An educational activist examines the contents of the DNEP in the context of School Education.
India, a country with the second largest Population in the world, is a land of diversity. Unity in Diversity is the fundamental concept of India. Diversity is an asset and we celebrate our diversity.
Education is in the Concurrent List and States have designed and developed their own model for ensuring Universalization of Education. The Draft National Education Policy (DNEP) fails to recognize the role of the State Governments in evolving the Policy best suited to the State. It proposes an All India formula right from Anganwadi up to Higher Secondary. Learning outcome assessment is also to be based on National Bench Mark.
DNEP Chapter 1: There is a proposal to bring in Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE)under formal Education. The period is a transition from care to school care. Good nutrition and most informal way of learning needs to be assured. Merging Pre – Primary and Primary Grade 1 & 2 and prescribing a formal syllabus for Pre-Primary will not allow the Child to enjoy the Childhood. Anganwadi has a larger role and ECCE should be designed in such way that they are not merged with Grade 1 & 2 and all facilities to learn in a healthy atmosphere through the Mother Tongue should be ensured.
DNEP Chapter 2: There is no clarity in this chapter that deals with educating the children in Grade 1 to 5. There is no clarity even in the Medium of Education. National Tutors Programme (NTP), Remedial Instructional Aides Programme (RIAP) and the role of Instructional Aides (IA) termed as local heroes is nothing but undermining the role of teachers and the responsibility of the society as a whole in ensuring the enrollment and education of Children. This chapter remains very vague without proper understanding of actual need that may differ from State to State.
DNEP Chapter 3: The Proposals in this chapter especially in Para 3.12 is paradigm shift from input method to output method. Providing all resources and facilities for all students in every school is the input method. Only this will ensure equitable access to education for all. Ouput method is based on the result shown by the school or in other words the learning output that the student is able to exhibit. It is also called performance based investment. This is a market concept. In school education this output method is unacceptable and will not produce desired result. How can one know which student will contribute to the society as a whole when she/he grows up.
Alternate models of education that is being pursued by religious and linguistic minorities is something that needs to be encouraged and it is a Fundamental Right guaranteed in the Constitution of India for preservation of culture and language. Allowing multiple models with different infrastructure and loosening the input restrictions on schools in general is against the spirit and provisions of the Constitution of India especially Article 14. The DNEP fails to ensure equitable access to quality education for all Children which is possible only by establishing fully State Funded Common School System.
DNEP Chapter 4: Restructuring school curriculum and pedagogy in a new 5+3+3+4 design is totally unwarranted as the present system of 10 + 2 is working fine and should continue with certain changes and better provisions for learning. No hard separation of Vocational and academic streams proposed in Para 4.4.4 and Vocational exposure proposed in Para 22.214.171.124 are not in the interest of the students and highly prejudicial to their vertical upward movement in the mainstream education. Exposure to three or more languages in schools is only a burden for children. A child need not be compelled to learn three languages. If mother tongue is taught effectively, through the mother tongue, an individual may learn any language that she / he needs at any stage of life. The States that follow the 2 language follow should be allowed to follow. The assertions in Para 4.5.14 on Sanskrit is totally unacceptable. National Text Books proposed in 4.8 is against the federal spirit. State should be given full freedom to have their own syllabus and text books. Para 4.9.4 proposes State census examination for Grade 3.5 & 8. There should be no examination till completion of elementary education that is up to Grade 8. The continuous and comprehensive evaluation must continue and it should be further strengthened and democratized.
Para 4.9.6 that proposes to strengthen National Testing Agency to conduct college and university entrance examination is nothing but to encourage coaching centres and to discourage really efficient students with passion and aptitude from pursuing higher education. This is totally unacceptable. Regulation of university includes admission and it is a State subject under Article 246 of the Constitution of India. State Government and the Universities established by the State Government must be allowed to decide the qualification and admission process in the Colleges and Universities in a State.
DNEP Chapter: 5 This chapter speaks very loudly about the need to have good teachers that really need to be appreciated. But the remedy prescribed is unrealistic and unsuitable for Indian conditions. This Chapter needs thorough discussion and completely revisited. The DIETs should be strengthened and the State Government should have complete freedom to Draft syllabus and design courses according to the teacher needs of the States. The B.Ed. programme with needed reforms should be allowed to continue. The recruitment and promotion of the teachers should be based on reservation based on Social and Educational backwardness. Their performance and experience both should form the criteria for upward mobility in the profession.
DNEP Chapter: 6 This Chapter fails to understand the Social and Educational Backwardness of different sections of the people due to deprivation of opportunity for education for a long time. The language used and the way the unemployed teacher graduates are projected in Para 6.3.1 is highly derogative, objectionable and written without understanding the issue of social and educational backwardness. Relook into the entire chapter is necessary.
DNEP Chapter: 7 This chapter talks extensively about creation of school complex and sharing of resources. Merger of schools with poor infrastructure and low student strength will deny the students from poor family the access to school in the neighborhood. While the affluent may have access, the poor need to travel where the Government provides. If the current crises is properly studied and a decision to close down all private schools with poor quality and prohibition of operating transport vehicles by private schools is taken, every child can be ensured quality education in its neighborhood through government schools.
DNEP Chapter: 8 The State School Regulatory Authority with Quasi Judicial Powers until Tribunals are established with provision to report to the State Education Commission (SEC) headed by the Chief Minister or in the absence of SEC report straight to the chief Minister is not a progressive idea. The proposal to allow private to be Board of Assessment with approval of State or Central Government will lead to multiple problems and allow easy access to market in every sphere of school education. Setting up of a regulatory mechanism for school education, evolving curriculum and syllabus, writing of text books and process of academic monitoring must be left to the State Government.
The vision and various provisions of the Constitution of India is to ensure equality in opportunity for all people. This can be realized only through the establishment of fully State Funded Common School System based on neighborhood schools with mother tongue as Medium of Education and with facilities teach English in a most effective manner and offer facilities for children to learn as many languages they wish to learn according to their needs without any compulsion on the number of languages to be learnt in school years. Except Mother Tongue no language should be compelled.
The Powers of the State Government to evolve policies and legislation in the School Education should not be diluted. The State should be given full authority to discharge its responsibility in providing equitable access to quality school education to all children.
Prince Ganjendra Babu is an educational activist deeply involved in the campaign for establishment of fully State funded Common School System. He is the General Secretary, SPCSS-TN and Member, Secretariat, AIFRTE.