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Mainstream, VOL LVIII No 38, New Delhi, September 5, 2020

Implications of National Education Policy 2020 on School Education: A Dissection | Abhijit Ghosh

Friday 4 September 2020

by Abhijit Ghosh

There are 6.17 crore students of age group 5-18 leaving schools before completing school education as per NSSO 71 round in 2014 (Ghosh 2018). The same is about 5 crores in 2018 as per NSSO 75 round in 2018 (NEP 2020). This figure is more than the population of Australia. This can be termed as war like situation. India loses such a huge amount of young people who could contribute much better way to the development of the nation. India loses such enormous potential talent and this can be termed as missing talent (Ghosh 2018). Under this perilous state, nation was curiously waiting for the National Education Policy 2020 (NEP). The National Education Policy 2020 has been approved without having any discussion in the parliament in a pandemic situation. Even state governments were not consulted though education being in the concurrent list.

This is not desirable way. Much more democratic way of functioning was expected. The Kasturirangan committee’s 484 pages draft policy has been squeezed to 66 pages policy in its final form. The policy has already invited nation-wide discussion and criticism after being available in the public domain. The report has four parts: i. School Education, ii. Higher Education, iii. Other Key areas of focused and iv. Making it happen. In this article we have discussed here Implications of National Education Policy 2020 on School Education.

Before starting discussion, we have to understand the philosophical and theoretical foundation of the policy. In this context, we must recall that just after forming government in 2014, the Subramanian Committee was set up in 2015. The committee was even submitted the report. But the fate of that report is completely unknown. Or did the committee cannot execute the political agenda of the government? The Kasturirangan Committee while discussing the vision of the policy, reminded rich ancient Indian heritage. This is historically proved that ancient Indian civilisation achieved highest order of knowledge. But at the same time, we must not forget that this system could only take a few portions of society and exclusionary in nature. Therefore, it is quite natural to ask whether the Policy wants to exclude a particular, more specifically marginalised section from the education process. However, having used some catchy words, the policy intends to divert attention from the real issues.

Out of total 66 pages of the policy, around 25 pages cover school education. The school education is very significant from multiple viewpoints. The school education is irreversible in nature. If a child misses a few years of early childhood he or she can never make up this intial years unlike higher education. The school education also creates positive externality to the family and society. Therefore, it is recognised that school education is non-negotiable. This should be compulsorily provided to every children of the society. But the NEP proposes to shut down or consolidate such small schools being run at ‘suboptimal’ level. This is very dangerous. If a school situated in a remote place, for example at jungle or hill area, is merged with other school, then there will be a tendency to stop going schools only because of distance. Therefore this proposal will enhance the drop-out.

A complete restructuring of present system has been proposed. The present 10+2 system will be replaced by 5+3+3+4. This means that pre-primary education will be adjoined to the school system. It proposes to merge present ICDS or Anganwadi system with the primary education. Therefore, Anganwadi workers will be assigned duty for this. But how can this system universalise initial three years of child? This requires enormous infrastructure development. The policy proposes to develop infrastructure in a phased manner. Indirectly, it encourages private players to invest in this area. Therefore, there is possibility of growth of play school in mushroomed manner. Secondly, what will be the minimum qualification of recruitment of teachers and anganwadi workers at primary and pre-primary level? The policy proposes to train Anganwadi workers through online process. There is very likely to get hampered the present task of looking after the nutritional achievement of mother and child of ICDS centres.

The policy acknowledges the importance of mother tongue in at the primary level, till grade V. Even the policy goes to the extent to deliver in mother tongue or home language till grade VIII. It also put emphasis on learning a second language at primary level. But we are confused when the policy proposes three language policy. Though it proposes that there will be complete freedom of the student in choosing third language. But where is the infrastructure? Therefore, there is a scope of questioning that indirectly, some preferred languages will be imposed.

The last four years of school education will be considered as secondary education. In this system, the grade 10 board exam will be removed. Therefore, a considerable number of secondary schools are required to be upgraded to grade 12. But how will infrastructure be developed?

The policy proposes to offer vocational education at grade six. This also includes a list of vocational education such as carpenter, Pottery etc. This will push young children to the job market. Not only that this will encourage to take up family professions which was a characteristic of ancient India. This is also contradictory with the Right to Education Act which ensures legal right of the children aged 6-14 free and compulsory education. In the name of skill development, low wage labour force will be created.

The regular appointment of teachers and filling up vacant post is the prerequisite condition to make the schools lively. A substantial amount of teaching post is vacant in the country. The policy admitted the fact. But how will finance be managed? Even there is high disparity of financial condition among states. There will be huge financial burden particularly on the weaker state. The policy also proposes having B.Ed. degree to be a mandatory condition. Now onwards, B.Ed. will be a four years integrated course.

However, if a student completes two years of bachelor course, he or she needs to do two years of B.Ed. course. This complicated system raises question how the syllabus of B.Ed. and Honours or bachelor degree will be framed. Now this is high time to question why a B.Ed. degree is mandatory to be a school teacher. It is an aristocracy in a developing country like India. This does not mean that the utility of B.Ed. is being questioned. Teachers’ training is a continuous process. Once, in present system one achieves B.Ed. degree, his or her training is over for life time. There is no guarantee to get a teaching job even after completion of B.Ed. degree. Rather the training should be available at a regular interval. The NEP proposes the promotion of teachers which is largely absent in the school education system. The training could be linked with promotion. On the other hand, the proposed policy will flourish the private B.Ed. colleges and thus promote commercialisation of education. The NEP is surprisingly silent over the issues of para-teacher. Though in draft report reads, ‘stop the practice of para-teacher by 2022’. Therefore, the future of para-teacher is in trouble.

The last section of the NEP illustrates the guidelines to implement the policy naming ‘making it happen’. The crux of the section is old one. The six per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is to be spent in education sector. The same was proposed in last two education policy. Now after six decades same agenda is placed. However, in a pandemic situation, when economist forecast of squeezing of total volume of GDP, then six per cent is not enough to implement NEP. The problem of the states with weaker financial situation will be more precarious. Therefore, the NEP should fix the role of centre and state in shouldering the financial burden.

Overall, the NEP fails to capture the dream of twenty first century. Using some catchy and contradictory words, such as access, equity, quality there is a conscious endeavour to create a suspicion and smoked agenda. This will enhance disparity between rural-urban, male-female and among different socio-economic groups. This is also exclusionary in nature, though repeatedly the policy claims to provide inclusive education. But in reality, in the name of efficiency and suboptimality, the NEP intends to merge or close schools. The school education should never be judged in terms of return or more specifically economic return. It should be directed towards the development of human mind that can achieve full potential The Union Education Minister has already conveyed massages to initiate the implementation of the NEP. Therefore, the need of the hour is organised protest. People should be made aware of the policy and the public opinion needs to be organised. All concerned organisation including teachers, students, civil society need to come together. If NEP is to be rejected, organised protest at the road is the only alternative.

References

• Ghosh, Abhijit (2018): ‘Enrolment and Dropout in Schools in India: Evidences from NSSO Data’, in Journal of Educational Planning and Administration, National University of Educational Planning and Administration (NUEPA), Vol. 38, No. 2, January-March, 2018, pp. 15-33, New Delhi
• NEP(2020):https://www.mhrd.gov.in/sites/upload_files/mhrd/files/NEP_Final_English_0.pdf

The Author:

Dr. Abhijit Ghosh is an Assistant Professor of Economics at A N Sinha Institute of Social Studies, Patna-800001 Email: abhijitghosh2007[at]rediffmail.com

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