[Answered] “The draft National Education Policy (NEP) 2019 recommends a restructuring of school years and the curriculum, in a wide-ranging manner but it lacks the critical components of education i.e. critical thinking and deeper understanding”. Critically analyse.Give some measures to improve education system in India.

Demand of the question
Introduction.Contextual introduction.
Body. Discuss draft NEP and various issues in it.
Conclusion.Way forward and solutions for improving education system.

The draft National Education Policy (NEP) 2019 recommends a restructuring of school years and the curriculum. If properly implemented, it may help in better education. These include flexibility and wider scope at the secondary level, space for moral reasoning, re-emphasis on the true spirit of the three language formula, a focus on the core concepts and key ideas in subjects, vocational courses, and also a focus of assessment on understanding. However, the draft NEP also recommends much that may have just the opposite effect.

Salient features of draft National Education Policy:

  1. The policy covers school education, higher education and professional education which in turn include agricultural education, legal education, medical education and technical education.It also looks at the verticals of vocational education by including teacher education and the research and innovation.
  2. The policy also tries to focus on certain foundational skills that children should have in the proposed new structure of 5+3+3+4.The first stage of five years (for children of 3-8 years of age) i.e. foundational stage looks at discovery learning and learning by play. The foundational literacy and numeracy skills is a mission mode approach under it that includes National Tutors’ Program, remedial instructional aid programmes etc. It considers nutrition as very critical for strengthening the levels of 3-8 years of children.
  3. The next stage is Preparatory Stage for the children in the age group of 8 to 11 years (grades 3 to 5) followed by the Middle Stage (grades 6 to 8) for the students in the age group of 11-14 years and the Secondary Stage (Grades 9-12) for students in the age group of 14-18 years.
  4. For school education, governance level changes have also been suggested. A State regulatory authority has been suggested for regulating education in the country. The body will decide the accreditation of different schools. The government will continue to fund and operate education in the country.
  5. 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.

Issues in draft National Education Policy:

  1. Misdiagnosis-It misdiagnoses the causes behind the severe learning crisis, and fail to recognise the poor school and teacher accountability, with no mention of the chronic teacher absenteeism and low teacher effort as key problems.There is no fundamental reform proposed for revamping the accountability structures for schools. Instead, the NEP provides that school management committees (SMCs) – institutions without any powers shall hold schools and teachers accountable. SMCs already mandated under the RTE Act were ineffective.
  2. Window for corruption-The danger for corruption exists while giving public money to private schools in reimbursement for educating disadvantaged children under the RTE Act. In 2017, it was reported that Madhya Pradesh private schools siphoned off Rs 600 crore in RTE reimbursement fraud.A revised NEP can seriously consider giving public subsidy for the education of disadvantaged children as DBT (giving the parent freedom to choose a school), rather than giving that money to private schools via leaky government structures.
  3. Unviable schools-While the NEP recognises the problem of unviable small public schools (28% of all public primary schools in the country have less than 30 students), it does not recognise the decreasing enrolment of public schools which have led them both unviable. An analysis of data shows that between 2010-11 and 2017-18, enrolment in public elementary schools fell by 2.4 crore students, while rising in the recognised private unaided schools by 2.1 crore students.
  4. A confused statement-The draft NEP rightly criticises private pre-schools for being a downward extension of primary school and of there being formal teaching in them. But it goes on to recommend preparing children for primary by prescribing learning the alphabets of and reading in three languages (for 3-6-year olds).
  5. Three languages issue-The draft policy mistakes “language acquisition when children are immersed in more than one languages” with a “language teaching” situation where immersion is impossible in three languages. It then extends it unjustifiably to a learning of three scripts. It prescribes teaching script and reading in three languages to three-year-old children, but writing is supposed to be taught to six-year-old children. It also wants to introduce “some textbooks” only at age eight. One wonders why there is a three year gap between teaching reading and writing.
  6. Burden of curriculum-The draft policy stipulates that the “mandated contents in the curriculum will be reduced to its core, focussing on key concepts and essential ideas”. This is to “yield more space for discussion and nuanced understanding, analysis, and application of key concepts”. But it goes on to block more than the space vacated by prescribing six new subjects/courses in addition to the existing eight. Some of these new courses such as “critical issues” and “moral reasoning” can be taught in a much better way in a revised curriculum of social studies as the context for both is society.
  7. No emphasis on social studies-Social studies seems to be missing entirely as it has been mentioned once and then left out of the entire discussion on curriculum.Social studies needs more space in the upper primary curriculum. The subject has to be taught in such a manner that it connects with society and can be a very good way of introducing critical issues and moral thinking.
  8. Not in sync with country’s ideals-The vision of the draft NEP rests on UNESCO declarations and reports rather than the Indian Constitution and development of democracy in this country; this in spite of wanting to make education India-centred. Thus, in the suggested curriculum changes, socio-political life is almost invisible.

What do we need to change about the Indian Education System?

  • Focus should be on skill based education.
  • Reward creativity, original thinking, research and innovation.
  • Get smarter people to teaching.Thousands of terrible teachers all over India are wasting valuable time of young children every day all over India.
  • The internet has created this possibility – the performance of a teacher now need not be restricted to a small classroom. The performance of a teacher can be opened up for the world to see. The better teacher will be more popular, and acquire more students.
  • We need leaders, entrepreneurs in teaching positions, not salaried people trying to hold on to their mantle.
  • Implement massive technology infrastructure for education. India needs to embrace internet and technology if it has to teach all of its huge population, the majority of which is located in remote villages.
  • Instead of focussing on outdated models of brick and mortar colleges and universities, we need to create educational delivery mechanisms that can actually take the wealth of human knowledge to the masses. The tools for this dissemination will be cheap smartphones, tablets and computers with high speed internet connection.
  • Re-define the purpose of the education system.The goal of our new education system should be to create entrepreneurs, innovators, artists, scientists, thinkers and writers who can establish the foundation of a knowledge based economy rather than the low-quality service provider nation that we are turning into.
  • There is an urgent need for effective de-regulation of Indian education sector so that there is infusion of sufficient capital and those who provide or create extraordinary educational products or services are adequately rewarded.
  • Our education system today encourages mediocrity– in students, in teachers, throughout the system. If we want excellence, mediocrity cannot be tolerated. Mediocrity has to be discarded as an option.

Indian Education system need an overhaul. Focus should be on inclusive and democratic education. Mere funding and policies would not help. Real work is needed on the ground.