COMMENTS have been sought on the Draft of the New Education Policy prepared by a Group headed by Dr Kasturirangan. This Group was constituted about around three years ago. However, in 2014, when the NDA had come to power, a Committee, headed by late Mr T S R Subramanian had been constituted to work on a policy. The Committee had submitted its report but the document has not seen the light of the day.
The fundamental question that begs an answer is whether there is need for a new Education Policy or, considering the diversity of the country, is there need for a well-defined action plan for each State clearly outlining what needs to be done, how will it be done, who will do it and by when will it be done to provide quality education to every child in the country? However, now that a draft has been put on display, let us look at what this draft has to offer in the context of school education.
The inclusion of pre-school education is welcome as it is well established that the initial years of a child are critical for his overall development in future. However, this is nothing new. Such provisions had already been adopted in “Samagra Shiksha” that sought to amalgamate the ongoing “Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA)” and “Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA), apart from extending eligibility under the scheme to pre-school education and classes 11 and 12 that were hitherto not available for these segments.
The focus on the teacher has been also talked about for a while and the draft only reiterates that. Various issues relating to pre-service training, selection of teachers and in-service upgradation of skills have been highlighted in the report. The draft also recognises the role that “DIKSHA” (a portal already in place for teachers) can play in the context of teachers. There is a mention about empowering the student to select the subjects of his choice and for making the curriculum more flexible for this purpose. The emphasis given to vocational training is critical and finds space in the draft. However, none of this is either new or “out-of-the-box”.
The revision of the National Curriculum Framework has been long overdue. It was last formulated in 2005.The draft suggests changes in the framework and rightly lays emphasis on bringing in ethical content in the curriculum. Should we wait for a policy to revise the curriculum?
The draft recommends largescale changes in the board examinations as also introduction of examinations at various levels. There is also a mention about setting up a separate regulatory authority for school education. However, it is debatable whether such changes would help in qualitative improvements in learning outcomes.
Right at the beginning, the draft talks about “out-of-the-box” solutions to the problems that afflict education sector. However, there are hardly any such solutions offered. In fact, the draft misses out on the advantages of experiential learning that can make learning so very interesting. Some out-of-the-box approaches should/could have been suggested after having travelled all over the country as there are a number of examples that could have been suggested for replication.
NGOs like Akshara Foundation, Sampark Foundation and Kaivalya Foundation are doing phenomenal work and are being replicated. There is just marginal mention of the role non-governmental organisations are playing a phenomenal role in transforming school education. The need for scaling public-private partnership is missing from the report.
The number of students migrating to private schools is increasing by the day. The draft does not delve into the details of why is this happening and should it happen? Instead of pushing private schools not to use the term “public”, effort should have been made to get to the bottom of the problem. Is the growth of private schools necessarily a problem? They could have possibly come to a different conclusion. Private schools are playing a critical role in imparting school education and will continue to do so. There are indeed a few issues but they can be addressed. However, to do so, we have to get over the “bias” that we have against them. There could/should have been an out-of-the-box thinking in this regard.
The draft seems to place a lot of faith in the Right to Education Act and recommends its extension to all the remaining classes in the school. There is no examination in the report of the “benefits” accruing out of a legislation that seems to have done more damage to school education. This is evidenced by the assessment of learning outcomes since the enactment of the law. These assessments reflect a negative trend.
The “language” issue has already created a huge controversy. Why was this issue considered at all in the first place in the draft? Can a “formula” be imposed on States? Should such a “formula” be imposed? These aspects should have been looked into before making a recommendation
Most importantly, the draft does not provide for a definitive and time-bound action plan. It accepts the fact that “the challenge is the ability to implement the policy” but does precious little to address this part. There is indeed no dearth of diagnosis and prescription. The problem is of application. The draft neither analyses why such initiatives have failed in the past nor does it come up with specific recommendations on how to make it happen on the ground. The draft policy doesn’t appear to have served any purpose except providing space for debate and discussion. The issues that beset education require to be addressed forthwith without waiting for a policy that may take a long time coming. What is required is to prepare action plans for each state as have been worked out for Uttar Pradesh and J&K and facilitate their implementation.
GOVERNANCE / Policy / Education / by Anil Swarup