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NEP 2020 and children’s right to playgrounds

Synopsis: NEP 2020 (National Education Policy) has disregarded the children’s right to playgrounds in the name of efficiency.

Background

  • The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 (RTE) guarantees essential infrastructure including playgrounds to all school-going children between the ages of 6 and 14.
  • However, the New NEP 2020 is going against the RTE requirements of providing mandatory infrastructural facilities.
  • This requirement is introduced with the intention to increase efficiency and optimization. It may also lead to an increase in total schools and decrease school fees.
  • However, it will deprive children’s access to playgrounds. It is also a denial of their right to play in safe and adequate spaces.

What are the changes brought by NEP 2020 with respect to playground provisions?

  • First, the NEP directs a review of the “practicalities of playgrounds in urban areas”, school-area, and room-size requirements. It aims to “ease” school operation by removing RTE playground requirements.
  • Second, the NEP proposes that by 2025, state governments create school complexes. The school complex would be comprised of a mix of schools and anganwadis in a 5-10 kilometre radius.  Schools will be encouraged to use shared resources such as playgrounds.

What are the issues?

  1. First, according to NEP 2020, neither the government nor private schools need to provide playgrounds. After that, private schools may charge exorbitant fees without providing playgrounds.
  2. Second, one school complex comprises a 5–10 KM radius, sharing playgrounds among large no. of schools and children of different ages will be difficult. Because Children of different ages have different playground needs. For instance, Anganwadi learners have different spatial needs than middle school students.
  3. Third, this is against the court’s directive. In 2019, the Allahabad High Court ruled that playgrounds must be provided within a school’s land area to ensure access for all children, including children with disabilities.
  4. Fourth, there is a growing scarcity of playgrounds due to intensive urbanization. Children’s playgrounds have increasingly been appropriated by governments and private parties for development.
    • For instance, in 2019, Gujarat amended its RTE rules to reduce the minimum playground area requirements for urban and rural schools.
  5. Fifth, NEP provisions are contradictory in nature. Despite removing playground requirements, the NEP advocates sports-integrated education. It fails to explain how sports may be integrated without playgrounds.
  6. Sixth, it is against the 1989 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Convention recognizes play as an indispensable right of the child as it allows for the free and true expression of one’s personality.
  7. Seventh, Sports is also a minuscule sub-category of the infinite varieties of children’s play. It can accommodate only a few children based on “abilities”.
      • Even if specific forms of sports infrastructure are provided in well-resourced schools, these cannot substitute for large, open playgrounds.

The NEP 2020 provision will bring down the minimum standards of quality education, instead of protecting and expanding it. This is also seen as a move to prioritize neoliberal interests that prioritize market demands over societal good.

[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.

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