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Can the NEP aid access to universal education.

Can the NEP aid access to universal education?

1. CONTEXT OF THE NEWS

Recently, the Union Cabinet approved the new National Education Policy (NEP) 2020.

The new policy is in tune with the Sustainable Development Goal of ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education for all in the next 20 years.

The editorial discusses in detail about the new National Education Policy (NEP).

2. EARLY CHILDHOOD CARE AND EDUCATION

  • The NEP has set a 10-year deadline to make all children entering Grade 1 school-ready through Early Childhood Care and Education.
  • This is a very crucial aspect, as with every passing year we lose out on some children.
  • During the initial years of schooling, the brain develops very fast, the child has a huge learning capacity, and therefore we should help them to learn as much as possible.
  • In this context, the deadline set is very crucial to meet.
  • However, this provision is already a constitutional mandate after the commencement of the Right to Education Act.

3. THE CONSTITUTIONAL ASPECTS

3.1 Part IV - Directive Principles of State Policy

  • In Part IV of the Indian Constitution, Article 45 provides for free and compulsory education for children
  • Article 45 states - The State shall endeavour to provide, within a period of ten years from the commencement of this Constitution, for free and compulsory education for all children until they complete the age of fourteen years.
  • Article 39 (f) of Directive Principles of State Policy in the Indian Constitution provides that children are given opportunities and facilities to develop in a healthy manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity and that childhood and youth are protected against exploitation and against moral and material abandonment.
  • Therefore Articles 45 and 39 (f) provides for free, equitable, and accessible education to all the children.
  • The 42nd Amendment Act, 1976 moved education from the State to the Concurrent List.

3.2 Fundamental Right

  • The 86th Amendment Act, 2002 made education a fundamental right under Article 21 A.
  • Article 21 A - The State shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of six to fourteen years in such manner as the State may, by law, determine.

3.3 Right to Education (RTE) Act, 2009

  • The Act inserted Article 21-A in the Constitution to provide free and compulsory education of all children in the age group of six to fourteen years as a Fundamental Right.
  • Article 21-A and the RTE Act came into effect on 1 April 2010.

4. FREE AND UNIVERSAL EDUCATION

4.1 NEP Provisions

  • The NEP aims at Universalization of education from preschool to secondary level with 100% Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) in school education by 2030.
  • The NEP does not say anything about the last years' draft proposal to expand the scope of the Right to Education to include children in the age group 3 to 18 years in its ambit.
  • Many experts believe that the age of six at which the RTE Act begins is a little late and instead should begin at age three.
  • Though the NEP document states to achieve universalization of education, it remains to be seen how the government plans to implement it.
  • The policy has provided for a timeline to bring children under formal education at the age of three due to the present practical issues with anganwadis and preschools.

4.2 Issues with the universalisation

  • The NEP policy does not provide for regular schooling with well-qualified teachers but instead allows open schooling.
  • The NEP has clubbed three years of Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) with the Grade 1 and 2 of primary school and has termed it as ‘foundational literacy and numeracy mission’.
  • Experts have raised concerns over this as the Anganwadi [worker] is not professionally trained and well equipped to be a teacher.
  • Some see this as an attempt by the government to abandon its responsibility of providing for a good, professional teacher for in the earliest years of a child's education.
  • The Anganwadi workers in a way are replacing the parents of the children and therefore it is a good way to begin teaching the children.

4.3 Ensuring universalization

  • The committee members of the NEP were clear that the policy should ensure a very high quality of government education.
  • This is the only way forward to universal education as the private players in education will not open schools in remote areas where the strength if the children is very less.

5. PRIVATE EDUCATION

5.1 Pooling in all resources

  • The policy states education to be a public service, but also advocates philanthropic private participation in education.
  • Some experts have underlined that all existing resources should be devoted to ensuring quality education to children and early childhood care to ensure universal education.

5.2 No discouragement to Private Education

  • The NEP does not discourage private education but only aims to strengthen the government education system.
  • In the last 25 years, private school education stands at nearly 50%, and close to 70% of enrolment in higher education is in private hands.

5.3 Weeding out the non-competent

  • However, the concern is that there are not too many good players providing quality education in the private sector, and there should be a process to filter out the non-competent players.
  • Around the world, philanthropy and the private sector exhibit great participation in education.
  • However, in India, there are many entities operating as not for profit but in reality, are working for profit and there is a need to weed out such entities as well.

6. COMAPRISON OF THE NEW NEP

6.1 Pedagogical alignment

  • The proposed +3+3+4 school structure has led to apprehensions that it could lead to exits at each stage.
  • This is a pedagogical alignment aimed to assess students at Grade 3, 5, and 8.
  • This is to ensure that the students have attained the outcomes designed for them.
  • The restructuring is an attempt to shift the focus on learning outcomes at different stages.
  • The NEP also aims to prevent the biggest dropouts that begin at happening from beyond grade 5.

6.2 Creation of School Complexes

  • The Kothari Commission spoke about a ‘school complex’.
  • It aims to have a collaborative synergy between high or higher secondary schools and primary schools.
  • The Higher Schools are better resourced while the smaller neighborhood and primary schools become feeder schools for the high school.
  • This ensures quality education at all stages.
  • Presently the school complexes are used in a different sense altogether.
  • Under the name of consolidation, 14,000 schools in one State have been closed.
  • The NEP states that we should have larger institutions until the higher education and college level.
  • Some see it as an economic argument of viability and not taking the RTE of children seriously.

6.3 National Testing Agency

  • The need of a National Testing Agency is also under debate.
  • The NEP aims to dismantle old and build new attitudes and mindsets.
  • Presently there is a lot of anxiety and extreme competition in competitive exams like JEE.
  • NEP aims that only those who want to try for JEE need to study for it, the rest students should be given a chance to explore and experiment with new things.
  • Furthermore, higher institutions will have increased autonomy in deciding the admissions which raises the anxiousness of both parents and students.
  • Some percentage of admission through NTA will also provide a partial level-playing field.

7. BROADENING INEQUALITIES

The NEP is silent of the question of a common school curriculum. Furthermore, the policy of imparting education in the mother tongue is also open-ended.

There are arguments that such moves will broaden the inequalities.

7.1 Common school curriculum

  • While the NEP advocates equitable and inclusive education, however the provision of a common school curriculum finds no mention.
  • The NEP Committee discussed on the matters of different boards regarding a common school curriculum.
  • There is an exodus towards CBSE boards in many states but it is partially because the state boards are quite weak.
  • The NEP policy aims to strengthen SCERTs so that these boards can address the need of the children to be educated in their own context and culture.

7.2 Education in Mother tongue

  • The provision for imparting education in the mother tongue is also open-ended.
  • State governments have decided to impart teaching in the regional language.
  • However, there is a problem of areas on the borders of states.
  •  For instance, while the medium of instruction in Karnataka would be Kannada, a large number of population on the Karnataka - Maharashtra border speaks Marathi but reside in Karnataka, and on the Karnataka - Andhra Pradesh border where children speak Telugu, etc.
  • Education should be provided in the dominant language of the community but this would be a hindrance in transferring teachers by the State governments.
  • The idea of the move is to allow local schools to use the local language as the medium of instruction, but the success of the move remains to be seen, as education is also a state subject.

8. LACUANE IS NEP

8.1 Vocational Education

  • Many experts have argued that the thrust on vocational education will weaken the students academically and will even perpetuate hereditary occupations and lead to early exits.
  • Present vocational education in India has no element of education attached to it.
  • It is largely skill-based and based on the hierarchy between knowledge for some and skill for the others.
  • Some experts have shown concern regarding clubbing of grades 9, 10, 11, and 12 and given vocational courses.
  • This might lead to a lot of dropping out, pushing children away into vocational courses or open school.

8.2 Socio-Economically Disadvantaged Group (SEDG)

  • The disadvantage is historical and social.
  • Clubbing everyone under a single SEDG and shying away from using words as ‘Dalit’ or ‘minority’ denies the acknowledgment os the issue.
  • Ii is because of this that many experts feel that the broad categorization of Socio-Economically Disadvantaged Group (SEDG) will hamper equality.
  • It leads to a failure to understand diverse social realities and disadvantages.

9. COMPARISON OF INDIAN EDUCATION WITH FOREIGN EDUCATION

  • Foreign education focuses more on practical based learning and creativity while Indian education focuses more on theory.
  • Education in India is not like education in foreign countries where education is a learning process.
  • The curriculum in foreign education is wholesome encompassing sports along with education.
    • The USA has arts, sports, music, and theatre in the syllabus.
    • Australia focuses more on sports and have cricket, hockey, and boxing in their college curriculum.
    • There is very less scope for extracurricular in the Indian education system.
  • While education is free and public in most countries for instance, in Dubai, primary and secondary education is free and made compulsory under law.
  • Education in India is increasingly becoming a business enterprise from the privatization of education to tuitions and coaching institutes.
  • In India, students rarely pick up education streams according to their field of interest and opt for streams that have better remunerative prospects.
  • The education system in India is slow in adopting the latest technologies in the curriculum while in foreign lands, curriculum moves hand in hand with technology upgrades and industry requirements.
  • Education in India focuses on the memorization of facts and figures, while education in foreign countries imparts knowledge through practical implementation.
  • There are many drawbacks in the present education system in India and one hopes that the new National Education Policy 2020 is a step in addressing this situation.

Source: The Hindu