A Tsunami Waiting to Hit?
The Draft New Education Policy 2019
A studied reading of the draft New Education Policy 2019 will make one understand that the provisions will have a profound effect on the country in the years ahead. Christian-managed education, in particular, is likely to be hit by a tsunami, if changes are not made in the draft to accommodate and encourage the excellence already achieved over many decades, in fact, over a century and more!
It cannot be denied that education in India requires major changes to meet the global needs of our world. Yet, it has been acknowledged that it is Christian-run educational institutions that have produced excellence; evidence of this is in the alumni from these institutions who have been honoured by the country with Padma and other awards and who have attributed much of their achievements to their early education. Inspite of this, the Government did not think it fit to include any Christian educationist in the Drafting Committee. Was this experience of educational excellence deliberately excluded for ideological reasons? A logical question! I feel a responsibility to point this out, since I am privileged to find my name in the document itself, as one of the “Eminent Persons” consulted. Alumni of Christian institutions and other well-wishers could consider the following:
The policy does not make any mention of Minority Rights in Educational Institutions. These rights are for linguistic and religious minorities and affect some of the most renowned Schools and Colleges in the country. These rights are based on the Constitution of India and the Supreme Court has ruled in a Constitutional Bench Judgement, that they are part of the basic character of the Constitution and cannot be changed by Parliament.
The draft NEP has a provision for a School Complex with a Management Committee which is independent of the present School Management in Aided Privately-Managed Schools (declared as Public schools by the draft NEP). This could lead to the excellent infrastructure and tradition that have been built up over many decades, now being controlled by external persons who have little experience of managing education. Are the Trustees of these schools not to have any control over their own schools?
This warrants a tsunami of protests from all those concerned about good education, especially our alumni and parents of present students. The need to raise our voices in a democracy has been upheld by all Governments past and present and is the way democracy is meant to function.
This is all the more urgent when considering other aspects of the draft NEP:
The restructuring of the educational system to bring in the 3 years of the Pre-Primary, including children from the age of 3 years into the formal system, does not seem advisable. Formal schooling across the world begins from the age of 6. Our anganwadis desperately need better infrastructure and “strengthening”, which is the word used in the draft policy. However the formal school setup is not appropriate for play groups and nurseries.
The common curriculum and syllabus prescribed for both rural and urban settings, for all types of schools, will lead to a destruction of diversity in content. Social conditions require a variety of choices. Trying to maintain quality should not mean a standardization of content which will cripple quality.
The requirement of a TET for school teachers and SET/NET for College teachers shows a complete lack of confidence in the qualifying degrees of these applicants. If these are persisted with, as this draft proposes, good teachers will be driven away to other fields, leading to a grave loss to education of young aspirants who have proved their mettle in securing their degrees.
The National Policy very surprisingly admits that only 2.7% of the GDP is being spent on education (down from the earlier 4%). It acknowledges that 6% is needed. Yet many provisions in this Policy seem to indicate that privatization of education is the real intent of the Government, given the trends of the last several years. For instance, teacher education will soon be entirely privatized, with only the 4 year self-financed courses being available. We call on this Policy to pledge a time-bound investment in Public Education to reach 6% of GDP in a maximum of 5 years, especially if such a drastic restructuring is being envisaged.
The 4 year Teacher Training Course or B. Ed Degree, will require a XII standard student to already decide on teaching as a career at such a young age, without having a chance to explore the multiple fields available, although the Policy itself decries, “too much specialization and streaming of students into disciplines”.
It is incomprehensible that the Aadhar number is sought to be mandated to “validate employment records of teachers and credits earned by learners”, as this goes against the Supreme Court ruling on the use of the Aadhar.
There are provisions to bring in resource persons from the locality. Would these persons be brought in without any educational and teaching qualifications? An ideological bias could very easily be introduced through such persons, especially when unscientific claims are being made about ancient knowledge.
Finally, the draft does not address effectively the need for encouraging critical thinking and creativity in our students – so much needed today. For instance, an emphasis on quantitative assessment of students will be counter-productive.
A review of the Draft Education Policy 2019 is urgently needed to avoid the possibility of a massive tsunami of dislocation, if these provisions are to take effect.
Dr. Frazer Mascarenhas S.J.
St. Peter’s Church.