Editorial

The New Education Policy is positive on intent, but pedagogical questions remain

| Updated on July 31, 2020 Published on July 31, 2020

The challenges lie in universalising access, forking out finances and, most importantly, in capacity building of teachers

A sweeping policy document on education has taken a long time in coming — the last such being unveiled way back in 1986. The National Curriculum Framework 2005 was a pedagogical document, whereas the present one looks at overhauling the structure of school and college education. It suggests moving from a 10+2+3 system to a 5+3+3+4 one; easing the curriculum burden with emphasis on concepts as opposed to rote learning; doing away with the cast iron division between ‘science’ and ‘arts’; and at the college level bringing in a four year undergraduate course with ‘multiple exit’ options. Foreign universities will be invited, a move that will lift standards, if they indeed do come. The intent to make learning interdisciplinary at higher levels is unexceptionable. The limitations of over-specialised learning have become apparent in an increasingly complex world, impacting the quality of decision-making by corporates and governments. Interdisciplinary courses will enable students to align their pursuit of studies with their aptitudes, hopefully reducing drop-outs in the process.

However, the challenges lie in universalising access, developing on principles of the Right to Education Act, forking out finances, arriving at a consensus with States on issues like an apex body for higher education and common entrance exams, and perhaps most importantly, in capacity building of teachers. There has been no systemic effort to create quality teachers, with state-run institutes not measuring up to the demands of the day — more so in an age where teachers need to go beyond what is available on the Internet. Eclecticism in curriculum must be matched by a focus on creating teachers who can deliver. It is not surprising that annual ASER surveys report dismal learning outcomes. In restructuring courses to make them ‘easier’ and ‘interesting’, rigour should not be sacrificed. It will hurt our position as a knowledge economy. The policy has mooted regional language medium of instruction at least till Class 5. This seems like going against the grain, given the social demand for learning English. The trouble is that English is a global language, but if teachers are ill at ease in teaching subjects such as Maths, Accountancy and Physics in English it also puts students at a disadvantage.

Perhaps, the most significant policy suggestion is on financing. It suggests that the Centre and the States will work together to increase public investment in the education sector to 6 per cent of the GDP. The policy makes a strong economic case for “investment” in education, as against regarding it as “expenditure”. Indeed, India’s future depends on this shift. Its budgetary bias against developing human capital has lasted far too long.

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Published on July 31, 2020
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