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Towards framing  a ‘New Education Policy-2019- some important concerns

National Educational Policy 2019

By Prof.M. Aslam

The last National Policy on Education was framed in 1986 and modified through Programme of Action (POA) in 1992. Since then many significant changes have taken place in the society in general and education sector in particular necessitating to frame a New Education Policy to address these concerns. There is a paradigm shift and new concerns and imperatives have emerged. Accordingly, the Government of India initiated a series of consultations at state, district, block and village levels to elicit public opinion on the subject including taking inputs from citizens online.

Some Inputs for Draft National Education Policy 2016

Subsequently  Govt. of India  constituted a drafting committee on 28th December, 2015 under the Chairmanship of Shri TSR Subramanian  to help frame the National Education Policy- 2016 The Committee  submitted its report in May, 2016.  Based on this report a document titled ,” Some Inputs for Draft National Education Policy 2016 was put in the public domain in order to solicit public opinion.  It  evoked a lot of response by a number of NGOs, Civil Society Forums and Institutions who organised discussion sessions and consultations to discuss their concerns and other issues relating to the New Education Policy (2016) and formulated their recommendations which were submitted to the Ministry of Human Resource Development. Some of the pertinent issues raised and discussed  among others included possibility of linking salary with research; integration vs assimilation; prescribing modalities based on authentic data;  need for innovative funding mechanism; need to address unprecedented developments in the information and communication technologies and need for a strategy for application of mid-course corrections.

Constitution of Dr. K. Kasturirangan  Committee

After receiving all the recommendations and suggestions, the Ministry of Human Resource Development, Govt. of India on  24th June, 2017 constituted a committee under the chairmanship of Dr. K. Kasturirangan  for preparation of thè draft National Education Policy. The Committee submitted its report in December, 2018. It has now been  put in the public domain in order to solicit public opinion, comments and suggestions.

Some important Concerns

The document in its physical   looks like a comprehensive one but the question remains “ Does it provide us a comprehensive framework to guide the educational destiny of the country towards 21st century? It is not my intention to be unnecessarily critical but I do feel concerned about the future of educational system in our country. “Education,” as Nelson Mandela said, “is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” At times I feel whether those entrusted with the preparation of such an important policy document were able to do any extensive work/research  to understand what actually educational policy framework means and how it has been framed in the countries who are presently considered as providing best educational systems such as Austria., New Zealand, Finland, Singapore and others.

Cristian Aedo and others in a World Bank Blog considers  Finland: A miracle of education and states thatthe Finnish education policy values more quality and less control and competition. Schools, teachers and local authorities are trusted and there is a political consensus about the commonly agreed goals of education.” Do we trust School Teachers and have we got political consensus. ? Even the Preamble to our draft policy talks of “ The Journey of the Committee” rather than essence of the policy.

Purpose of Education

The preparation of Education Policy document is a serious exercise which should provide us with an overall framework that governs operation/ implementation of education system in a country. It has to clearly define purpose of education, objective/attainment, methods to be used to attain given objective and instruments to measure quality, success or failure.I find it missing.

The purpose of education cannot be a given constant. It has to be dynamic, ever evolving symbiotically with the evolution of human society. Among the primitives, the purpose of education was to provide the progeny with life-skills for survival. With the rise of sciences, the purpose of education for the society came to be the study of nature, its components and the surrounding environment. As sciences led to technology, the purpose of education shifted once again— it was to impart skills and know-how in relation to the application of sciences for socio-economic purposes. We now witness that the purpose of education has further diversified significantly involving sustained economic growth, better quality of life, uplifting the needy, push for socio-economic equity, extensive reach, exploration in diverse  realms, global mutual understanding and the like. One cannot deny that the purpose of education is fundamental for policy perspective, therefore, needs to be clearly defined in the New Education  Policy framework.

Lack of local involvement

Looking at global scenario , my expectation was that the committee constituted will be preceeded by seeking formal inputs from all the states and Union Territories, rather than relying on those selected people who were given an opportunity to make presentation before the committee. In the United States in the formulation of  education policy, the federal government is advancing their role by building on state and local education policies.In Inda states like Tamil Nadu   in the formulation of State Education Policy made their  education system in the State to respond to the emerging demands of the new century. Were such documents taken into consideration? Why can’t States be actively involved during the formation of a national policy , when it is the State Govt which is ultimate implementing agency for such a policy.

Quality Issues/Concerns

Generally, by tradition the quality of   education has not been in question. With the changing times, proliferation of and competition among higher education institutions and the advent of open distance modalities the issue of quality in the educational enterprise came to the fore. All these along with efficient and transparent accreditation mechanism should form an important component of the National Education Policy framework.

Capacity Building of Teachers

A teacher  plays an important role in enhancing the quality of education. The teacher training, therefore, assumes great significance for any policy framework for education. The   “current teacher education and training facilities are grossly inadequate and training programmes inappropriate in terms of equipping the teachers with the competencies required to cope with the new profile and roles expected of teachers and to enable them to carry out their duties in diverse social, economic, cultural and technological environments.”  Any national education policy has to have as a part of its blueprint a clear strategy for institutionalizing capacity building of the teachers,  to be achieved in a time bound manner. Apart from addressing the problem of improving quality of teaching, the policy document should also provide scope for inviting outstanding NRI teachers to join the system rather than promoting import of foreign faculty.

Information and Communication Technologies

The education in general and higher education in particular is at cross roads today as a result of paradigm shift induced by ICT revolution. ICT is pushing us into the information era and shaping us as a knowledge society. It is important that we perceive and understand the full implications of this latest innovative force manifested through ICT applications and the related motivational thrust (exemplified by OER), both of which are unfolding and driving ahead inexorably, ICT  needs to be harnessed to match the expanding demand for education, to develop new socially relevant and   multidisciplinary content. We can also explore experimenting with what Malaysia is doing “Blending the Traditional and the Modern Educational Technologies”, rather than running blindly after new technologies. I came across an Editorial by Shobita Dhar in speaking Tree of TOI , it reads, Kids grow up looking at screens, can’t read emotions”. I think it says it all  The NEP document needs to provide us a framework for judicious use of ICT

Settng unrealistic targets

The policies are  evolve and should not be subjected to unrealistic targets- such as, “Curriculum and pedagogy are transformed by 2022 in order to minimise rote learning and instead encourage holistic development and 21st century skills—–“  A number of such unrealistic targets have been set as is normally done in plan documents

Governance & Management:

It is important that NEP provides a clear framework on management and governance of educational institutions. For example the relation between a university and the government should be as pre-adjudicated. Universities are established under charters, according to bills passed by the parliament or state legislatures, which invariably define and outline the nature of the relationship between the government and the institution to be established. These documents provide a reasonably well defined framework, within which universities are expected to function independently. They should be allowed to do so within the overall National Educational framework to be provided by NEP, without any ad hoc impositions from the government. This expounds the ideal relationship between the government and universities (and vice versa).

 Open and Distance Learning

Having spent decades in imparting education through distance mode, I was shocked to see  how  ODL was ignored both in the document as well as in the constitution of NEP committee. It has the greatest potential to democratize education in general and higher education in particular in the country. I hope it will receive due attention in the final document.

The New Educational Policy framework p has to be a document which guides the nation to turn India in to a knowledgeable and learning society. These policies are not frequently framed; therefore there is a need to have a long-term perspective. I personally feel that it is incumbent on all the institutions/organizations to join hands together   to ensure that all pervasive document in the shape of New Education Policy-2019 is in place.

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The views expressed are personal. Prof. Aslam served as a Professor in the School of Continuing Education at IGNOU for 20 years before taking over as Vice Chancellor in March, 2013. He has 39 years of experience in education and training which includes 8 years at international level. Has authored 8 books including one on ,“The Challenge of Education & Training- Strengthening Existing Systems and Road Ahead”. He can be reached at  profaslam10@gmail.com

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