Education is fundamental for achieving full human potential, developing an equitable and just society, and promoting national development. Providing universal access to quality education is essential to economic growth, social justice and equality, scientific advancement, national integration, and cultural preservation; and for India’s continued ascent, progress, and leadership on the global stage. Moreover, India has the highest youth population in the world, and our ability to provide high-quality educational opportunities to them will shape the future of our country. As a result of the recent Covid-19 outbreak, various nations are undergoing drastic changes in the sphere of education and keeping in mind the serious blow that the pandemic has given to our education sector, it is high time India too should take a step ahead to improve the education sector of the nation. 

The government took cognizance of the present situation of the educational sector yearning for progress and came up with a revolutionary decision to effectuate the changes that were long due. The Union Cabinet headed by PM Narendra Modi approved the National Education Policy 2020 recently, making way for large-scale, transformational reforms in both school and higher education sectors. This education policy will replace the thirty-four-year-old National Policy on Education (NPE), 1986, which was last modified in 1992. This policy aims for a more holistic, flexible, and multidisciplinary form of education in order to bring out the unique capabilities of every child. However, a detailed study of the targets set prompts us to point out certain flaws related to the said policy. In spite of being an exhaustive document, one can find numerous instances where the policy brings up more problems than solving the existing ones. 

The policy targets to increase the minimum teaching eligibility criteria to 4-year integrated B.Ed. Degree by 2030. This is a huge step in the realm of education and is aimed at improving the education standards throughout the nation. However, looking at the present condition of education standards where the student to teacher ratio is abominable, increasing the eligibility further will only worsen the situation as even in the present, the teachers are not enough in number to meet the needs of students. Now, increasing the eligibility will only drive us away from the said objective instead of nearing it. 

Consequently, the reform to include vocational training from 6th grade though will polish the skills in students but the shortage of teachers will thwart the implementation of this policy. As flexibility is provided in the new policy requires a high intake of teachers so as to accomplish the demand that will be created due to the flexible choice of subjects.

The policy has emphasized the employment of regional languages as the medium of instruction. Sanskrit will be offered at all levels of school and higher education as an option for students, including in the three-language formula. This, though, will strengthen the fading traditional languages yet its implementation in the culturally diverse nation will prove to be obverse as students will face difficulty in coping up if they have to shift in a region with a different dialect and regional language. Moreover, Indians always have had the edge over other Asian countries when it comes to employment in western or European countries as Indians due to grasping the foreign language are able to compete at an international level. So, implementing this policy at a time when countries like China, which is known for opposing the idea of westernization, is also focusing on learning a foreign language, especially English.

The policy provides for an Academic Bank of Credits to digitally store the academic credits earned from different Higher Education Institutions so that these can be transferred and counted towards the final degree earned. This ensures multiple entry/exit points with appropriate certification. For example, a Certificate after 1 year, Advanced Diploma after 2 years, Bachelor’s Degree after 3 years and Bachelor’s with Research after 4 years. At present, the absence of this digital bank causes a lot of difficulties for students. In case a student had to drop out of college due to extraordinary circumstances like lack of interest in the present course, certain personal issues, etc., his already earned credits were lost, and there was no way to resume his degree with the said credits. The creation of an academic credit bank comes as a great relief to students who can now transfer or store their credits and resume their high studies whenever they find it feasible. 

Recommendations to promote online and digital education have been made in order to ensure preparedness to continue the learning process even in those circumstances where traditional methods of teaching are not possible. This comes in lieu of the recent Covid-19 outbreak, which jolted the existing education sector. The schools and colleges are closed from 16th March and examinations have been suspended indefinitely. Therefore, this change was long due, and on-ground implementations of the said guidelines will ensure that our system is prepared for any future pandemics or epidemics which might force us to change our patterns of learning and examining. 

The aim of assessment in the culture of our schooling system is to assess the progress of a student. But the method that was adopted was evaluating academic marks rather than assessing the holistic development of a student. The performance of a student was gauged on the basis of marks while the skills possessed was never given value. Consequently, it promoted the culture of coaching classes which are replacing valuable time for true learning with excessive exam coaching and preparation. Therefore, a reform in the assessment policy which focuses on the holistic development of students was long due.

The target to achieve 100% adult literacy is not only unrealistic but also meritless even if achieved. On one hand, the policy is drafted to meet international standards and sustain the Indian education system in the coming “tech” decades, yet the policy does not change the age-old criteria of literacy rate. In contrast, many developed nations have gone far to include knowledge of technology as criteria for determining literacy rates. Therefore, the authors opine that the policy should have focused more on changing the very criteria rather than meeting the set target with substandard criteria.

The policy is also blamed for bypassing various legal aspects as education is a matter of a subject mentioned under the concurrent list, despite this Central government imposed the New Education Policy unilaterally avoiding all the objections and opposition recorded by various state governments. Therefore, the policy is a blatant attempt to disrupt the inherent federal structure as laid out in the Indian Constitution. In addition, the Polit Bureau of various opposition parties is demanding that a thorough discussion in Parliament be held before its implementation begins.

The new education policy aims to develop good human beings capable of rational thought and action, possessing compassion and empathy, courage and resilience, scientific temper, and creative imagination, with sound ethical moorings and values. Though drafted to cater to the largest youth population yet the policy sets certain targets that are unrealistic when it comes to the present state of the education system of India. Also, the policy should address and rectify all the legal concerns associated with it.

This post is authored by Prateek Khandelwal of Chanakya National Law University, Patna and Falguni Sharma of  National Law University, Jodhpur.

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