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A Promissory Draft

A glance at the NEP report, that promises radical changes

A Promissory Draft
Future Gazing
School students during a lesson
Photograph by Tribhuvan Tiwari
A Promissory Draft
outlookindia.com
2019-06-14T11:14:38+0530
  • The New Education Policy draft had a ­controversial opening with the ‘three-­language formula’ proposal. It has now been revised by the government.
  • The draft has proposed a formulation of many new institutions apart from setting some tall goals. It hopes to double school enrolment to 50 per cent by 2025.

***

The New Education Policy draft arrived with a bang, its ‘three-language formula’ proposal immediately sparking off a nationwide debate on that old bugbear—the imposition of Hindi. Taking stock of the discontent, the government quic­kly revised the policy draft. Now that that’s settled, let’s move on to what ent­ails the draft. The 484-page tome beg­INS with a section titled ‘Drawing from India’s Heritage’ and a quote from the PM’s favourite, Swami Vivekananda. As a balancing act, the section ends with an Einstein quote; treading the fine line between politics and policy.

In all, in keeping with the government’s focus, the draft pushes for the strengthening of anganwadis and a new 5+3+3+4 system instead of the 10+2 formula in use since 1968. The Right to Education Act has been extended while the ‘school complex’ idea has been inclu­ded.

Prof. Aninhalli R. Vasavi, anthropologist and researcher, says that the report is unlike BJP-drafted reports of the past in that it is not “dripping with saffronisation”, calling instead “for a recognition of the real and historical contributions of Indian scholarship and of ‘lok vidya’.” She, however, hints that a lot of new institutions proposed by the draft, such as a National Higher Edu­cation Regulatory Authority, a National Repository of Educational Data and a General Education Council, may “lend themselves to a takeover by the sangh parivar.”

Vasavi mentions that the report does not detail how members will be nominated to the bodies and that “it is not clear as to why the PM should be the head of the apex education body—the Rashtriya Shikshan Aayog/National Education Commission.”

Clarity on other aspects is needed too. An estimated 6.2 crore children between 6 and 18 years dropped out of sch­ool in 2015. In 2009, the states of Him­achal Pradesh and Tamil Nadu had par­ticipated in the Program for the International Student Assessment survey conducted by the OECD, with the country coming in at 72 out of 74.

“I would have hoped for a focussed discussion on the institutional mechanisms required to improve outcomes,” says Dr Jayaprakash Narayan, general secretary of the Foundation for Democratic Reforms. Narayan, who was consulted on the policy prior to its release, calls it vague, saying that no clearly defined institutional mechanism to improve outcome in school education has been laid down.

Vasavi feels the concerned ministries need to at how to strengthen vulnerable areas of education. She gives the exa­mple of institutions like the IITs and IIMs, and even schools like Lovedale and Sanawar, which are connected to the HRD or def­ence ministry, “but ashramshalas—residential schools for Adivasis—have no special officer or unit whatsoever to cater to their governance.”

As for higher education, the draft suggests an end to affiliate institutions. It says: “All higher education institutions will either be universities or degree granting autonomous colleges—­there will be no affiliated colleges.” This decision is dangerous, says S. Venkataraman, an educator at the Annamalai University. He says depending on a single body—the National Asse­ssment and Accreditation Council—may lead to chaos since “there will be hundreds of institutions in each state issuing degrees on their own”.

The draft also introduced a National Research Fund (NRF). At present, there are 15 rese­archers for one lakh people in India. Vasavi says the outcomes will depend on how the NRF is structured.

In 2017-18, India spent only 2.7 per cent of its GDP on education. In this scenario, both Vasavi and Venkataraman have concerns about the dependence on private capital in higher education. “A limitation is the idea that private capital or philanthropic capitalism will play a key role in higher education,” Vasavi says.

The draft report does set some lofty goals, like aiming for doubling gross school enrolment to 50 per cent by 2035 and a pupil-teacher ratio of 30:1 at every school, up from a 60:1 ratio in some places courtesy a shortage of close to 10 lakh teachers. As to how this will be resolved, it’s wait and watch for now.

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