NEP: A Needed Change Or The Opposite?
“The policy is based on the pillars of access, equity, quality, affordability, accountability.”
But the question is, is the NEP based on those?
To answer the question let's first look at the reforms that have been brought by the New Education Policy, 2020. Major reforms include:
First off, the NEP changes the existing 10+2 structure of school education to a 5+3+3+4, covering children between the ages of 3-18. The grades have now been divided into:
Three years of preschool + 2 years of primary school (ages 3-8)
Preparatory stage covering ages 8-11 and grades 3-5.
Middle Stage covering ages 12-14 and grades 6-8.
Secondary stage divided into 2 which is grade 9-10 and grades 11-12.
There will be no difference in curricular, co-curricular and extra-curricular and students would get vocational training in various crafts from 6th grade.
There is no division in streams in grade 11th and 12th, a student can choose any subject from any field.
Multilingualism has been emphasised wherein till grade 5th a child would be taught in the regional language and additionally be taught 2 more languages, the choice of languages has been left to the States as long as at least two of the three languages are native to India. Emphasis on Sanskrit is one of the languages.
Teachers will now have to do a 4-year B.Ed. at least, to be qualified enough to teach the new curriculum. Teachers will also be offered local, regional, state, national, and international workshops as well as online teacher development modules so that they can improve their skills and knowledge and will be expected to participate in at least 50 hours of such continuing professional development opportunities in a year.
For higher education, the policy aims to make all Higher Education Institutes multidisciplinary and single streamed colleges will be phased out. For an undergraduate degree, students will have an option of a 3 to a 4-year course where they can drop out after 3 years with proper certification. M.phil. has been discontinued.
A change has also been introduced to the regulatory system, with the National Higher Education Regulatory Council (NHERC) set to function as one single regulator for the higher education sector, including teacher education, but excluding medical and legal education.
The policy also talks about inculcating Indian values in children from a young age.
The policy states that the government would make the world top 100 universities set up universities within India to keep the youth that goes abroad stay in India.
A major aim of the policy is to increase Gross Enrolment Ratio and gain 100% youth literacy. Now let’s look at the impact of these policies on the existing education system, the future of the education system and the effects it would have on students and teachers who have been used to a very different curriculum for years.
It is true that from a glance the policy seems applaudable but a deeper look into it shows how it is filled with problems of privatisation, centralisation, exaggerated promises and unclear guidelines.
Let’s start with centralisation, the making of the Higher Education Commission of India which will replace already existing UGC and AICTE is nothing but over-centralisation of education. Nowhere in the policy is it mentioned what will happen to these bodies, even though it is clear that the HECI will be doing all the work that UGC and AICTE have been doing until now.
Moreover, a National Education Technology Forum (NETF) will be established to ensure that all students get access to the technology needed for education but when will it be formed? How will it ensure access?
These important questions go unanswered.
This again is over-centralisation of education. Mphil was discontinued without any consultation with the Central Advisory Board of Education where all states meet to discuss policy changes. So the Centre took out a policy without even consulting the states, this goes beyond centralisation, it's more in the area of dictatorship.
This also takes us to privatisation; it was clear during the pandemic that various universities including Delhi University were using private companies like Amazon to store their student’s data or as a cloud service. Education has already moved towards privatisation, the government by introducing this policy is only enhancing that. What happens when education becomes privatised? Poor families suffer who cannot afford the technology like phones, tablets or laptops and that leads to an increase in suicide rates. We saw many cases of students and parents dying by suicide this year because they couldn’t afford to buy some gadget and were unable to attend these online classes.
Now that we have come into inequality and inaccessibility lets see how this 3 language policy is going to widen the gap between the poor and rich once again. From the 29th century, the rich would put their children in schools where English was taught and the poor would resort to Bhasha or government schools until they could afford to put their kids in English medium schools.
Why this obsession with English? Because of global acceptability. This is not a time to move back to learning Sanskrit, a language which barely has any global acceptability.
A language needs a strong base and thus it has to be taught since the child is young but according to the new policy, a child would be taught in their mother/local tongue till 5th grade which is past their foundational years. What happens now? The rich get tuition for their kids and the poor kids left behind again, adding to the stress of their parents.
Not just parents, teachers too now will have to learn to teach in the local language. It is a possibility that a teacher born and brought up in Bengal who speaks Bengali may end up in Kerala because she marries a man in Kerala, does this mean she will now have to learn Malayalam to teach in Kerala?
Or suppose let’s say a child stays in Maharashtra for grades 1-3 and learns Marathi but then his parents get posted to Rajasthan, how is the child supposed to understand Rajasthani as the medium of instruction now? This multilingualism is stepping away from globalisation and is going to add a lot of pressure and mental stress on teachers as well as students who will have to figure out how to teach and learn.
The emphasis on Sanskrit also shows BJP’s bend towards Hinduism and Brahmanism, a culture that creates a caste divide. Instead of leaving these unequal roots behind and moving into a global world of equality the BJP is driving us head straight into a sea of inequality, divide and excessive stress for those at the disadvantageous position like Dalits.
The new policy also states teachers have to do a 4 year BEd and 50 hours of professional training but what about teachers who are already teachers and have been teaching for years? Do they have to get trained again? Do they lose their position? All such questions also go unanswered adding to the stress of the teachers in this drowning economy. In a situation where teachers are already struggling to learn to teach online classes, this added training is nothing but an unnecessary added burden.
Now let us talk about these ‘Indian Values’, what kind of Indian values are being talked about here? This again goes unanswered much like many other important questions. Because if we are talking about Indian values like Sati or the values in the Manu Smriti which again inculcate Brahmanism; I think we are going to have major issues.
The previous framework which was the National Curriculum Framework (2005) focused on universal values which were emphasised by Mahatma Gandhi and Nehru like equality, moral values, peace etc. Let us not forget that it is the Indian values which have made our society so patriarchal wherein men are considered superior and women are subdued at every turn. If these are the values that are going to be taught then I would rather never educate my child. Looking at BJP’s love towards Hinduism anyone with half a mind would understand what kind of Indian Values are being talked about here.
No, we do not want to be like Ram, a supposed god who went to rescue his wife and didn’t trust her because of which she had to walk through fire to prove her ‘purity’. Such values will lead to nothing but a wider gap between men and women as if women weren’t already horribly ill-treated in this country with a rape happening every 15 minutes.
Lastly, the move to invite foreign universities in India is foolish as the universities will firstly never set up institutes as good as in their own countries and secondly, this move would undermine the Indian universities. And the government is doing this to keep the youth that goes abroad for education in the country, why? So we can be jobless?
India has seen the lowest job availability and highest unemployability under this government so unless the government is aiming at increasing the poverty in this country, the move to call foreign universities in India is nothing but useless. In 2014, Narendra Modi promised jobs to the youth, its 2020 and we have the highest unemployment rate. Yes, this was the case even before Covid-19. According to National Crime Records, in 2018, India saw an increase in suicide rates due to unemployment by 14%. Why should the youth choose to remain in this country?
Now that we have delved deeper into some of the areas we can see how the NEP from a glance might seem like a good idea but its roots are of inequality, inaccessibility, increased stress, increased suicide and increased unemployment. It is wrong that the government used Covid-19 to take out an arbitrary policy without discussing it with major stakeholders and states. It has some positives like the 4-year course, the removing of streams from 11-12th and vocational training but it has some glaring negatives which make it a dangerous policy if implemented leading India to be a much more violent, divided and unequal country that it already is today.
by- Tanya Chandra
graphic by- Gayathri Nair