The draft National Education Policy has been released at a time when India is in a severe learning crisis phase.
While the draft proposes transformative reforms at school and higher education level, to be able to gauge its efficacy will depend upon past reformatory steps taken and outcome achieved thus far.
Draft National Education Policy 2019
The Committee for Draft National Education Policy (Chair: Dr. K. Kasturirangan) submitted its report on May 31, 2019.
This Committee was constituted by the Ministry of Human Resource Development in June 2017.
The report proposes an education policy, which seeks to address the challenges of:
(i) access, (ii) equity, (iii) quality, (iv) affordability, and (v) accountability faced by the current education system.
Present status of the education system in India
One silver lining is the enrolment ratio at Primary schools which has been a success story, largely due to various programs and drives to increase even in remote areas.
Improvements to infrastructure have been a priority to achieve this and India now has 1.4 million schools and 7.7 million teachers so that 98 percent of habitations have a primary school (class I-V) within one kilometer and 92 percent have an upper primary school (class VI-VIII) within a three-kilometer walking distance.
Despite these improvements, keeping children in school through graduation is still an issue and dropout rates continue to be high.
- Nationally, 29 percent of children drop out before completing five years of primary school.
- 43 percent drop out before finishing upper primary school.
- There is a teacher shortage of 689,000 teachers in primary schools.
Quality of learning is a major issue
- There is a severe learning crisis in India. Time and again this has been emphasized by several national and international level studies.
- The Annual Status of Education Report (ASER), stated that 50% of Class V students were unable to even read the text meant for students three levels below.
- Without immediate remedial assistance, these children cannot effectively progress in the education system. These future citizens will be low on skill level requirements of Industry 4.0
- In the longer run, this will act as roadblock in the path of demographic dividend's realization.
Challenges in the Education sector
- India has the third largest higher education system in the world, and is behind only the US and China.
- Higher educational institutions churn out around 2.5 million graduates every year. However, this caters to just about 10 per cent of India’s youth and the quality of this output is considered below par.
- Education reforms are focused mostly on inputs rather than learning outcomes as the performance of schools is assessed only by infrastructure and midday meals. This has been one of scathing criticism of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan.
- Also, teachers tasked with raising student standards are burdened with administrative tasks. Budgetary constraints and lack of manpower and technological resources are other barriers.
- As a result, schools resort to rote-learning techniques to cope up with the mounting performance pressures.
Challenges at higher education level:
- Indian universities have become moribund institutions run by cloistered, change-resistant bureaucracies where curricula are not updated for years.
- Students are not exposed to cutting edge research and ideas - CSIR has research avenues but these are cut off from University linkages.
- Political interference in selections, appointments and day-to-day administrative of universities.
- Mistaken belief that homogenization of institutions will produce greater pedagogic creativity. This leaves no room for competition among higher education institutions.
Education and Human resource management in the globalized world
- The education is a soft infrastructure. It is a public good and hence the state has to assume ownership of driving and rowing in the learning outcome.
International Commission on Education for the Twenty-first Century was chaired by Jacques Delors. He submitted the report to UNESCO in 1996 titled - Learning: The Treasure Within’.
Following are the key takeaways from his report:
- Learning to know - acquiring a body of knowledge and learning how to learn, so as to benefit from the opportunities education provides throughout life
- Learning to do - acquiring not only an occupational skill but also the competence to deal with many situations and work in teams, and a package of skills that enables one to deal with the various challenges of working life
- Learning to live together - developing an understanding of other people and an appreciation of interdependence in a spirit of respect for the values of pluralism, mutual understanding and peace
- Learning to be - developing one’s personality and being able to act with autonomy, judgment and personal responsibility, while ensuring that education does not disregard any aspect of the potential of a person: memory, reasoning, aesthetic sense, physical capacities and communication skills
Why mentioning this report here: - current proposals related to New Education Policy revolved around above mentioned factors - which shall be illustrated in the following segment.
A brief discussion on New Draft on Education. It has four parts.
- Part I - School Education
- Part II - Higher Education
- Part III - Additional Key Focus Areas
- Part IV - Transforming Education
a) - School Education
Early Childhood Care and Education
- Current issues observed: Problems of access, curriculum that doesn’t meet the developmental needs of children, lack of qualified and trained teachers and substandard pedagogy.
Recommendation: Developing a two-part curriculum for early childhood care and education.
This will consist of:
- guidelines for up to three-year-old children (for parents and teachers
- Educational framework for three to eight-year-old children.
This would be implemented by improving and expanding the anganwadi system and co-locating anganwadis with primary schools.
The Right to Education Act, 2009 (RTE Act)
- Currently, the RTE Act provides for free and compulsory education to all children from the age of six to 14 years.
- The draft Policy recommends extending the ambit of the RTE Act to include early childhood education and secondary school education.
- This would extend the coverage of the Act to all children between the ages of three to 18 years.
- There must be continuous and comprehensive evaluation and the no detention policy must be reviewed.
- The current structure of school education must be restructured on the basis of the development needs of students.
- This would consist of a 5-3-3-4 design comprising: (i) five years of foundational stage (three years of pre-primary school and classes one and two), (ii) three years of preparatory stage (classes three to five), (iii) three years of middle stage (classes six to eight), and (iv) four years of secondary stage (classes nine to 12).
School exam reforms
- Current Issues observed: Current board examinations: (i) force students to concentrate only on a few subjects, (ii) do not test learning in a formative manner, and (iii) cause stress among students.
- To track students’ progress throughout their school experience, the draft Policy proposes State Census Examinations in classes three, five and eight.
- It recommends restructuring the board examinations to test only core concepts, skills and higher order capacities. These board examinations will be on a range of subjects.
- The students can choose their subjects, and the semester when they want to take these board exams. The in-school final examinations may be replaced by these board examinations.
- Multiple public schools should be brought together to form a school complex. A complex will consist of one secondary school (classes nine to twelve) and all the public schools in its neighborhood that offer education from pre-primary till classes eight.
- The complexes will also include anganwadis, vocational education facilities, and an adult education centre.
- Teachers should be deployed with a particular school complex for at least five to seven years and will not be allowed to participate in any non-teaching activities (such as cooking mid-day meals or participating in vaccination campaigns) during school hours.
Regulation of schools
- Creation of an independent State School Regulatory Authority for each state that will prescribe basic uniform standards for public and private schools. The Department of Education of the State will formulate policy and conduct monitoring and supervision.
b) Higher Education
- Lack of access as a major reason behind low intake of higher education in the country.
Regulatory structure and accreditation
- Current issues observed: Multiple regulators with overlapping mandates which creates an environment of dependency and centralized decision making.
Recommendation: Setting up the National Higher Education Regulatory Authority (NHERA).
- This independent authority would replace the existing individual regulators in higher education, including professional and vocational education.
- This implies that the role of all professional councils such as AICTE and the Bar Council of India would be limited to setting standards for professional practice.
- The role of the University Grants Commission (UGC) will be limited to providing grants to higher educational institutions.
Establishment of new higher educational institutions:
- Currently, higher educational institutions can only be set up by Parliament or state legislatures. The draft Policy proposes that these institutions could be allowed to be set up through a Higher Education Institution Chartered from NHERA.
Restructuring of higher education institutions:
- Higher education institutions will be restructured into three types: (i) research universities focusing equally on research and teaching; (ii) teaching universities focusing primarily on teaching; and (iii) colleges focusing only on teaching at undergraduate levels.
Establishing a National Research Foundation
- An autonomous body, for funding, mentoring and building the capacity for quality research in India. The Foundation will consist of four major divisions: sciences, technology, social sciences, and arts and humanities, with the provision to add additional divisions.
Making undergraduate programmes interdisciplinary
The curriculum to include:
- A common core curriculum
- One/two area(s) of specialization.
- Students will be required to choose an area of specialization as ‘major’, and an optional area as ‘minor’. Four-year undergraduate programmes in Liberal Arts will be introduced and multiple exit options with appropriate certification will be made available to students.
Professional development of faculty:
- Continuous Professional Development programme and introduction of a permanent employment (tenure) track system for faculty in all higher education institutions by 2030. Further, a desirable student-teacher ratio of not more than 30:1 must be ensured.
C and d) Additional Key focus areas and Transforming Education
- Creation of a National Education Commission or Rashtriya Shiksha Aayog as an apex body for education, to be headed by the Prime Minister.
- This body will be responsible for developing, implementing, evaluating, and revising the vision of education in the country on a continuous and sustained basis.
- It will oversee the implementation and functioning of several bodies including the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT), the proposed National Higher Education Regulatory Authority, and National Research Foundation.
- The Draft Policy reaffirmed the commitment of spending 6% of GDP as public investment in education.
- First National Education Policy (NEP) 1968 had recommended public expenditure in education must be 6% of GDP, which was reiterated by the second NEP in 1986.
- In 2017-18, public expenditure on education in India was 2.7% of GDP.
Technology in Education
- National Mission on Education through information and communication technology
- National Repository on Educational Data
Less than 5% of the workforce in the age-group of 19-24 receives vocational education in India.
- All school students must receive vocational education in at least one vocation in grades nine to 12.
- Curriculum must match the National Skills Qualifications Framework.
As per Census 2011, India still had over 3.26 crore youth non-literates (15-24 years of age) and a total of 26.5 crore adult non-literates (15 years and above).
- Establish an autonomous Central Institute of Adult Education, as a constituent unit of NCERT
- It will develop a National Curriculum Framework for adult education.
- The Framework will cover five broad areas: foundational literacy and numeracy, critical life skills vocational skills development, basic education, and continuing education.
Education and Indian Languages
A large number of students fall behind since classes in schools are being conducted in a language that they do not understand.
- Medium of instruction must either be the home language/mother tongue/local language till grade five, and preferable till grade eight.
- Three language formula be continued and flexibility in the implementation of the formula should be provided.
Education Quality Upgradation and Inclusion Programme (EQUIP)
The ten Expert Groups drawn from senior academicians, administrators and industrialists, have suggested more than 50 initiatives that would transform the higher education sector completely. The Groups have set the following goals for higher education sector:
- Double the Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) in higher education and resolve the geographically and socially skewed access to higher education institutions in India
- Upgrade the quality of education to global standards
- Position at least 50 Indian institutions among the top-1000 global universities
- Introduce governance reforms in higher education for well-administered campuses
- Accreditation of all institutions as an assurance of quality
- Promote Research & Innovation ecosystems for positioning India in the Top-3 countries in the world in matters of knowledge creation
- Double the employability of the students passing out of higher education
- Harness education technology for expanding the reach and improving pedagogy
- Promote India as a global study destination
- Achieve a quantum increase in investment in higher education
- The draft talks about better engagement of the private sector and provisioning for government funding for R&D work through a proposed national research fund.
- The proposals look forward-looking, but what the final draft needs to do is differentiate between deregulation and liberalization. The incentive for the private sector to invest, grow and stand on quality parameters needs to be clearly articulated.
- The union must ensure that the policy does not face litigation, state resistance, and operational challenges on the ground.
- Transforming the education system is a value-driven and emotional process, which needs to be implemented strategically through a behavioral change process.
- The best way could be following similar strategies as that of the Swachh Bharat Mission — the largest behavior change programme and transplanting it to the education sector.