New Education Policy: A boon or bane?

By Vanya Bajaj and Mansi Soni

(26/08/2020 19:30IST)

Are you an Arts stream student tired of being stereotyped because you’re not in the Science classes? Or are your music sessions not given as much value as to your history classes? Or are your siblings unable to grasp the concepts, just because they are taught in the language, which is alien to them? Don't worry! These are not to stay any longer.

The blueprint of new National Education Policy 2020 is the tangible outcome of all those voices, screamed to overhaul the existing education system, which has become rusted and outdated due to the decades of neglect. Contentedly, it aims at making our present education sector holistic, flexible, multi-disciplinary and the one which would align to the need of 21st century and 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. The document encrypts a number of admirable features but at the same time also raises some big questions.

According to the policy, all students will take school examinations in Grades 3, 5, and 8 which will be conducted by the appropriate authority. The old 10+2 design is getting exchanged with the new 5+3+3+4 design which will include-:

1.Five years of the Foundational Stage: 3 years of pre-primary school in Grades 1, 2;

2.Three years of the Preparatory (or Latter Primary) Stage: Grades 3, 4, 5;

3.Three years of the Middle (or Upper Primary) Stage: Grades 6, 7, 8 and;

4.Four years of the High (or Secondary) Stage: Grades 9, 10, 11, 12

Studies have found out that children who start out late will continue to lag behind in the upcoming years in terms of education. India is definitely facing this problem due to the casual behaviour of parents towards primary education. Considering this, the government has come up with the Anganwadi System. Anganwadi, which means "courtyard shelter", a system that was started by the Central government way back in 1975. Anganwadi Centres will be heavily built up to deal with the educational needs of children up to the age of 6. What is worrisome is that far too many six-year-olds might be entering Class 1 with very limited Early Childhood Education because of the untrained teachers which usually mentor at an Anganwadi.

The upcoming system won't even restrict students to choose any streams in their final years of schooling and the students will have enough liberty to pick subjects across different streams. This gives the students a chance to study subjects of their interest but this also raises a big question. Some great personality had rightly said that too many choices is a path which leads to indecisiveness therefore, is it an intelligent choice to give so many options to a mere 16-year-old?

The policy also aims to reduce the pressure on the students appearing for all classes. Primarily, the Board exams' focus will be on testing core concepts and knowledge application. Assessment of students appearing for the board exams will be done through a “multidimensional report”. Apart from teachers’ assessment, the progress card will include self-assessment and peer assessment. Peer assessment, as fancy as that that sounds! Does the government not realize that keeping out a child’s weakness in front of their peers is the easiest way of producing insecurity in that child’s mind?

The introduction of vocational courses with internships as early as Grade 6, would help streamline vocational education in India and will equip students with suitable skill sets to avail immediate jobs in future. But as it would be advanced at an early stage, it must be ensured that students are not overloaded with the theoretical studies and are exposed to practical learning as much as possible.

Also, students will be allowed to take up coding from class 6. Coding, which is a subset of programming, is generally introduced as a compulsory subject in the first year of engineering, which is too late! Introducing it at an early stage will help students to learn advance concepts of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and cyber crime issues, even if they're not taking computer science as major in future.

The policy also states that the medium of instruction until at least class 5 (and preferably till class 8) should be “home language or mother tongue or local/regional language”.

Even both Mahatma Gandhi and Ravindranath Tagore were advocates of the mother tongue as the most potent cognitive medium for acquiring knowledge as well as for laying the foundation for learning any other language proficiently, including English. But does policy shine light on how it would be accomplished? In a linguistically diversed country like India, this would be a big challenge to overcome.

Also, it is important not to sideline English. Though, it is a foreign language, it can't be denied that it does not only help to communicate globally but also among ourselves.

Inclusion is a major theme of the NEP, 2020. The provision for a ‘Gender-Inclusion Fund’ and ‘special education zones’ for disadvantaged regions and groups and special funds earmarked for the education of challenged children will help ensure that no child is deprived of education.

The initiative of digital India and current crisis of the pandemic has been the motive behind the need and creation of digital libraries, digital content, digital pedagogy and classrooms, online teaching in NEP 2020. Section 23 and 24 aim at developing digital infrastructure in all schools to make the students self-reliant and technologically advanced. As satisfying as this sounds, it also reminds us of the fact that half the schools in India barely have basic necessities required for a student like that of a computer lab. Then how is the government planning to fight other issues like internet connectivity and the required infrastructure for digitalization?

NEP says that several initiatives will be taken to train teachers about digital technology with the help of nationwide agencies and centers in each district. According to the ministry, teachers will be checked for proper qualification for that of B.Ed. for teachers and Ph.D. for professors before they get recruited. They need to be educated on the methodology and tools of knowledge transfer. Hence this is a very promising step. But again, how is system of practicality and virtually going to incorporate teachers who completed their degree of B.Ed. 20 years back in time?

The NEP envisages multi-disciplinary, holistic undergraduate education with flexible curricula, creative combinations of subjects, multiple entry and exit points with appropriate certification. This will allow students to take their academic journey at their own pace. Also, MPhil will be discontinued. That means students who wish to pursue their PhDs can do so directly after their Master's Degree.

The policy has also proposed setting up of a ‘single overarching umbrella body for the entire higher education i.e, Higher Education Commission of India (HECI), which is intended to clean up what many have called 'regulatory mess'. But, Tamil Nadu based activist Gajendra Babu argued that this may reduce State’s involvement in education and impose Centre’s instead.

Also, the National Testing Agency (NTA) will conduct a common entrance examination (CEE) for admissions to universities across the country. This means that through the scores of this examination, aspirants will be able to apply to more than one college. Most of the countries already have a standard common test like SAT in the USA to get into universities irrespective of the course you take.

Policy talks about granting graded academic, administrative and financial autonomy to institutions and to free schools, colleges and universities from periodic “inspections” and place them on the path of self-assessment and "voluntary" declaration. This has caused fear if institutions may indulge in foul play.

The provision of autonomy will surely allow institutions to design new courses, award degrees, decide on fee structures etc. But what is the guarantee that independent rules and regulations of such autonomous institutions shall not curtail transparent admission procedures, which ensures underprivileged students a share of seat in prestigious institutes?

Students like us dream of getting into prestigious institutes like the ivy league colleges and our government is giving us this chance by opening the doors of our country for foreign universities under NEP. It is definitely a golden opportunity in terms of the kind of exposure students will get but this also raises some very important concerns. India is a country where half the students can afford education only when they get financial perks through quotas and reservations so how is this section of students going to acquire education from these institutes? This might just widen the already broadened gap between the ‘Mighty Elite’ and the ‘Common Man’.

India did not feel the need to change its education system in the past years due to its success but on the other hand, skyrocketing and perpetually increasing cut-offs for student admissions show that the model of education in India was also failing till some extent. Many feel that India’s old education system was too stressful and based more on theoretical learning than practical. But this same system has given birth to many successful personalities. The reason Indians are appreciated across seas for their intelligence is because they are churned through this system. This system makes us confident and thrives us to do better than the best. Some students do crumble under this pressure but every system has their own defaults. There is no guarantee that the new upcoming system won't have any negative effects on our society and on the young minds. Having said this, we also believe in what Richard Branson has said, “Every success story is a tale of constant adaptation, revision and change."

About Authors.

Vanya Bajaj

Desk Editor

Mansi Soni

Desk Editor

References.

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