parveen Pandit, Prof. Gul Mohammad Wani, Prof. Baqal, Prof. Rajeev Ratan, Dr. Seema, Mohammad Rafi, Prof. Manzoor Ahmad Parray, Syed Fayaz, Dr. Arif, Javed Banday, Ajaz ul Haq, Dr. M.S. Allie, Prof. B.A. Bhat, Prof. Munawar Syed, Fazl illahi, Naseem ul Gani and Aijaz Abdullah.

General suggestions:

There are certain general points that could be taken as aprelude to the suggestions that came up during the seminar. These generalpoints are:

1.            Whatconstitutes knowledge of India: Chapter 11 ‘towards more liberal education’goes thus: ‘Departments of languages (especially Indian Languages), literature(especially Indian literature), music (including carnatic, Hindustani, folk,and film), philosophy (especially Indian philosophy, including Buddhist andJain philosophy), Indology and the study of India, art, dance, theatre……..”

The document completely bypasses the philosophies andliterature of medieval and modern periods.”Knowledge of India” must be taken asa synthesis of all cultures and peoples who made India their home from ancient,medieval and modern times. The document elsewhere rightly highlights unity ofknowledge across disciplines, cultures and races. The document in section 4.6.9titled ‘knowledge of India’, furthermore, smacks of’fundamentalism’ inknowledge and education by prefixing Pythagorean Theorem, Fibonacci numbers,and Pascal’s triangle as ‘so-called’. It is true that there is a need to givecredit to our philosophers and scholars of yore but the way it is put in thedocument sounds unhistorical.

2.            Thedocument in ‘Liberal arts approach to higher education’ advances the argumentthus,”Since the times of Nalanda and Takshashila or even earlier, the historyof higher education in India recognized the holistic aspect of all humanknowledge and enquiry as fundamentally connected…In this context, severalinstitutions of higher studies across the world have implemented what we todaycharacterise as liberal education through an array of different disciplines…”

It seems the document seeks to have a greater philosophicalthan scientific approach to education. The advent of science, we now know, haslead to shrinking of space for philosophy in knowledge and education. Theemprico-rational juggernaut in the shape of science has changed the whole sceneon the planet. While as human beings became widely modern and tech savvy yetthe base of humanness in the human beings became greatly constricted. Although,early Indian thinkers have been always highlighting a broad based educationdirected towards development of complete human being, yet the proliferation ofscience and its methods lead to greater super-specialization in knowledge, and,by consequence, fragmentation of human being and his/her life.Science hassucceeded and failed at the same time. The document proposes the liberal artsapproach to bring completeness and holism in knowledge and man but the questionthat remains is: will it (liberal arts approach), in some manner, dent furtherprogress in science. The document is not fully sure about it as it emphaticallystates, “even though such conclusive assessments are yet to be availablethrough studies, including systematic research in India…”

3.            In thearea of languages it calls English language as the language of ‘economic eliteof India’ and on the other hand says, “where relevant, history-changingSanskrit writings will be suitably integrated in various school subjects aswell as in literature and writing classes”(emphasis added). What and how thedocument desires to change history through the medium of Sanskrit language isthe area of concern.

4.            Thoughthe document is replete with the terms and statements like creativity andcritical thinking and weaning children away from rote-memorization, yet itmakes this weird assertion too, “…if and when rote learning is used, it willalways be pre-accompanied by context and motivation, and post-accompanied byanalysis, discussion, and application.” Needless to say that whenever weprovide context to learning and accompany it with analysis, it does not remain rote-memorizationat all.

Suggestions for School Education:

5.            Theconcept of school complex consisting of one secondary school and allneighbouring pre-primary schools should be applied in the state of Jammu andKashmir with some caution keeping in view the varied terrains and harsh climateconditions especially winter season. During the sessions 2015-17 someinitiatives in the State were taken in this regard under “clusterization ofschools”. The initiative although helped in pooling of resources and optimumuse in many such clusters but in hilly and difficult terrains it did notachieve good results. Even in some urban areas many of the ‘cluster heads’ i.e.principals of higher secondary schools claimed getting overloaded in the areaswhere a cluster comprised of huge number of primary and middle schools.Furthermore, integration into clusters sometimes creates an urge to mergeschools which could be detrimental to the universal access.

6.            The drafttalks about Instructional Aids Tutors, Local Community and Volunteers, NationalTutors Programme, Remedial Instructional Aids Programmes drawing instructorsfrom the local Community looks like a ‘giving up’ approach on the part ofpolicy makers, where things are left to volunteers, undermining the RTE-09 andthe our State’s concern towards universalization of elementary education thatmakes education responsibility of the State. Besides this, teaching being aspecialized job needs highly trained teachers, who create an appropriateleaning environment. Teaching today is not mere imparting of knowledge,therefore, teachers need to be well grounded in teaching-learning. Furthermore,the draft makes a mention of ‘remediation’ which in the present times is takenquite derogatory giving an impression of a ‘disease requiring cure’.

7.            It goeswithout saying that extending the upper and lower ambit of RTE-09 to ECCE andsecondary is a very welcome recommendation of the draft policy however it needsthe required amendment in the RTE act.

8.            Mandatoryclassical languages at school level, as suggested in the policy, is notpractically feasible. However, if necessary, in some cases, it could be madeoptional.

9.            The threelanguages formula has failed miserably in Hindi Speaking states. The need is tohave a language policy and not just a language formula. Language must help achild in meaning making that comes usually by way of mother-tongue as medium ofinstruction. Three language formula should not in any way mean forcing Hindi orother languages on children. The valley needs to focus more on Kasmiriand otherlocal languages which are slowly losing their existence.

10.          The newbreak-up of school education into 5+3+3+4 is a better break-up than the present10+2 system only if appropriate teachers are deployed into the four levels thathave been created. The idea of general line teachers runs contrary to this andthe government needs to look at the issue holistically so that appropriateteachers are made available. This break-up would require states to trainteachers on large scale with focus into ECCE, preparatory, middle and secondaryareas. It will surely bring good and qualified teachers for 9th and 10th gradesas the teachers from higher secondary schools could be deployed to teach thewhole four year bucket.

11.          In responseto the NAS and other surveys have brought alarmingly poor learning levels tothe forefront at the school level however the draft lays over emphasis onliteracy and numeracy which could bring drudgery back to the learning processparticularly at foundational and preparatory stage. It has already broughtgreater burden on children against the recommendations of “learning withoutburden”.(YashPal Committee Report). Furthermore, addition of workbooks toadvance literacy and numeracy too may add burden, and there are studies tooshowing use of workbooks becomes quite uncreative.

12.          To improveaccess and prevent dropout in girls, it is suggested that alternate timingsneed to be introduced, since girls are made to babysit and do household choresduring early daytime, and boys work in farms. It must be, however, ensured thatchildren are not involved in child labour.

13.          Thetesting agency NTA as stated in the draft could challenge the state autonomy inEducation. If this agency is established then the tests should be conducted onthe lines of NET and SET without compromising the state autonomy in education.

14.          The draftsuggests common curriculum for all schools including schools managed bydifferent cultural & religious groups which goes against the fundamentalrights mentioned in the constitution of India i.e. Educational and CulturalRights. There is a need for freedom in curriculum designing but SCERTs shouldtake care that compromises are not made with regard to textbook development.

15.          Vocationalbias at earlier stages (Class 9th-10th)sometimes weans children away from broadbased education. It will help us to produce good artisans and workers but caremust be taken so that over emphasis on vocationalisation should not turnschools into mere workshops.

16.          Allowingmultiple Boards of Assessment (BOAs) is likely to cause undesirable dilution inthe assessment process.

17.          The drafttalks about tenure track system of hiring teachers and on a later place talksabout placement of teachers as early teacher without tenure, teacher withtenure, proficient teacher, expert teacher and master teachers. The terminologyneeds to be revisited.

Suggestions for Higher Education

18.          Creationof RSA shall lead to centralization of Indian Education. Keeping in considerationthe pluralistic nature of the Indian Society there is a need for greaterdecentralization.

19.          Giving NRFthe whole charge even to decide funding for important areas of research looksvery parochial. Research works bottom-up not top-down and the choice ofresearch must be left to the researcher not the funding agency.

20.          Theautonomy given to the institutions must be made clear because the documentseems to emphasise centralization and decentralization in the same breath.

21.          Thenational policy must emphasise greater inclusiveness in the ‘knowledge ofIndia’ and departments in higher education and levels of school education mustbe openedkeeping in view the diversity and plural nature of India.

Suggestions for Teacher Education:

22.          Since thedraft policy suggests shifting the teacher education to the multi-disciplinaryinstitutions, therefore, there is an urgent need to set up proper mechanism inorder bring greater rigor and focus in the programme, otherwise the idea couldquite well become counterproductive in as far as convergence of theory andpractice is concerned. It is true that the present standalone TE institutionshave become hamstrung due to limited disciplinary bases, therefore,multi-disciplinary approach could be the solution, but there is an apprehensionthat it may lead to dilution of the professional nature of the trainingprogramme.

23.          The drafthighlights the importance of new structure of 5+3+3+4 and aligning TE to thisnew structure, however, the state urgently needs to come up with appropriate TEcourses for these levels. As of now we do not have courses beyond B.Ed. andM.Ed. whereas and courses other than B.Ed and M.Ed. are successfully offeredelsewhere in India.

24.          TeacherEducation being quite different from other professional courses works well inan annual system than the semester system. The B. Ed. and M.Ed. courses havetheory and practical components well interspersed and integrated over variouslevels, as such, the break-up of the semester system hampers thistheory-practice unity.

25.          The ideaof introducing part time or online programs in teacher education need to berevisited as the efficacy of army of teachers produced through distance modehas been questioned earlier as well. Such programs were closed in some ofuniversities because the rigor and focus required in the teacher preparationgets lost through the distance mode.

Taking into consideration the above suggestions the experts and educators in the State need to review this draft national policy and see how a similar policy could be devised for the J&K State keeping our own context and milieu in mind, together with the earlier policies including the draft policy of 2019.

Dr. Seema Naaz is Principal IASE, and Fazl illahi is  faculty member, IASE, Srinagar.

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