After delaying it for over a year, the Union Human Resource Development (HRD) ministry has taken another step towards drafting the much-anticipated National Education Policy (NEP). This time, the committee is headed by eminent space scientist K Kasturirangan. The nine-member committee also constitutes retired bureaucrat K J Alphonse, mathematician and Fields Medal winner Manjul Bhargava, among others. The need for an overhaul in the policy to truly bring forth a revolution in the education sector has already been established. Thus, we can directly move on to discuss what the NEP ought to include.
In this age of Internet, it is essential to go digital. Many government initiatives, like e-basta, have introduced digital tools to the classroom. And demonetization has already paved the way for cashless transactions in many schools. Now, there is a serious need to maintain all records of a student — from the time he takes admission to the time he leaves the school. This would include all academic records as well the record of all extracurricular activities.
Motivating Lesser Privileged Ones
The HRD ministry has mandated the private schools to reserve a quarter of their seats at the entry level for students belonging to economically disadvantaged backgrounds in the neighbourhood. However, several instances have been reported where the schools have been found violating the mandate. The evasion of this provision is a cause of concern. The policy needs to suggest stringent ways of preventing violation. There have also been suggestions of introducing a National Fellowship Fund for students belonging to economically weaker sections. The fellowship will include tuition fees, living expenses, as well as other learning resources. We can expect this fellowship to mitigate problems of millions of students to a large extent.
Teachers need to be equipped with digital education if they are to use digital tools in the classroom. The government could encourage public-private partnership in certification, and thereby set a benchmark across the country. Further, as recommended by the TSR Subramanian committee, 50% marks at graduate level should be the minimum eligibility criteria for admission to B.Ed. courses. This would ensure the quality of teachers to a large extent.
Improve Learning Outcomes
The no-detention policy, under the Right to Education (RTE) Act 2009, has failed to bring forth positive learning outcomes and has done more harm than good. We can expect the committee to either revoke it or limit it up to grade five.
Another ambitious project that the government has been thinking of implementing for some time now is having a common curriculum for English, Maths and Science. Unlike the former, this is can be helpful in the long run for the students. The national competitive examinations for entrance to law, engineering and medical courses put students from schools affiliated to the state boards at a disadvantage. But this project, if implemented, can help state boards students to be better prepared for these competitive exams.
The government’s efforts in rejuvenating and promoting Sanskrit have been condemned as saffronization of education. However, if we keep politics at bay and just think of Sanskrit scriptures as a storehouse of knowledge, it would help us better.
In the past couple of years, the focus of the government has shifted from ‘education for all’ to ‘quality education’. Attuned to the same philosophy, NEP is expected to bring positive changes in the education sector.