#THROWBACK 2019 MHRD’s new National Education Policy evokes mixed response

#THROWBACK 2019 MHRD’s new National Education Policy evokes mixed response

PUNE: The new National Education Policy (NEP) draft was released by the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) earlier this year. While several parts of the draft were appreciated, experts and stakeholders raised concerns over others. Experts have sent their suggestions to the MHRD in this regard.

Three-language formula
First formulated by the Central government in 1968, the three-language formula implied that three languages, comprising a foreign language, a regional language and one of the 22 languages identified by the Constitution of India in Schedule VIII, must be taught at school level. 

As the NEP hinted at making Hindi compulsory, the South India rose against it.

Speaking about the issue, linguist Ganesh Devy said, “Schedule VIII of the Constitution of India identifies 22 languages, and sees them as equal. Then why do we always try to portray Hindi as superior to the rest? Although Hindi might serve as a link language in many states, there are several states in the South, in North-East, that are not comfortable with the language,” he said, adding that the protest was not against the language, but against its imposition.

It was later clarified by the MHRD that Hindi would not be imposed in the south Indian states.

Expansion of RTE Act age-group
To bring more children within the scope of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE), the NEP draft recommended inclusion or a wider age-group under the RTE Act. The Act covers the children in the age-group of six to 14 years. The new draft proposed inclusion of children aged between three and 18 years.

Experts hailed the recommendation. Manish Shroff of NGO New Vision that works for street and slum children, said, “It is important to make education free for children until they turn 18 so as to eradicate child labour. We cannot let the children get out of the education system after 14 years. Early childcare is a right of every child. So, it is necessary that all children are brought into mainstream at an early age.”

‘5+3+3+4’ curricular & pedagogical structure
The drafting committee recommended a ‘5+3+3+4’ curricular and pedagogical structure, in place of the ‘10+2’ based on cognitive and socio-emotional developmental stages of children: Foundational Stage (age three-eight years): three years of pre-primary plus Grades I-II; Preparatory Stage (eight-11 years): Grades III-V; Middle Stage (11-14 years): Grades VI-VIII; and Secondary Stage (14-18 years): Grades IX-XII. However, culmination of the last four classes starting from class IX has received flak from the experts, stating the government does not provide a proper explanation as to why they want to make such radical changes.

Suggestions from experts and teachers
One common suggestion by experts was to strictly prohibit privatisation of education. Some stakeholders suggested formation of a common board for all schools across the country.

Higher Education
The NEP (Higher Education) Policy focuses on increasing gross enrolment ratio to at least 50 per cent by 2035 by revamping the higher education system. 

It has proposed introduction of liberal education system, wherein students will be able to opt for courses of their interest and gain credits.
University Grants Commission (UGC) Vice-Chairman Bhushan Patwardhan said the NEP document is revolutionary in Indian education system. “The policy believes in continuity of education, wherein if a student drops or discontinues a degree course mid-way, then it enables the students to rejoin to complete the course later,” Patwardhan had told Sakal Times in a previous interview.

Nevertheless, the policy proposed National Academic Credit Bank (NAC-Bank), which will allow multiple entry and exits from a course for a student. It does not insist on completion of course within the given period of time for degree.

The National Research Foundation (NRF) concept proposed under the policy will curb duplication of funding in a particular field. It will optimise and focus on mission-based research. Savitribai Phule Pune University (SPPU) Vice-Chancellor Nitin Karmalkar stated that this will benefit higher educational institutions as they can seek funding under one umbrella.

Challenges of NEP draft for higher education
Vidyapeeth Vikas Manch State Incharge AP Kulkarni stated in his suggestion that research should be primarily focus at post-graduation (PG) level rather than at under-graduation (UG), where teaching needs to focus on. The draft mentioned that fees for professional education courses will be left to the management of education institutes. However, educationists are of the opinion that Fee Regulatory Authority (FRA) should exist and decide upon the range of fee structure for every programme. Autonomy with respect to fee structure should not be given to the management of any organisation.

They stated that the government should increase seats at UG and PG level in medical colleges.

Kulkarni pointed out that the issue of imbalance in student-teacher ratio hasn’t been addressed in the NEP draft. “At present there are 75 students in one class at school and 120 students with now increased 10 per cent of it in junior colleges and similar nearby number in senior colleges against one teacher. This is totally unscientific. This issue needs to be addressed,” said Kulkarni.

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