NEW NATIONAL EDUCATION POLICY – REACTIONS

It’s over a month since the announcement of the NEP – and on this Teachers Day we take another look at this revolutionary change.

Read more about the NEP 2020 here

Addressing a conclave on the “Transformational Reforms in Higher Education under NEP”, Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi said that “the successful implementation of the NEP 2020 requires the contribution of the important stakeholders from the education sector.” The address was delivered virtually in view of the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic lockdown situation. Meanwhile Shri Amit Khare, Secretary Higher Education told TOI that, “The initial focus will be on non-financial reforms” and “the academic bank of credit will come by December“.

While the leaders make promises there are those who say the devil is in the implementation.

Here’s a quick rundown on how the NEP 2020 has been received and what are the hopes and fears of those affected – directly or indirectly.

Before reading on, would you like to share your opinion on the NEP?

Responses to NEP

NEP 2020 has been received with a spectrum of responses by various groups. Educationist Meeta Sengupta for instance lauded the policy calling it “visionary” and “idealistic” but qualified her response with “yet in some areas the policy hasn’t done enough”. She hailed the multidisciplinary approach – removal of borders between streams and disciplines – and multiple entry and exit points in higher education but said that “more work can be done with respect to class 10 and 12 board exams“. She also appreciated the focus on foundational learning. Sengupta expressed concern over digital learning and the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) for learning.

Welcoming the centre’s decision to rename the Human Resources Development Ministry (MHRD) as the Education Ministry, Education Minister Mr. Manish Sisodia tweeted “We are studying #NEP announced today in greater detail. Will express our opinions tomorrow…Edu. policy has to be the road map to fulfill those good wishes we already have about education.” He expressed a view that it is important to develop human beings rather than human resources.

Radically different from the voice of industry leaders and politicians, the student and teacher bodies call the NEP anti-democratic. They expressed the view that the policy encouraged “radical privatization” and ‘informalization’ of education.

Another school of thought among state leaders is that the NEP is “out of touch with reality”. The reaction alludes to education being conducted in regional languages. State leaders like Nitish Kumar, Yogi Adityanath, and Mamata Banerjee have shown that the push for native language education is not what voters want.

The NEP has raised many eyebrows despite its noble goal to integrate and overhaul the education system.

The Language Debate

One debate that the NEP has triggered is about teaching language in the early years. The NEP propounds the objective of promoting multilingualism and the power of language. Presumably to achieve this very objective, the NEP states, “mother tongue/local language/regional language as the medium of instruction at least till Grade 5, but preferably till Grade 8“. K. Kasturirangan the chairperson of the drafting panel for NEP told Rajdeep Sardesai of India Today, “We feel that teaching the young in their mother tongue can improve their cognitive language” and “multilingual flexibility is the basis of the NEP.

This begs the question of what would be the plight of children who migrate inter-state or even overseas. Closer to home, the education system in India, which was hitherto a diversified system is now likely to become centralized and this might create problems for children learning in their mother tongue or local regional languages to adapt to schools in other states where their parents may be transferred or move voluntarily.

Withdrawal of languages up to grade 5 is being viewed with some trepidation and has generated two schools of thought with many straddling the fence.

The Financial Challenge

The NEP seeks to level the playing field in the education industry and bridge the widening chasm between public and private schools and other educational institutions.  The gap exists because India has always imposed a not-for-profit rule in education – particularly upon the universities. Non-funded schools, colleges, and other institutions therefore find it hard to survive and private investors hesitate to venture forth. Corporates, trusts, and international schools have taken advantage of the void and there has been an outcrop of “high-end” educational institutions that charge exorbitant fees affordable only by the upper middle class strata of society. This has widened an already wide social rift even further and even has ramifications on the economy.

In an effort to bridge this gap, the NEP proposes to introduce a uniform audit system for all universities and colleges requiring full public disclosure of financial matters. The new policy also promises a well oiled, online grievance system that will enable students and their parents to take up issues with higher authorities. Another step towards bridging the divide is bringing higher education systems and setting up a School Quality Assessment and Accreditation Framework (SQAAF) to monitor schools.

Many are in doubt about the implementation of these new changes. Moreover, there is no specific mention of pre-primary and primary students in the financial set-up which has raised many eyebrows.

Welcome Changes

The lax in rigidity has been universally welcomed with open arms – particularly taking down the inter-stream barriers and allowing students to enter and exit the system freely after completing high-school. This gives the undergrads freedom to pursue subjects of their choice without needing to enroll in a particular stream or being tied down by a set curriculum. So a high-school graduate may take up Psychology along with biology and accountancy which nicely rounds of his education in the field that he wishes to pursue.

Under the New Education Policy a student would complete high-school at age 14 after which he may pursue higher studies in his chosen subjects. During the last 4 years of their education students are free to take academic breaks and re-enter the system to complete their education at a later date. A learner may also change course after completion of any one semester or year of education and switch to another subject if he so desires. To facilitate this flexibility the NEP has introduced a system of Bank of Credits where the learner deposits credits earned each time he completes a semester. He can then withdraw and utilize his credits when he needs them. This system has eliminated the bureaucratic process of TOC and is a welcome change.

The multiple entry and exit system coupled with the Bank of Credits has reduced bureaucracy and shifted focus from “cut-offs” to preference but has people asking … Will it work?

Would you like to share your opinion?

Another welcome change at the school level is the introduction of Holistic Report Cards which include not just academic scores but also other aspects of schooling such as skill development, sports, and other activities. This is a step towards the overall development of children moving the focus from scores and percentages to gaining knowledge.

What will Schools and Colleges do?

While parents and students have lauded the NEP2020, teachers, schools, and colleges are apprehensive about the implementation. A system that has been in operation for decades is about to change radically. Implementation of the NEP is therefore likely to generate considerable upheaval among schools and colleges – at least initially.

But considering it is a change for the better, it is our duty as parents, teachers, educators, and society leaders, to ensure that the NEP is implemented in spirit rather than in letter.

Learn more about the NEP 2020 here. If you are looking for something else why not check out our other blogs?

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