The National Education Policy 2020 or NEP 2020 was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in July 2020. The policy attempts to reform both school and higher education. The policy has received mixed reviews from public policy experts and people in the education sector. While it has been lauded for being progressive, critics have pointed out to the flaws in the same and why we should not be overly optimistic about it.
In the article, we will view the NEP measures for school education critically.
NEP plans to replace the current 10+2 system with a new 5+3+3+4 curricular structure corresponding to ages 3-8, 8-11, 11-14, and 14-18 years respectively. As the age group of 3-6 years has been recognized as a crucial stage for the development of mental faculties of a child, the new structure will bring it under formal schooling and provide mid-day meal, which will encourage parents to send their children to school.
However, no guidelines for the training of Anganwadi workers for early education has been released. The policy also recommends recruiting volunteers and community members to support early literacy. While volunteers can be useful, they cannot be entirely relied upon to deliver foundational education to students.
NEP also discourages the strict segregation of Humanities, Science, and Commerce in high school and opens the choice for the selection of subjects from multiple schemes. This will allow students to study the subjects of their choice more freely.
The policy also focuses on providing vocational education to students from class 6 through internships. While this has been seen as a good move to encourage practical education and discourage rote learning, critics have pointed out the difficulties in the implementation of this measure.
The students in small towns and villages will be at a disadvantage as the choices for internships in their areas will be limited as compared to those in big cities. It will be difficult to find internships for students of such a young age. Precautions against child labor will have to be taken. The schools will have to monitor that the children work in an environment safe from accidents and sexual exploitation. Hence, strict guidelines will have to be formed for this measure and rigorous implementation will have to be ensured.
The medium of education up to at least Grade 5 is to be in mother tongue/ regional language and no language will be imposed on any student. This is a good move to promote regional language among the students. However, this will lead to neglect of the importance of English in the formative years, which is the crucial phase for the learning of languages. It has been found that fluency in the English language leads to better job opportunities and three times higher income than those non-fluent in it. Parents hesitate to send their children to government schools and spend money in private schools as they are “English medium schools”. Hence, the demand and usefulness of English as the medium of instruction have been neglected here.
Difficulties can also be faced in the hiring of multilingual teachers in each school. Children of parents with transferable jobs will also have difficulty due to the change in mediums of instruction in different regions.
The NEP envisions bringing back the two crores out of school children into formal schooling system through Open schooling systems such as Open and Distant Learning (ODL) offered by the National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS) and State Open Schools. This will help students to learn if they are unable to attend physical schools. The policy also mentions a budget allocated for online education. However, this might not be sufficient to provide devices and internet services to so many students. This will be a disadvantage for rural students due to the digital divide, which has also been observed during the pandemic.
The policy attempts to deemphasize rote learning. It advises mostly oral activities for the pre-primary grades, reading activities for Grades 1-3, with an extra hour for writing starting only in Grades 4 and 5. However, this advice is contradictory to research suggesting that children should be taught listening, speaking, reading, and writing simultaneously and not in a sequence.
The NEP does not talk much about increasing the accountability of schools. It only mentions the provision for School Management Committees (SMCs) which are already implemented under Right to Education and are found to be ineffective.
The policy ignores the prevalence of ad-hoc teachers and making them permanent.
Education is a concurrent subject and needs the involvement of States. However, NEP has been formulated largely by the Central government and has been implemented as a centralized scheme. The policy does not mention the responsibilities of the State government in its implementation, which can lead to poor functioning of the scheme as witnessed in the current system of education.
There is a requirement for the scheme to address the socio-economic disparities among children and provide solutions to reduce its effect on education to reduce inequality in learning. Moreover, the implementation of the scheme will have to be closely monitored and evaluated for rigorous implementation.
About the Author:
Sowmya Jain is an alumnus of Institute of Rural Management Anand (IRMA) from batch 2020. She is currently working as a pre-doctoral research fellow at IWMI-Tata Water Policy Program. She is passionate about public policy, social activism and bringing positive change in the society, She also tries her hand at comedy occasionally and is an avid dog lover.