Prof AN Sadhu
The country has been experimenting with education policy for independent India for last over seventy years. Most of the times, it was the prevalent education system with small variations / modifications here and there, that was adopted till 1986, when a very comprehensive document was prepared on establishing an education system that addresses to the vast population of the country- both-in content and access. The universalisationof education is still a dream because of a highly heterogeneous topography and society of the country. Dropouts has remained a serious concern and so has remained the quality of the education, both, at school level and higher education level. Several factors have contributed to the lopsided evolution and development of a desirable education system in the country.
An ideal education policy should provide a reasonable scope for three essential elements.
i) Access to education.
ii) Learning content.
iii) Well developed infrastructure.
Access to education refers to equity and social justice. Learning content refers to competitive teaching and learning both at school and higher education level. Infrastructural development comprises of both physical and academic infrastructure. An overview of our educational systemreveals that all these three elements have received inadequate attention in the previous initiatives made in this direction.
The new education policy (NEP- 2020) will have to be examined against these essential elements listed above. The NEP-2020 begins with the statement that it aims at “universalisation of education from pre-school to secondary level with 100% GER in school education by 2030”. Educational system in the country, soon after independence started with the objective of universalisationofeducationbut we are nowhere near that goal. The NEP-2020,seems to be on line towards that goal because of some innovative ideas built in to the policy. 5+3+3+4 instead of 10+2, is definitely a better structure of school education. Emphasis on local language as a medium of instruction is a step in the right direction and so is the activity based teaching learning methodology a better approach at the primary level. The present system has snatched the childhood from the children and it has had a very adverse impact on them at their tender age. It denies them the exposure to the social and family environment as they remain busy in completing the homework thrust upon them. The new system will relieve them of the burden. Prioritizing mother-tongue and / or local language as medium of instruction will have a greater motivational and inspirational effect on children to keep them attracted to the school.
Attempt to bring back dropouts to the main stream, provision of councilors, foundational literacy and numeracy; vocational education from 6th standard and assessment reforms are all very innovative ideas. “Provision of Bal Bhavans” aimed at i) art related, ii) activity related iii) carrier related, learning, reminds of the ancient school education concept of “Gurukul” teaching which entrusted the “Guru” to develop the child in a wholesome manner. Will our schools, both, in public and private sector match the “Gurukul” Ambience, is a big question.Will the new assessment reforms, based on regular and formative assessment instead of summative assessment work flawlessly is a big question. Innovative policy to yield results requires revolutionary transformation of the existing system. Allocation of 6% GDP to education will obviously go a long way in transforming the delivery system in the public sector but it will have to be thoughtfully supplemented by a well developed private sector which has to be philanthropic in a greater measure and less commercial. It will be a big challenge for the govt. because social quality in relation to educational expansion and its updation will play a crucial role in making the NEP – 2020, a success. Although reference is made to school governance envisaging adequate buildup of physical and academic infrastructure, on the one hand and on the other, providing a professional teacher community, it is a gigantic effort which will need firm commitment from the administration. It is a well known fact that we have failed to evolve a desired educational system which would have yielded rich demographic dividend to the country at different levels. In a highly competitive world, it is only a competitive educational system that will enable the country to participate in the emerging global order at par with the developed nations. Although some of our educational institutions have been ranked high in the world, but these are only few and not accessible to the average man. School quality index is very important and should be made a regular exercise. The Teacher Training Institutions need to be overhauled and monitored strictly.
The recent years, have witnessed the growth of Higher Educational Institutes in a big way resulting into the establishment of a large number of universities. This is the need of the hour because of general awakening among the people to go for higher education and make themselves capable of reaping the benefits of 21st century knowledge society. However the GER, even at present is only 26.3% which is sought to be increased to 50% by 2035. 3 or 4 years degree programme in 5+3+3+4 system with free entry and exit facilities is, indeed a novel idea. Establishing an academic credit bank is equally an innovative idea. This will facilitate the vast majority of students to exit at times of their own compulsions and come back when it is feasible for them to return. It will also overcome the regional restrictions which force many a students to abandon their higher educational programmes half way. The creation of National Research Foundation will foster a strong research culture in the countryand will help enhance the research competitiveness of the global standards. Multi-disciplinary approach and liberal subject options, is highly desirable. In fact it should have happened much earlier. In the digital world, the on-line education can’t be ignored but it should not become a substitute.
The available historical accounts of ancient India point to the fact that the country had a highly developed educational system in the past that included Science, Arts, Philosophy and Spirituality. The alien aggression resulted in to disconnections with rich past, on this score. A renewed effort is required to reach that zenith and regain the glory that we have left behind. The 21st. century has been designated as a century of “Knowledge Society” and knowledge will wield power in the world. The policy initiatives have been there right from independence, but the leadership lacked commitment. New Education Policy should bring forth that commitment so far as its operationalisation is concerned. High sounding initiatives should ultimately turn to be high yielding as well.
Prof AN Sadhu