Education and Careers

National Education Policy–2020 : An Academic Analysis

Education is the foundation of country. It provides the human resources, forms philosophy of the nation(s) and constructs the mental set-up of her people towards life and society. In short, education fixes the destination, provides the vehicle, its fuel, driver and direction – everything needed for the sustenance and progress of a country /nation. So, education is the life-line for our existence. Our central government has recently adopted a National Education Policy–2020 (NEP-2020), meant to be introduced throughout the country. Considering its importance, an academic analysis of the NEP-2020 is done here for better comprehension of its all sides.

The first prominent thing in this policy is that it emphasizes maximum on ancient India - its knowledge, method and philosophy. This is applying back gear to Indian civilization in this globalized highly competitive world! Past is needed as foundation only, but exhausting everything (time, effort, resource) on Foundation only does not give you a live-able strong home! Moreover, ancient Indian history is in the pre-historic timeline. How this unavailable lost past can be the foundation and source of our modern, present and future education! There is a slight mention of the modern India but completely silent about medieval India. That means, our upcoming generations will remain ignorant about thousand years of history, sociology, politics, economic etc. of our country and that of the contemporary world! They will not get the true picture of this long, about thousand years of timeline continuity! Hiding the truth does not educate rather makes ignorant! Thus, they will not be able to form clear conceptions of the Indian nation, the world history, hence of the present - due to lack of complete continuing knowledge! With this incomplete, hence defective knowledge and concepts - only defective personalities will come out of this education system proposed by this NEP-2020.

Another notable aspect in this policy is that it emphasizes on ‘shaping” rather than on developing /flourishing the potentialities of the next generation. The word ‘shaping’ refers more to controlling, diverting, remaking, etc. – which are in conflict with the free, natural, multi-dimensional flourishing /development as per the diversified potentialities of our learners. Such “education” will result a photocopy of generations with the mental set-up as per the desire of their shaper. As a result, creativity, thus progress will suffer. The policy introduced a 5+3+3+4 years of education ladder. In the first five years, termed as the ‘Foundational’, there are two stages – first 3 to 6 years of child’s age comes under the ‘Pre-school’ age and at 6 years the child goes to class I. At present, child’s education does not officially starts below the age of 6. But, in this policy, Govt. is taking the control and responsibility of children’s education from as early as at 3 years of age (pre-school age), known as Early Childhood and Care Education (ECCE). It is good! But the same policy truly mentions, “Over 85% of a child’s cumulative brain development occurs prior to the age of 6” (NEP-2020, p.7). That means, these 3 years (3 to 6 years of ages) are the formative stages of child’s brain. So, at this age they should not be exposed to the Govt.’s “National” stereotyping education policy’s bombardment, which many a times is designed to just gain political advantage. Rather these much tender, formative brains need to be very carefully nurtured by motherly affection and parental care. This age is important for child’s own family, community and region based culture, value, ethics, morality etc. important qualities inculcation and thus their own diversified culture-based mental set up formation. This is very essential in order to preserve and nourish our innumerable culture in this distinguishing and beautiful diversity of our country. Diversity is the source of creativity and stereotyping is the killer of creativity. So, Govt.’s control on ECCE may hamper cultural identity and creativity - both. Further, the policy speaks about cognitive development at the ECCE. But, scientific reasoning is the basis of cognitive development. Scientific reasoning starts not before the teenage period. So, any effort for cognitive development at this pre-school age will result in formation of mental set up on the basis of copying, mimicking, blind faith, superstition, narrow mindedness, etc. negative traits. Clear concept formation will further be hampered due to specialization of subjects from Secondary Grade (Class IX), instead of from Higher Secondary (Class XI). Due to the lack of common minimum essential knowledge about our country, her people, geography, science, mathematics, economy, constitution, etc. concept formation will suffer. This will be a big hindrance to make better human resource. Dilution /reduction of curriculum will further deteriorate the situation. All will be fatal to us in this Globalised tough competition!

The policy encourages privatization, rather corporatization of education. In a country, India where 73% of wealth is in the hands of just micro minority 1% individual [Oxfam Report, 2018], privatization will push education further beyond the reach of the majority Indians. The massive majority, 99% Indians who are finding it very hard to meet their two ends just on the left 27% wealth – how can afford to buy education from the corporate bodies at high cost! Education is the responsibility of the democratic republic Govt. Then, why we are to pay for education? Conversion of all higher educational institutions into multi-disciplinary will facilitate Corporate business in higher education. Thus, rural and poor institutions will suffer badly. Making all higher educational institutions, including the Pvt. Colleges, autonomous degree granting Colleges will badly compromise with quality to give space to unethical business here! Similarly, lowering the entry point qualification for Ph.D. programme (even the Bachelors can enroll) will harm the quality and excellence in Research. Moreover, NEP advocates for special favour to the Foreign Universities for setting up their campuses in India. This will encourage corporate business in education. Economically weaker sections (i.e., the majority of Indians) will be its worst victim. Autonomy to the private (especially of foreign origin) educational institutions, will on the one hand add fuel to the fire of their lust of monetary profit, on the other will encroach our Indian cultural ethos!

Lengthening the course duration to 4 years’ Bachelor and 4 years’ B. Ed. degree will invite more dropout among the poor, marginalized sections who can’t afford to continue education for longer duration as they are forced to enter job market as early as possible for the sake of earning their livelihood. Admission in B.Ed. course through a single central NTA (National Testing Agency) regulatory and qualification of TET (Teachers’ Eligibility Test) as essential for all teachers recruitment, including in the private schools will put big hurdle before the poor, rural private schools managed by their poor community in purely philanthropic objectives. Many such endeavour will suffer due to lack of such qualified teachers at high salary beyond their capacity. Whereas, shifting the evaluation method from Summative to Formative will invite definite subjectivity in educational quality control. Through the hidden lane of such subjectivity the privileged section will encroach the better positions truly deserved by the less-advantaged section of our society. Moreover, CRT (Criteria Reference Test) is not feasible in our country with about 1/4th illiterate and about 70% BPL population, which this policy introduces. The method invites much subjectivity in our already caste, religion, gender etc. biased corrupt evaluation system.

Admission in B.Ed. programme only through a single window, NTA, reflects the centralized tendency in education which will be harmful to the diversified educational requirements of this religio-culturally diversified federal democracy. The policy gives the responsibility for ECCE curriculum and pedagogy with the MHRD and other central ministries. The role of the State Govt. is minimized here! Further, “A National Book promotion policy” will be undertaken by the central Govt. Any effort by central control here will badly hamper regional diversified socio-cultural aspirations. A single Regulator in Higher Education, as proposed in this policy implies centralizing tendency, which is harmful to the federal structure essential for unity and integrity of our multi-diversified culturally very rich country.

An apparently good proposal is there to appoint local teachers who are familiar in local languages, at the ECCE level. This will really be helpful to those underprivileged children, a majority of the student population, whose home language is different from the regional /school language. But in reality it will be difficult to get such teachers. The policy states that up to Grade-5 and preferably up to Grade-8 or beyond Home Language or Mother Language or Local Language teaching will continue. This is a good effort! But the problem will be regarding text books! We Indians do speak in more than thousand languages and dialects – which are our Home /Mother /Regional Languages. Except for few, almost all are devoid of any alphabet /script /written grammar. So, it is practically impossible to solve the problem of either text books or of teachers. For translation, even the dead foreign language Hebrew is mentioned but the language of about 54 countries and the national language of 22 countries in world today, the Arabic is not mentioned even once! UNO’s every resolution is compulsorily being translated in Arabic. So, avoiding such important international language will drag us in ignorance of about one-fourth of the world today. Moreover, there is no mention of Urdu language in the NEP-2020, the second largest official language in many States in India. Question arises, why this selective unjustified exclusion?

The policy contains a strong dose of Nationalism. Ultra-nationalism comes in conflict with the common reasoning, humanity, ethics, universal brotherhood, world citizenship, etc. which are very important components of peace and progress. However, this NEP also iterates about “Global Citizenship Education”. Ultra-nationalism survives only on the false boasting of self and hatred on others. Then, the concept of ultra-nationalism and global citizenship can’t go together.

The policy contains some good things also. The proposal for “10 days’ bag-less intern period at 6–8 Grades” is good one. It will import some real life experiences to the learners. Not involving the teachers in non-teaching activity, teachers’ promotion, no transfer of the teachers, etc. are the good things proposed in this policy. Another good thing in this NEP 2020 is it iterates 6% GDP allocation on Education, which has been the unfulfilled justified recommendation of almost all the education commissions in Independent India.

The essential criterion for providing equal opportunity to all needs ruler’s unbiased encompassing mentality towards all caste and community people. Education is the backbone of any nation. So, it should be free from narrow party politics, capitalist interest, ideological aggression of the powerful ruling class over the weak masses. Thus, National Education Policy should be for protecting the interest of the country not the interest of the Rashtra (i.e., the Govt.) or the interest of the ruling class’s ideology.

—The author is Principal, Saheed Nurul Islam Mahavidyalaya, North 24 Parganas, W.B. He may be contacted at ali.mdafsar09[at]gmail.com