16th The Hindu Editorials Notes: Mains Sure Shot
Why in News
- Consultations over the New Education Policy (NEP) 2019.
- The Near final NEP report focuses on school education, higher education and other key areas like adult education, technology and promotion of arts and culture.
- A section of the report also deals with establishing an apex body and the financial aspects to make quality education affordable for all.
Role of education:
- Education is a necessary public good central to the task of nation-building.
- Education policy, in essence, must aim to produce sensitive, creative and upright citizens.
- This form of education should be unshackled from the chains of deprivation, and “affordable” education, is vital to ensure access to even the most marginalised sections of our country.
Education is not a commodity:
- A menu of choices provided by the private sector, which reduces education to the status of a commodity and views our youthful demography as human capital, is being doled out as panacea to our educational challenges.
- Education should not be driven solely by market demand for certain skills, or be distracted by the admittedly disruptive impact, for instance, of Artificial Intelligence.
- One has to be aware of the fact that there is no developed country where the public sector was not in the vanguard of school and higher education expansion, in ensuring its inclusiveness, and in setting standards. Even the Ivy League universities, created because of generous philanthropic endowments, function more like public institutions even today.
- Education must be treated as a public good, providing which is the primary role of the state.
The New Education Policy (NEP) 2019
- The report talks about doubling the government expenditure on education from about 10% to 20% over a 10-year period. Though this is still insufficient, given the enormity of the challenge, it is an unprecedented commitment to the sector.
- The NEP’s stated goal to “reinstate” teachers as the “most respected members of the society” is a key aspect of the new educational policy and empowerment of teachers remains a key mantra of the policy, and it is understood that this can only be achieved by ensuring their “livelihood, respect, dignity and autonomy”, while ensuring quality and accountability. The focus on the teacher’s role in the education system is welcome.
- Equally laudable is the emphasis on early childhood care and schooling more generally. The anganwadis remain the backbone of an early childhood care system but have suffered on multiple grounds, including lack of facilities and proper training. This, as the report recognises, needs to change.
- The NEP wisely recognises that a comprehensive liberal arts education will help to “develop all capacities of human beings — intellectual, aesthetic, social, physical, emotional, and moral — in an integrated manner.” India’s past and it’s unique, culturally diverse matrix provide a rich framework.
- The proposal to establish a National Research Foundation, with an “overarching goal… to enable a culture of research to permeate through our universities” needs to be applauded and widely supported.
- The report fails to address and incorporate ideas based contemporary global thinking like the emphasis on creativity and critical thinking and the need for learning in a non-competitive and non-hierarchical ecosystem and discovering one’s true passion without any sense of fear
- Though the focus on early childhood and schooling are welcome the incremental and rather ad hoc changes proposed like the instituting of in stand-alone anganwadis, or anganwadis co-located with primary schools, etc. may not deliver.
- The idea of volunteer teachers, peer tutoring, rationalisation of the system of schools and sharing of resources does not seem like long term solutions.
- The government’s strategies regarding the public sector, including the Kendriya Vidyalayas, the State government-run institutions and the municipal schools are not clear.
- The creation of a National Testing Agency (NTA) has generated scepticism. The NTA though envisaged to serve as a premier, expert, autonomous testing organisation to conduct entrance examinations for admissions and fellowships in higher educational institutions may, in reality, lead to loss of autonomy among the universities and departments over admissions.
- Equally serious is the concern about the division between research-intensive ‘premier’ universities; teaching universities; and colleges. The NEP suggests, “three ‘types’ of institutions are not in any natural way a sharp, exclusionary categorisation, but are along a continuum”. But the advantage of these divisions, per se, is neither intuitively nor analytically clear, given that high-quality teaching and cutting-edge research comfortably coexist in most universities of excellence.
The recent National Education Policy document, despite its lacunae, is a vast improvement over its earlier versions. The concerns raised must be addressed before an official policy is finally announced.