[Burning Issue] Draft National Education Policy

CONTEXT

  • Following the submission of the draft National Education Policy 2019, there were protests against the three language formula.
  • The controversial provision was thus revised by Dr Kasturirangan-led committee that submitted it.
  • From the perspective of higher education, its main strength is that it has got its basics right — it appears to have a reasonable understanding of existing problems, and offers a plausible picture of possible solutions that may take us towards a better future. Indeed, the DNEP comes as a refreshing shock to academics long accustomed to policy documents that are rooted in a stubborn denial of basic ground realities.

Why a new education policy?

  • The extant National Policy on Education, 1986 modified in 1992 required changes to meet the contemporary and futuristic needs of India’s large youth population.
  • A New Education Policy is designed to meet the changing dynamics of the requirements in terms of quality education, innovation and research.
  • The policy aims at making India a knowledge superpower by equipping students with the necessary skills and knowledge.
  • It also focusses on eliminating the shortage of manpower in science, technology, academics and industry.
  • The Draft Policy is built on the foundational pillars of Access, Equity, Quality, Affordability and Accountability.

Key features

  • Ministry – The committee has proposed to rename the Ministry of Human Resource Development as Ministry of Education (MoE).
  • Curriculum – In school education, a major reconfiguration of the curricular and pedagogical structure was proposed.
  • The policy calls for Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) as an integral part of school education.
  • A 5+3+3+4 curricular and pedagogical structure based on cognitive and socio-emotional developmental stages of children was proposed.

It consists of –

    1. Foundational Stage (age 3-8 yrs): 3 years of pre-primary plus Grades 1-2
    2. Preparatory Stage (8-11 years): Grades 3-5
    3. Middle Stage (11-14 years): Grades 6-8
    4. Secondary Stage (14-18 years): Grades 9-12
  • The policy also seeks to reduce the content load in the school education curriculum.
  • There will be no hard separation of learning areas in terms of curricular, co-curricular or extracurricular areas.
  • All subjects, including arts, music, crafts, sports, yoga, community service, etc will be part of the curricula.
  • The policy promotes active pedagogy to focus on the development of core capacities and life skills, including 21st-century skills.
  • RTE Act – The committee recommends Extension of Right to Education Act 2009 to cover children of ages 3 to 18 (currently, 6-14).
  • Teacher education – The committee proposes for massive transformation in teacher education.
  • It calls for shutting down sub-standard teacher education institutions.
  • It proposes moving all teacher preparation/education programmes into large multidisciplinary universities/colleges.
  • The 4-year integrated stage-specific B.Ed. the programme will eventually be the minimum degree qualification for teachers.
  • Higher education – A restructuring of higher education institutions with three types of higher education institutions was proposed –
  1. Type 1: Focused on world-class research and high-quality teaching
  2. Type 2: Focused on high-quality teaching across disciplines with significant contribution to research
  3. Type 3: High-quality teaching focused on undergraduate education
  • This will be driven by two Missions -Mission Nalanda & Mission Takshashila.
  • There will be re-structuring of Undergraduate programs such as BSc, BA, BCom, BVoc of 3 or 4 years duration and having multiple exits and entry options.
  • Institution – A new apex body Rashtriya Shiksha Ayog is proposed.
  • This is to enable a holistic and integrated implementation of all educational initiatives and programmatic interventions.
  • The body will also coordinate efforts between the Centre and states.
  • The National Research Foundation, an apex body, is proposed for creating a strong research culture.
  • It will help build research capacity across higher education.
  • The four functions of Standard Setting, Funding, Accreditation and Regulation will be separated and conducted by independent bodies.
  • National Higher Education Regulatory Authority will be the only regulator for all higher education including professional education.
  • The policy proposes to create an accreditation eco-system led by a revamped NAAC (National Assessment and Accreditation Council).
  • Professional Standard Setting Bodies for each area of professional education was proposed.
  • UGC is to be transformed into Higher Education Grants Commission (HEGC).
  • The private and public institutions will be treated on par, and education will remain a ‘not for profit’ activity.
  • Besides the above, the committee also recommended several new policy initiatives for –
    1. promoting the internationalization of higher education
    2. strengthening quality open and distance learning
    3. technology integration at all levels of education
    4. facilitating adult and lifelong learning
    5. enhancing the participation of under-represented groups
    6. eliminating gender, social category and regional gaps in education outcomes
  • Language – Promotion of Indian and classical languages and setting up three new National Institutes for Pali, Persian and Prakrit were proposed.
  • Indian Institute of Translation and Interpretation (IITI) has been recommended.
  • The policy called for the proper implementation of the three-language formula (dating back to 1968) in schools across the country.
  • Accordingly, students in Hindi-speaking states should learn a modern Indian language, apart from Hindi and English.
  • In non-Hindi-speaking states, students will have to learn Hindi along with the regional language and English.
  • The controversial three language provision was, however, dropped after protests against it in many states.

Significance of DEP

  • The draft has diagnosed the problems plaguing the sector, besides providing solutions to problems right from the pre-school level to doctoral studies.
  • It recognizes there is a severe learning crisis and emphasizes the need to focus on building a foundation for reading and arithmetics from Class I onwards. The Annual Status of Education Report (ASER), which says that 50% of Class V students were unable to even read the text meant for students three levels below, proves that Indian children have been lagging in basic learning and numeracy skills.
  • The draft suggests that there should be dedicated arithmetic and reading hours every day in primary schools and advises introduction of specialized sessions to hone logical thinking and language skills.
  • “The draft, for the first time, has rightly suggested solutions for early childhood and primary education. The focus on basic understanding of language and mathematics will help in improving the quality.
  • Restructuring of the higher education system into Tier 1, Tier 2 and Tier 3.: Tier 1 includes research universities focusing equally on research and teaching, Tier 2 includes teaching universities focusing primarily on teaching; and Tier 3 includes colleges focusing only on teaching at undergraduate levels. All such institutions will gradually move towards full autonomy – academic, administrative, and financial. The idea is to spread ‘research culture’ at the undergraduate level.
  • The policy also talks about National Scholarship Fund to financially support students for higher education.
  • Promotion of classical and regional languages have been emphasised upon.
  • The policy also proposes to increase the class of compulsory education up to grade 12 (age-18).
  • The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act or Right to Education Act – RTE, 2009 (represents Article 21-A of the Indian Constitution) made education, a fundamental right of every child between the ages of 6 and 14.

Positives of proposals

1.Liberal and holistic – The most overarching is the acknowledgement that all education is, and ought to be envisioned as, “liberal” and holistic.

2. Public education – There is a strong re-affirmation of the state’s commitment to public education, much needed at a time when privatisation has seemed to be the overriding objective of governments.

3. Autonomy – Also welcome is the explicit assurance that institutional autonomy is not just a polite term for financial abandonment.

4. Ad- hoc and contractual appointments – Finally, the recognition that rampant resort to ad hoc and contractual appointments has crippled higher education and must be stopped immediately will surely bring relief to teachers’ organisations agitating tirelessly on this very issue.

5.Core Vision – The core vision based on a tripartite division of higher education into teaching universities, research universities, and optimally-sized multidisciplinary undergraduate colleges is sound.

6. National Research Foundation – The diagnoses and prescriptions for the key areas of governance and regulation are workable as initial starting points, as is the plan to create a National Research Foundation separate from regulatory bodies.

Issues in the Draft Policy

  • There is less consensus on the integration of foundational learning with schooling. In Europe, compulsory education only begins at the age of 6. In certain countries like Denmark, Germany and Finland, compulsory education begins at the age of 7.
  • There needs to be a discussion on whether literacy and numeracy skills should be developed during the time of foundational learning.
  • In the draft policy, there is no mention of how the State regulatory body will regulate the government institutions.
  • A constitutional amendment is required to change the limits for compulsory schooling in the country. Also, increasing the limit on higher side i.e. up to the age of 18 is not consistent with the limits across the world. Also, it is a very expensive proposition.
  • There is not enough capacity in the country to provide for teachers’ education. Also, M.Ed has been given less importance under the policy. The focus has been more on B.Ed.
  • The draft lacks operational details and does not offer insights into how the policy will be funded. The centre must also ensure that the policy does not face litigation, state resistance, and operational challenges on the ground.
  • Discrimination and Exclusion –
  • It is deeply disappointing that the DNEP has evaded this issue, with the question of Under-Represented Groups (URGs) making no appearance outside school education.
  • Caste discrimination has long been an important issue in higher education and has received intense public attention in recent times, from Rohith Vemula to Payal Tadavi.
  • Moreover, national statistics unambiguously establish that Persons with Disability and Muslims are by far the leading URGs in higher education.
  • Protecting public higher educational institutions from undue governmental interference
  • The proposed institutional framework for higher education — with the National Education Commission chaired by the prime minister at its apex — clearly implies even more governmental control with significantly higher levels of centralisation than what is already the case.
  • The DNEP should have included — but does not — a forthright proposal for dealing with this unavoidable problem.

Way Forward

  • Education is a concurrent list subject. Apart from a consensus between the centre and the states, all the other stakeholders including institutions, public and academicians should also be consulted.
  • Natal and prenatal studies should also be included in the country’s education system to ensure awareness about the issues related to mother and infants, considering the high MMR and IMR in the country.
  • There should be a course of Masters of Teacher Education. Also, there is a need to build good teacher training institutions.
  • The education policy should maintain a symbiotic relationship between the different regions of the country through the study of different languages.
  • The quality of education provided in the country shall be such that it not only delivers basic literacy and numeracy but also creates an analytical environment in the country.
  • It does look forward-looking, but what the final draft needs to do is differentiate between deregulation and liberalisation. The incentive for the private sector to invest, grow and stand on quality parameters needs to be clearly articulated.

 

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