Road to Future – The Draft Education Policy

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Now in its second innings, the Modi government is pushing hard on education reforms, and one does not have to rattle his grey cells much to know why  the road to development goes through rural India and with the majority of the population in the villages illiterate and/or unemployed due to poor education, it seems a far throw.

In 2017, the erstwhile union government appointed K Kasturirangan Committee which has recently submitted it’s draft on the Education Policy. And now that the NDA is back on power, it’s carrying forward the vision and policies from its first term.

The government released the draft education policy recently after the Committee submitted its report on March 31, 2019.

The draft policy is based on the foundational pillars of access, equity, quality, affordability & accountability.

Access – After the Right to Education was enacted, access to education has certainly increased, however, the agencies (both domestic and international) are not satisfied with the progress. Hence, the government has decided to push for access to quality education again.

Equity – Government schemes in the past have been said to be politically motivated. It is alleged that the incumbent government allocates more resources to its stronghold and less to the constituencies of rival political parties. However, this draft aims at equitable distribution of all resources.

Quality – One of the major criticisms of government schools is the poor quality of education it imparts to the enrolled students. Even after burning an Rs. 93,000 crore hole in the treasury many videos showcasing the in-competitiveness of government teachers continue to surface.

Affordability – The government is aimed towards making not only the primary and higher education quality and accessible, but also affordable to all. Affordability here does not mean merely economic affordability but rather time affordable too. Youngsters should feel that their time investment will pay them back.

Accountability – The government plans on establishing direct oversight of HRD ministry over the implementation of the policy to ensure its properly implemented.

In an all-inclusive strategy, the government has planned on wide consultation and deliberation process. The government recognizes all villages, blocks, states as equal stakeholders and has invited suggestions from them all.

The government does not want to lose the grassroot touch, so the NDEP is modeled on the NITI Aayog. Like the NITI Aayog works from down to up i.e. the projects originate from the village levels and depending on the success rate, it is then implemented pan-India, similarly, the governments want all villages, blocks to pitch-in their ideas.

Another major change in perspective would be ‘education in continuum’ rather than sectors and sub-sectors.

In the fast-changing landscape like the times we are in, the government is of the view that a student needs to have a comprehensive knowledge of all sectors and understand their inter-dependency and the way they are intricately connected instead of looking at them as different subjects altogether.

The government is trying to make India an innovation and start-up hub, much on Israel and, to an extent, China model. Today, Israel is a major R&D spot with nearly every major company with its offices providing the nation and the world with cutting-edge tech.

The government wants to instill basic research and innovation instincts from the school level. This will have benefits on two levels: first, the ones who are unable to continue higher studies due to financial or other constraints would be motivated to innovate and sustain themselves through self-employment. Second, it is hoped that the ones who go for higher studies and graduate would have their own companies and catalyze the process.

The proposed draft calls for oversight of early childhood education by the Ministry of HRD rather than the Ministry of Women and Child Development. The commission on whose report this draft is based upon is of the view that when the same ministry would be made in-charge of childhood education as well as that of later age, it will become easier to streamline the proposed changes.

There are also voices from various states demanding that the Ministry of HRD be renamed as Ministry of Education. This shifts the focus on education as the primary aim of the ministry.

Making the Ministry of HRD accountable for childhood education won’t be a sole step, it will be ensured that the children would receive the foundational skills that would constructively benefit them.

It is an established fact that  85% of a child’s cumulative brain development occurs prior to the age of 6. Hence,  appropriate care and stimulation of the brain in a child’s early years to promote sustained and healthy brain development and growth becomes pertinent.

In the next step, the government envisages to overhaul higher education:

In the next 15 years, the government plans to create world-class multidisciplinary higher education institutions across the country which would increase the GER to at least 50%.

The major focus in the higher education bracket would be on pioneering research institutions. They have all been placed in Tier 1. It is planned that there would be around 150 – 300  top institutions that would comply with international standards and compete for top international positions. The dedicated teaching institutions have been kept in Tier 2. It has been noted that the teaching institutes require an infrastructural upgrade, as well as the faculty, need to be trained to meet the required standards. The government, in order to create open and healthy competition, is also going to encourage autonomous degree-granting colleges in Tier-3.

National Research Foundation: a new innovation this draft has proposed is the NRF. NRF would grant competitive funding for outstanding research proposals across all disciplines. It was noticed that various new innovations and ideas that were generated at the school level through various competitions/talent hunts couldn’t be materialized due to lack of proper R&D. Now, R&D requires manpower and funding. Hence, the committee has come up with NRF. NRF would also provide grants and scholarships for higher education, apart from funding some outstanding research proposals.

The NPE has always been every government’s priority. And in today’s changing landscape, it is very important that the education students receive is not only up to the latest standards but also practical i.e. the students, along with theoretical knowledge, must also receive vocational education.

The draft envisages some path-breaking reforms to empower teachers, students & institutions. However, its implementation would be the key.

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