Since the New Education Policy (NEP) 2020 was approved by the Cabinet on July 29, it has been hailed as a ground-breaking and progressive policy with some of its reforms being long due. The policy aims to achieve 100 percent gross enrollment ratio (GER) in school education by 2030 and 50 percent GER in higher education by 2035. The emphasis on making higher education multidisciplinary and holistic by making the curriculum more flexible, creation of e-courses in regional languages and adapting to times by advocating for increased use of technology are welcome reforms.
Notably, the policy commits to increasing public expenditure on education to 6 percent of the GDP from the current 4.43 percent. However, it is unclear how this increased expenditure will be shared between the central and state governments. We should also not be uncritical in our reception of the NEP, particularly because not many of the promises of the NEP are timebound. While the policy has been called visionary, it has also been criticised as exclusionary and a closer look at its implications for minorities and the nature of the education system is necessary.
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The proposition in the NEP which has caused the most speculation is that the mother tongue should be the medium of instruction up to class 5 ‘wherever possible’. The policy proposes that reading and writing skills in other languages will be learnt in Grade 3 and beyond. While the policy maintains that “a language does not need to be the medium of instruction for it to be taught and learned well”, it is also true that it becomes difficult to pick up a language as one grows older.
However, an increased emphasis on the mother tongue as a medium of instruction is not without implications for the marginalised, especially in a country where English is widely associated with employability and privilege. Even though the major reason for advocating learning in the mother tongue is for ease of learning, it could in fact, impede the progress of the marginalised sections, in terms of accessibility to employment and educational opportunities. However, a study on the implementation of admission of students from economically weaker sections in private schools cited communication in English as one of the reasons for dropouts.
The other side of the coin is that English education should be available to those who cannot afford private schools. In November 2019, Andhra Pradesh Education Minister Adimulapu Suresh introduced English medium in all government schools as a scheme for the benefit of the poor, claiming that they were expanding the right to education to the right to an English education for all. An article in The Print outlines how English has played a crucial role in India’s economic growth and went on to predict that with instruction in the mother tongue “Class-based inequality will widen in India, as those who are able to afford posh English-medium education in the cities pull further ahead of talent from the hinterland.”
The gendered implications of the NEP policies are also significant, in the sense that women will not have an equal opportunity to learn English, given that parents often spend less on a girl’s education and research has shown that parents prefer to send boys to private schools and girls to government schools. Further, there is also an absolute lack of clarity about education in the mother tongue for a large number of students whose parents have transferable jobs.
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The language problem of the NEP does not end here. The NEP mentions the implementation of the three language formula which gives the states autonomy to decide which languages are taught as long as 2 of the 3 languages taught are native to India. A non-Hindi speaking state like Tamil Nadu operates by a two language formula, not seeing the need to learn another language. That is, a second Indian language like Hindi or Sanskrit will be very difficult for students to learn just as learning Tamil will be difficult for someone from a Hindi speaking state. It is only rational for DMK President M K Stalin to see the three-language formula as an attempted “imposition” of Hindi and Sanskrit and the NEP as “a glossy coat on the old oppressive Manusmriti.”
It also does not resonate why the NEP 2020 has laid so much importance to making Sanskrit—which is not the most practical language to learn—widely available in school and higher education. Sanskrit is not an easy language to grasp, promoting it seems to be less for children’s development and more for the satisfaction of the RSS.
The NEP also brings early childhood education (also known as pre-school education for children of ages 3 to 5) under the ambit of formal schooling. However, this will continue to take place at the anganwadi. The government also states that anganwadi workers would be given six-months online training. But this additional responsibility comes without any additional recognition.
Anganwadi workers, whose work is often seen as an extension of the unpaid care work women are burdened with in society, have been demanding better recognition, proper wages and suitable work conditions for a long time. An additional responsibility such as this, without first dealing with their demands is not just an unfair state mechanism, it is also patriarchal in the sense of how women’s labour is seen as insignificant, even in the public arena.
The sharpest criticism against the NEP has been that it would lead to the privatisation of higher education which is a denial of social justice. The NEP aims to gradually phase out the system of affiliation to a university in 15 years and grant autonomy to colleges which will open the doors to privatization.
Kerala’s Higher Education Minister K T Jaleel has said that the proposal to transform the educational sector from the affiliation system to the autonomous system in the coming 15 years will adversely impact students’ access to higher educational institutions, especially in villages and other backward areas. He also emphasised that judging government and private educational institutions using the same yardstick will pave way for the entry of corporates and private players into the education sector.
The government is shying away from its own responsibility to provide quality higher education for all, instead allowing foreign universities to enter the country which will definitely charge a high tuition and increase the caste and class based inequalities in education further. Indian National Teachers’ Congress convenor Pankaj Garg has rightly recognized this as foreign direct investment in education.
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It is ironic that NEP’s claims to ‘provide education to historically marginalised, disadvantaged, and underrepresented groups’ lays the roadmap for privatisation of higher education. It is quite clear that this visionary policy might end up serving the interest of the rich.
Student and teacher bodies like the Federation of Central Universities Teachers’ Associations (FEDCUTA), Delhi University Teachers Association (DUTA), the Krantikari Yuva Sangathan (KYS) and the Student Federation of India (SFI) have been very vocal against the commercialisation of higher education. Nandita Narain, an associate professor at St. Stephen’s College called it a ‘National Exclusion Policy’ and ‘blueprint for privatisation of education’. The government has also been accused of using the COVID-19 pandemic to pass a law when protests are not as vocalised.
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“Sanskrit – which is not the most practical language to learn”. This statement speaks volume on the narrow-mindedness of the author. Please do a survey of how many non-Indian educational institutions, including famous universities teach Sanskrit worldwide. Hope you won’t call them as RSS agents!
The same old garbage of concocted “marginalised” being deprived of education etc. When no law prevents anyone from securing school education, whether village, town or city based, where is the question of anyone being marginalised? Also, one does not know why a nonsensical statement of MK Stalin, the leader of the caste extremist DMK should be given so much prominence. It needs to be recognised that DMK + DK have over the past 80 yrs caused massive oppression on the marginalised, minoritised Brahmins in TN and forced many of them to quit TN for good.
Will these changes in Education Policy 2020 are Works for Students of India?
I does not mean that it’s become worthy but I mean how they implementation and progressive factors in education sector.
So there is many changes occured in education policy 2020 for improving the education in India .
I think that New National Education Policy 2020 of India works better in education sector.
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