The new education policy (NEP) following approval from Indian Union Cabinet was announced by Govt of India. This NEP 2020 will replace the 1986 policy when the TSR Subramanian Committee submitted its report to the Union Govt. In June 2017, the Govt of India constituted the K. Kasturiranjan Committee that submitted its draft NEP in 2019 based on the inputs in the Subramanian Committee. The draft 2019 was open to public feedback where it received more than 2,00,000 (two lac) suggestions from the academicians, CSO, activists and others who are working in the field of education in the country.
The final NEP intends to bring sweeping changes to the existing education system in India through number of new measures. There is an emphasis on foundational literacy and numeracy in a mission mode through National Mission on Foundational Literacy and Numeracy to be attained by 2025.
Another of the changes would be to rename the Ministry of Human Resource Development as Ministry of Education. Some of the main provisions of NEP are as follows:
The NEP highlights integrating the Indian education system with global standards through doing away with rote learning. It lays emphasis on universal access to schools for all children by 2030.It stresses on increasing the Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) to stop the spiraling drop out rate in India. The NEP talks of bringing back almost 2 crore (20 million) children back to mainstream education through developing infrastructure, innovative teaching centers and appointing trained teachers and counselors to achieve this goal. NEP proposes to replace the 10+2 education system with 5+3+3+4 curriculum including three years of pre schooling in anganbari centers for children by 3-8 years followed by 12 years of formal schooling. The inclusion of early childhood education was a long-standing demand of the CSOs working with on the issue. The early childhood education will be a collaborative effort between the Ministries of Education, Women and Child Development, Health and Family Welfare and Tribal Affairs. The NEP talks of introducing new subjects like coding from Class VI onwards while students will have greater flexibility in choosing subjects as rigid demarcation between Arts and Science, curricular and extra curricular subjects or vocational and academic streams will cease to exist. It also proposes board exams in modular form in Grades III, V, VIII, X and XII redesigned to test conceptual understanding of the students. Another noteworthy proposed change is that education up to Class V –VIII will be imparted in the mother tongue of the students. The policy adds breakfast to the existing Mid Day Meal program in the government schools.
There are certain provisions that are questionable and needs further clarification from the government. The final policy removes the proposal from the 2019 draft to extend the Right to Education to all children between the ages of 3-18 years and it merely states that efforts will be made to ensure universal access and opportunity to all children to obtain holistic education. It also removes the draft proposal that the recent amendments to the RTE Act on continuous and comprehensive evaluation and the no detention policy be reviewed. The policy barring once does not mention Right To Education Act .It fails to redress the problems faced by RTE Act. Among the 10 pointers that the RTE has laid down to improve school education, only 12.6% of the criteria were fulfilled in the last 10 years.
There is a disproportionate focus on vocationalisation of education at an early age would counter the claims of holistic learning. It is not clear how the government plans to implement teaching in mother tongue especially in diverse country like India. NEP talks of universalization of school education from 3-18 years without making it a legal right. There is no mandatory mechanism for the union and state government to make it a reality. The emphasis on digital education, private public partnership for philanthropic schools can lead to further segregation and commercialization of education leading to increasing inequalities. The policy talks about rationalization of school complexes which will be resource centers for students and teachers but past trends show that this has led to school closures in states like Bihar, Orissa and Jharkhand. Increased distances to schools have often been the reason behind girls dropping out of schools or not enrolling altogether.
Gender Sensitive Provisions
The NEP talks of providing transportation and accommodation so that girls continue their education. The focus on girls’ education in special education zones will address the poor enrolment and retention of girls from socially disadvantaged backgrounds. It talks about Gender Inclusion Fund to provide equitable quality education for all girls as well as transgender students. This fund will be provided to the states to support and scale effective community based interventions to address local context specific barriers to girls. The policy has mentioned the upgradation of Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya (KGBV) meant for girls up to Class XII. The policy also talks of making available all scholarships and schemes through a single agency and website to ensure that all students are aware of and may apply in a simplified manner as per eligibility will benefit girls in getting funds for pursuing their education. The policy talks about giving special emphasis to socially and economically disadvantaged groups (SEDs) including gender, socio-cultural and geographical identities and disabilities through the creation of Special Education Zones. The policy is not clear how girls will over come the multiple barriers to get the equitable education. The policy speaks of alternative modes of learning like open schools, PPP mode of schools etc. which will make the girls invisible by limiting them to their households. The girls will miss out on receiving govt benefits like mid day meals and school health program.
The NEP propose to set up common national professional standards for Teachers (NPST) which will be developed by National Council for Teachers Education by 2022 in consultation with NCERT, SCERT, experts and teachers organizations. The policy talks of ensuring merit in hiring and promotions that is not defined concretely in the NEP.
Public Investment in Education
The NEP endorses a substantial increase in the public investment in the education both by the Central government and state governments. The policy states that center and the states will work together to increase the public investment in education sector to reach 6% of GDP at the earliest. This has been stated goal since 1960s since the Kothari Commission’s report but is yet to be achieved. In 2012-13 education expenditure was 3.1% of GDP. It fell in 2014-15 to 2.8% and registered a further drop to 2.4%.
While speaking of 6% funding it is not clear whether Union Govt will release the funds from it own resources or generate from private enterprises. The draft policy sought to double public investment in education from the current 10% of public expenditure (center and states) to 20% of public expenditure over the next 10 years with an increase of 1% every year. This has been omitted from the final NEP.