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Explained: Why Bengal Government Rejected NEP 2020 And Formulated Its Own Education Policy

The preliminary document outlines the sections of the National Education Policy (NEP) that the state government has declined, taking into account the suggestions put forth by the empowered committee.

School girls in uniform are reading in their classroom in a school in Satia
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The government of Bengal has formulated its own educational policy, outlining the extent to which the state has agreed or accepted the 2020 National Education Policy (NEP) developed by the central government.  

The preliminary document also comprehensively outlines the aspects of the NEP that the state government has declined to adopt, taking into account the guidance provided by the empowered committee.  

The preliminary version of the state's education policy includes the NEP's stance on specific matters, the corresponding stance presented in the draft, and the insights offered by the departments of school education and higher education regarding the subject matter.  

West Bengal develops its own education policy  

Officials from the West Bengal government have indicated that the implementation of a consistent nationwide policy would pose challenges. As a result, they established a committee consisting of 10 education experts on April 7, 2023. This committee's objective is to analyze the educational initiatives undertaken by states like Maharashtra and Kerala. Subsequently, the committee will compile a report proposing an alternative approach to shaping the state's education policy.  

The panel comprises notable members including Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, a professor at Columbia University, Suranjan Das, the Vice-Chancellor of Jadavpur University, Anupam Basu, the director of NIT Durgapur, Saikat Maitra, the Vice-Chancellor of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad University of Technology, and Sugata Bose, a professor at Harvard University, among others.  

The adjustment to the 5+3+3+4 school system from the current model, which advocates eliminating the Class X board examination, has been declined by the state government, according to an education department official.  

Education Minister Bratya Basu conveyed that the draft will be presented as a bill during the ongoing Assembly session.  

The NEP suggests transitioning to a 5+3+3+4 school system, where Class 9-12 is considered, a continuum offering students subject choices. On the other hand, the preliminary state education policy draft aims to maintain the existing 4+4+2+2 structure while enhancing educational integration with children from Anganwadi centres (AWCs).  

The NEP underscores the continuation of the language formula from Class I to VIII.  

"The 3-language formula will be applicable to the upper primary level (Class V to VIII). In this arrangement, students will learn their first language (Bengali), English, and a third language that could be an Indian native language or a foreign language," states the draft education policy.  

Both the Central and state governments have proposed the introduction of a four-year multidisciplinary undergraduate program. The draft asserts, "The implementation of a four-year undergraduate course should begin from the academic session 2023-24 to ensure uniformity between the state's UG courses and those in the rest of the country."  

What is National Education Policy, 2020?  

NEP serves as an all-encompassing structure designed to guide the advancement of education within a nation. The requirement for such a policy arose in 1964 when Siddheshwar Prasad, a Member of Parliament from the Congress party, voiced criticism against the incumbent government for its absence of a discernible vision and educational philosophy. In that very year, a 17-member Education Commission was established, with D S Kothari, the Chairperson of the University Grants Commission (UGC) at that time, at its helm.  

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The commission's task was to formulate a unified and nationwide educational policy. Drawing from the recommendations put forth by this commission, the Parliament enacted the initial education policy in 1968.  

India has witnessed three such policies up until now. The inaugural one was introduced in 1968, followed by the second in 1986 during the tenures of Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi respectively. The NEP of 1986 underwent revisions in 1992 during the Prime Ministership of P V Narasimha Rao. The most recent addition is the NEP unveiled under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.  

The NEP presents far-reaching reforms which include the proposal to open up Indian higher education to foreign universities, the dismantling of both the UGC and the All-India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), the introduction of a four-year multidisciplinary undergraduate program with multiple exit options, and the discontinuation of the M Phil program.  

A significant departure from the 1986 policy, which advocated for a 10+2 structure of school education, the new NEP advocates for a "5+3+3+4" format, corresponding to age groups 3-8 years (foundational stage), 8-11 years (preparatory stage), 11-14 years (middle stage), and 14-18 years (secondary stage). This innovation brings early childhood education (also known as preschool education for children aged 3 to 5) within the purview of formal schooling. Furthermore, the mid-day meal program will be extended to cover preschool children. The NEP stipulates that students up to Class 5 should receive instruction in their mother tongue or regional language.  

Most Opposition ruled states have pushed back the NEP, 2020  

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Resistance to the policy has primarily arisen in states governed by the Opposition, as Kerala, Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu have either postponed its execution or declined to adopt the policy in its entirety.  

Just earlier this month, the Congress-led government in Karnataka took the lead in declaring its intention to revoke the NEP starting from the upcoming academic year, fulfilling one of the promises the party made during the Assembly elections.  

Kerala, similarly, hasn't yet embraced the guidelines laid out by the policy.  

Recently, the state introduced supplementary textbooks that encompass the content removed from the NCERT textbooks.  

Another state displaying resistance is Tamil Nadu. In 2021, the state government rejected the NEP, with the ruling Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) communicating its reservations to the Union Ministry of Education. P Wilson, a DMK Rajya Sabha MP, advised the BJP to concentrate on improving literacy rates in the states under its governance.  

Regarding other states and Union Territories ruled by Opposition parties, Delhi, Bihar, Rajasthan, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, and West Bengal have either adopted specific portions of the policy or chosen to delay its implementation. For instance, Telangana hasn't explicitly denounced the policy but has not yet commenced its implementation.  

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