2020 is turning out to be a revolutionary year and not only because of a global pandemic which has taken the world by storm but also due to new bills being passed by the Indian government at speeds that would put Ferrari to shame!
But this one was much needed: a new education policy which aims to change the 30 year old system of school learning. A lot many positive steps have been outlined in this scheme but which does not mean there aren’t any controversial plans.
English no longer a medium of instruction
While some say this a move in the right direction, others call it unnecessary. There’s an interesting story behind this proposed change that when RSS affiliates who gave their inputs for the policy demanded that Hindi be made compulsory class 6th onwards, Southern states objected strongly.
Which was why, a middle ground was agreed upon, in which the regional language or mother tongue would be the medium of instruction. But this has drawbacks…English is a global language and if students don’t become fluent in it from the start, they may find it hard to compete on international level.
Also, english is the most widely understood language in India. For example, if a South Indian boy’s parents got their jobs transferred to Bengal and they moved, then the boy’s medium of study would change and his learning might suffer.
Centralization of education
Forceful centralization is another kind of criticism that the new education policy faces. According to NEP, there will be no longer be UGC, AICTE, NCTE or NAAC but only a single regulating body which will manage their jobs throughout the country. This is probably why many teacher bodies have called this new policy ‘anti-democratic.’
Only 6% GDP spend
Even back in 1984, this little 6% chunk of India’s GDP was promised to be utilized for education reforms. However, reality is that every government since then, has spent only 3% of it. How’s this jump going to take place and at what cost?
India remains far behind than the neighboring China in terms of research and development. According to 2008 statistics, only a meagre 0.86% was spent on R&D but this number had fallen to even lower 0.65% in 2018. The new education policy does not highlight the importance of expenditure on R&D despite high command demanding Atmanirbharta!
School structure redefined
Board exams are to be made easy and school curriculum to be reduced to core concepts. The 10+2 system is to be changed into 5+3+3+4 system with the first three years of pre-primary learning. In other words, a welcome step, now the government of India has recognized the importance of pre-schooling.
A relief for students: annual examinations will be scrapped and tests will be conducted only for classes 3, 5, 8, 10 and 12. These selective exams will teach analysis and critical thinking to all students. Rote learning will be discouraged, finally! In fact, extra-curricular activities like painting, singing, debating and so on, will be treated with same dignity as maths and science have been.
No rigid separation between streams
Earlier, art stream students were looked down upon, and also if a science student was interested to take a pol-science course, he/she wasn’t allowed. But now when the new education policy is implemented, this division between streams will be phased out.
Even in colleges, an option of major-minor will be provided to students just like in American universities. So a History hons can also take a course in Pol-science if he/she likes. Multiple entry and exit point option will be available so a student can drop out and if they change their mind, they can return and not have to start over!
Foreign university campuses in India
Probably the most interesting step which has been outlined in the new education policy is allowing prestigious foreign colleges to establish their facilities in India. However, this move was taken even before in 2010, but to no avail, as the government then demanded a surety of 50 crores before setting up of the campus. Nobody agreed to it then.
Now, according to NEP 2020, international universities will be regularized under the same laws as Indian universities are. This will ease their founding in our country, so for example, Harvard might set up their campus in Delhi, which would ultimately lead to more competition among colleges, and indigenous institutes will have no option other than to give same quality of education to students.
It’s about time that these changes be brought in and Indian education system be transformed from exam driven to talent driven. With more extra-curricular activities, vocational training, redesign of syllabus, multiple entry-exits, major-minor courses in college, this new education policy really has made some good and bold promises. However, % of GDP being spent to carry out those changes is shameful and some more clarity on medium of instruction is awaited.