3. Curtailing Dropout Rates and Ensuring Universal Access to Education at All Levels
3.1 Talks about the dropouts from school. And mentions it’s of highest priority to bring back the students to school. For any rational person to address an issue, he/she should find out the reasons for the dropouts and try to address them. NSSO survey of 2017-2018 is quoted for the dropout rates. The reasons, as per NSSO report, provided for dropout are as follows (source)
How many of these reasons are addressed in the NEP? Section 3.2 to 3.4 talks about initiatives for bringing back the students to school. But the Elephant in the room, as per NSSO, survey is the Financial constraint. This hasn’t been addressed. If government plans to reduce the dropout rates, not only does it have to provide free education, it should go a step further and provide some nominal fees to the students to enroll in school. Tamil Nadu in many ways addressed these issues of dropout in a systemic manner and ensured that students graduate. Some of the schemes includes Mid day meal Schemes, providing bus passes, providing footwear, incentivizing girl education and much more : Source. Now, shouldn’t this be implemented across India? Instead we get a policy claiming to have lofty goals without any details.
Section 3.6 again talks about Public-philanthropic partnerships. As stated in my previous articles, there are ways to maximize profits by setting up education institution as Philanthropic institutions. Public-Private partnerships for businesses and Public-Philanthropic institutions for Education. Even if we were to give the benefit of doubt to these Philanthropic organizations, how will government ensure that these are running as per laws? It’s mentioned in the same section that, the requirements for opening a school would be made less restrictive and that only outputs would be measured. How it would be measured? What actions would be taken, if the measured output is not desirable? Will the students be refunded their fees for studying in sub-standard Philanthropic institutions?
Section 3.7 talks about taking help of community and volunteers to improve the learning provided at schools. At the outset, this might look a good proposal. But the details on who will appoint these volunteers and on what criteria are missing. Unless we see the details, we should take this with a grain of salt. It also talks about maintaining a Database of volunteers, Retired persons who could help with this. At which level this Database be maintained? Who is responsible for the privacy of the individuals in the databases? In general, there are more platitudes on this document than any specifics.
4. Curriculum and Pedagogy in Schools: Learning Should be Holistic, Integrated, Enjoyable, and Engaging
Section 4.2 talks about giving students the option to drop out after grade 10 and rejoining if desired. I believe this is something some students do already. Furthermore, some students pursue class 11 and/or class 12 at later stage from tutorial centers. In earlier section the policy talks about preventing dropouts from school and here it talks about providing option to dropout. Isn’t there a contradiction here?
Section 4.3 till 4.6 talk about platitudes. It covers topics such as how critical thinking would be encouraged and how rote learning would be replaced etc etc.
Section 4.7 again talks about Indian Ethos. Since we already spoke about this “Indian Ethos”, we can skip this for now. The aim as per this section is to strengthen the linkage between Education & Culture. One must remember that culture, when mentioned, is “The Indian culture”, (which doesn’t exist in reality)
Section 4.8 talks about Sports Integrated learning. Yet another section in the document dedicated to platitudes.
Section 4.9 talks about Flexibility in course choices for the students. It’s been stated that there will be no hard separation among “arts”, “humanities” & “Sciences” or between “Vocational” and “academic” schemes. Though this sounds good on paper, this will purely be driven by individual school’s decisions and availability of teachers. Will the student be introduced to all the different art forms across the country or will it again be one art form?
Multilingualism and the power of language
4.11 Talks about the Medium of instruction and the proposal to use local language as Medium of instruction until class 5 and preferably till class 8, WHEREVE POSSIBLE. The local language in the state I come from is Tamizh. Will all the English Medium schools magically transform to Tamil Medium schools due to this? I highly doubt so. A line about asking teachers to take bilingual approach to help students understand is mentioned. Wouldn’t this suffice to help kids learn? I have seen real life examples of student faring better, when the lessons in English are taught in local language.
4.12 & 4.13 talk about 3 language formula. It’s mentioned that no language be imposed on any state. But this claim is highly dubious. Because there will not be enough teachers available in a state to teach all the preferred 3rd language choice of the students. Thought the document states that state can enter into bilateral agreement with different states, how many states will have enough teachers to be exchanged with other states teach the language? Given the fact that Hindi has always been an unofficial 3rd language in most of the states, Hindi will become the 3rd language by default. There is no explicit language imposition but a subtle imposition. 4.13 provides students an opportunity to switch language, if they could demonstrate basic proficiency of all the 3 languages (Including Indian language at the literature level). How many students would be able to do so? What if I am not good at Hindi but somehow scrapped through with bare minimum marks? Will I be able to switch language course?
4.16 here comes the biggest debatable point. An initiative is mentioned “Ek Bharat Shrestha Bharat”, when there is talk of plurality and rich diverse culture, why should initiative be in Hindi? Not just this initiative, as mentioned earlier, all the abbreviations are in Hindi. Isn’t this an imposition? Moreover, when talking about how Indian languages are linked, what is the need to explicitly mention Sanskrit as language which is the root for grammatical structures and rules of Indian languages? Verbatim of the statement “In this project/activity, students will learn about the remarkable unity of most of the major Indian languages, starting with their common phonetic and scientifically-arranged alphabets and scripts, their common grammatical structures, their origins and sources of vocabularies from Sanskrit and other classical languages, as well as their rich inter-influences and differences.” (emphasis added)
4.17 A whole section for lauding the richness of Sanskrit. It’s mentioned that Sanskrit has classical literature in greater volume than Greek & Latin put together. Where is the source for this claim? Given that this language is spoken only by 24K people as per 2011 census, what is the need to drumbeat and promote this language alone? The quote “Making facts out of thin air” can summarize this section. It’s also mentioned that Sanskrit will be offered at all levels of schooling. Why only Sanskrit and why not other classical languages?
4.18 We get answer to our last question in this section. Not a categorical answer, but an answer just to assuage the anxieties of other classical languages speaking populace. The wording gives it away clearly, “In addition to Sanskrit, other classical languages and literatures of India, including Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam, Odia, Pali, Persian, and Prakrit, will also be widely available”
4.20 Describes the foreign languages that would be taught in school. Here conspicuously Mandarin is missing. When China is claimed to be the second biggest global power, why not teach Mandarin and equip students?
Curricular Integration of Essential Subjects, Skills, and Capacities
4.23 & 4.24 again sections of platitude. The list of topics that is mentioned (AI, Design Thinking etc) to be studied by student seems overwhelming. How would students cope up with all that’s listed? Furthermore, section states that students’ Fundamental Duties would be taught but not Fundamental Rights?
4.25 STEM focused education, where Maths & Computer science would be given preference. What about Humanities?
4.26 Talks about vocational courses for class 6-8. And these courses would be taught based on local community needs. At one point the document speaks about teaching students about AI and here it talks about vocational courses such as Carpentry, Electrical Work, Metal work etc. What is this contradiction? Some might say, what’s wrong? Wouldn’t it be possible that those children who are not so enthusiastic about education at this stage of their life find these vocational courses enjoyable and lose interest in education? Given that this policy provides ample scope to drop out and register after a gap to higher secondary courses, wouldn’t this policy be detrimental?
4.27, 4.28, & 4.29 talks about providing students with “Knowledge of India”, “Indian values”, “Indian and local context”. Which India’s knowledge will be imparted to the students? The whole policy talks India’s culture to be a Monolith and expands on it in individual sections of the document, which is problematic in a country as culturally diverse as India.
4.30 till 4.33 talks about how books and subjects (a new framework National Curriculum Framework for School Education (NCFSE) will be framed by NCERT.
Transforming Assessment for Student Development
4.34 talks about how the assessment would be conducted to get a holistic view of students’ skill and not just their capacity to reproduce what they memorized. Rote learning is yet another victim of this day and age, when it has been vilified to such an extent. This article shows how students do need rote learning at times. Only by memorizing certain facts, can one build upon that foundation.
4.35 talks about holistic report card stating the strength and areas of improvement for students. This, they say, helps student to make optimal career choices. If someone had done this to me during my school days, I wouldn’t be where I am right now. I was averse not a computer nerd and I am still not. Yet, I work in a Software firm. To “datafy” every aspect of life takes away the surprises that one might get along life’s journey, especially students’ life.
4.36-4.39 talks about how board exams would be redesigned and how students would be allowed to take board exams twice in a school year.
4.40 – This section talks about school exams for Class 3, 5 & 8. Though these exams are conducted only to improve the schooling, will schools be lenient towards those students who don’t perform well in the exams? Isn’t it a common practice, even now, to let go off students who are not strong from class 10 & class 12, so that schools’ overall results look good? How can one ensure that this doesn’t happen starting from Class 3? Wouldn’t this be an added pressure on students right from such a young age? Won’t this lead to further dropouts?
4.41 & 4.42 talks about setting up National Assessment Centre & a Testing Agency. This agency will be responsible for conducting National level university entrance exams. When there are so many different School Education systems in such a diverse and vast country, how will this help? Students and parents are facing the reality of such National level entrance exam for Medical college admission and the downsides of such a system. But without addressing this issue, this policy extends the same to all courses. Their aim of eliminating the culture of entrance exam coaching by coaching center would totally be defeated by this proposal. Furthermore the document states the colleges/universities can decide to admit students based on National Test Scores. If it is up to colleges to use the scores, then why have the test in first place?
Part I: NEP