The education system has been a space of contestation among scholars and academicians throughout the country. Since India achieved independence, a multitude of commissions and policies have tried to cater to the educational needs of the people. The National Policy on Education 1986, which was modified in the year 1992, has now been replaced with the first National Policy on Education of the 21st century. The change that has come after 34 years spans a wide range, from pre-primary education to higher education. The policy has changed the 10+2 school structure to a 5+3+3+4 one, corresponding to ages 3-8, 8-11, 11-14, and 14-18 years, respectively. In addition, it has introduced a multi-disciplinary system, multiple entry & exit system, 360 degree evaluation system, and an undergraduate system extended to 4 years from 3.
The aim of the policy is to bring the Indian education system at par with the “leading global education systems”. Moreover, the policy aims to achieve 100% youth & adult literacy and to increase Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) to 100% by 2035 which hitherto is just 26.3% (till 2018). The policy has set huge targets and has several strengths but it remains vague, and lacks practicality. On the one hand the policy has recommended vernacular languages to be used as medium of instruction up to Class 5 but on the other hand the text books are mostly in English. Moreover, how can a teacher teach modern subjects in a local language? Doesn’t it simply encourage translation or Ratta system? Also, how can a teacher with a single language background teach a class having students of different or other language backgrounds?
The policy is incomprehensive and will hamper the quality of education of those students whose parents have transferable job on a nationwide level. A visible loophole of the policy lies in its multi-disciplinary system. It is meant to provide freedom of choice to students but most colleges and universities offer a limited choice of subjects. If a student majoring in science wants to choose religious studies or a language, most colleges and universities will fail to provide for it as the policy has not recommended a variety of subjects to be incorporated in the curriculum or academic programme.
Similarly, the NPE-2020 recommends Sanskrit to be mainstreamed, revealing the biased nature of the policy that contradicts the secular aspect of the Indian Constitution. All the literature in Sanskrit is outmoded, so how long will it take to update it to present needs?
India has several boards like State Boards, CBSE, NIOS, ICSE, IB and IGCSE which frame their own syllabus. How is it possible for all of them to prepare a syllabus in a short span of time? The policy makes no mention of how the National Policy Curriculum (NPC) set by NCERT is going to help these boards. Also, in order to execute all the provisions of the policy, such as development of infrastructure for vocational pursuits, establishment of virtual labs for e-courses, creation of a common National Professional Standard for Teachers (NPST), set-up of a new national assessment centre called PARAKH (Performance, Assessment, Review and Analysis of Knowledge for Holistic development), etc, a huge budget is required. This is estimated to be 6% of the GDP while the present educational budget is less than 1% of the GDP. It will be even more difficult to finance when the GDP growth has fallen to 4.1% for 2019-20 as compared to 6.1% in 2018-19.
The policy needs to be revised in order to bring flexibility and practicality in the education system. Also, its centralised structure is antagonistic to the federal structure of the Constitution as education comes under the realm of both central and state administration. The policy intends to amalgamate the AICTE, UGC and NCTE into one regulatory body that clearly reveals the intention of minimising university autonomy and endorsing central interests which eventually will enhance political influence over all seats of learning and will throttle creativity. In other words, it will generate mediocrity.
The writer is a doctoral candidate. [email protected]