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Towards education shops

THERE HAVE BEEN A SLEW OF REACTIONS and comments on the draft National Educational Policy, 2019, ever since the document was made public. Some termed it “too good to be true” while others felt it only amounted to “rearranging the deck” and “a bad thesis”. The draft NEP is perhaps a mixed bag and needs an objective and comprehensive reading of the intent and deliverables proposed in it. A healthy debate among the stakeholders and the government is necessary. The draft report was submitted by the K. Kasturirangan Committee in December 2018. The government waited for about five months to make it public. So it might as well wait for a few months more and begin a round of consultations.

Here, I will concentrate only on school education. However, the intent of the draft NEP is embedded in the policy document that runs through school, higher, vocational/professional segments of education and the distance learning mode. The policy envisions “…an India centred education system that contributes directly to transforming our nation sustainably into an equitable and vibrant knowledge society….” This is possible only by providing high quality education to everyone. We will deconstruct the above vision as we read through the first 200 pages of the 477-page draft NEP. Let me enumerate some of the highlights of the school sector reforms suggested in the report.

Some of the highlights

1. The draft NEP claims that its main concern is to ensure delivery of quality education to all—a major concern that was ignored in the decades after Independence because of the preoccupation of governments with issues of access and equity.

2. In order to achieve the goal of high quality education for the creation of a knowledge society, it proposes the “…revamping of all aspects of the education structure, its regulation and governance, to create a new system that is aligned with the aspirational goals of 21st century education, while remaining consistent with India’s traditions and value systems”.

3. It further proposes to build an integrated yet flexible approach to school education. To begin with, the model of 10+2, which was effectively divided into five grades of primary schooling, three of middle schooling, two of secondary schooling and the terminal two grades of higher secondary, will now be broken into 5+3+3+4. Here, the first five grades constitute the foundational stage, which includes the first three years of pre-primary classes and the first two years of not-so-formal schooling with 1st and 2nd grades included. The next three years of remaining primary grades will form the preparatory phase of formal classroom learning. The next three years remain untouched as middle schooling and the last four years will be secondary and higher secondary school education with board examinations at the 10th and 12th grades as is the case currently in the 10+2 mode.

4. There will be no separation of streams as in science, arts and commerce right through school and under-graduation classes. Instead, vocational subjects and training in various kinds of skills would be imparted right from the upper primary grades.



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