Change to educate

The New Education Policy

The draft of New Education Policy suggests landmark recommendations that aims to revamp the system and improve quality of education in the country. But experts feel that to implement it on a large scale will be a challenge. Sangeeta Yadav tells you more

In the wake of digitisation and advancement in technology, that is transforming the eco-system of education, the need to reform the ageold education policy of India grabbed a lot of attention from plenty of people.

It was on October 31, 2015, when the Ministry of Human Resource Development kick-started the movement and set-up the committee headed by TSR Subramanian, former Cabinet Secretary, to draft the New Education Policy (NEP).

A formal note that was released by the Ministry stated:

“The National Policy on Education was formulated in 1986 and modified in 1992. It has been the guiding document for over 29 years for the policies of the Central Government in the education sector. Almost three decades have passed since then, and significant changes have taken place in our country and the world at large. New technologies have transformed the way in which we live, work and communicate; the corpus of knowledge has vastly expanded and become multi-disciplinary; and research has become far more collaborative. In this context, the education sector needs to gear itself towards the global and national demands of the 21st century.”

Of late, the drafting committee submitted the report to the Ministry which is now going through the three-pronged consultation process.

“We’ve submitted the report to the HRD Ministry and now it’s their property. On the basis of the feedback and experts’ opinions from the field experiences, empirical research, stakeholders and many others, the Ministry will formulate the final policies and officially release it. So far, the policy has not been released officially, thus I’m not authorised to talk on this,” JS Rajput, former chairman NCERT, who is also a member of the draft committee said.

Key Recommendations

  • Class X exam  in Mathematics & Science should be at two levels — Part B at a basic level & Part A at an advanced level. Only those who want to study Science after Class X need to take the Part A exam

The biggest challenge lies in the implementation of this policy in all education Boards uniformly all over the country.

“Class X can be considered as a gateway to the career of the student. The introduction of Part A and Part B will be very helpful in filtering the students in admitting them in a course in which they are best at. But to implement it, you’ll have to bring all the Boards on one platform and then apply the changes as every Board has their different modules of teaching and curriculum,” Amit Bansal, head, FIITJEE NCRP, opines.

  • National-level test for students who have passed Class XII for admission to various undergraduate courses

Like we have the All India Management Association, a common entrance exam for admission in B-schools and NEET II for all the medical programmes, similarly this recommendations aims to establish National level entrance exam platform for admission in UG courses across the universities.

“The suggestion to hold a national level SAT-like test for all students who have passed Class XII is a valuable one and needs to be implemented without delay. It’ll streamline the system of entry to colleges and universities across the country. Currently too many examinations, too many formats and criteria not only cause much stress and hassle to students but also put students of certain Boards in a disadvantaged position,” Dr Prashant Bhalla, president, Manav Rachna Educational Institutions, says.

  • Holding teachers & headmasters accountable for learning outcomes; their career progression will be linked to their performance

“In the rural areas, teachers don’t come to the school and they appoint an ad-hoc teacher who has only studied till Class XII. As a result, the performance of the student goes down. To implement this recommendation, the challenge would be how to change the lethargic mindset of the teachers and students and leave no loopholes in the system for the people to cheat or scam. To deal with this, a centralised examination system is required where students can give exams in a different centre amidst an independent surveyor and examiners,” Bansal says.

  • Minimum six per cent of GDP for education

India spends less than 4 per cent of GDP on education, a figure lower than the average spending on education in the developing world. By allocating a minimum of 6 per cent of GDP to the education sector, one wonders how the distribution of money would take place.

“Six per cent of GDP is huge but  from where the Government will get it, is a big question mark. Even if they implement this, the other expenditure will get affected.  In the coming two years, I don’t think the Government would be able to shell out that much for education. Public-private-partnership can help in dealing with the challenge. Government can motivate people to establish university, school etc and then support them in the running of the schools,” Bansal says.

  • Compulsory license or certificate for teachers based on an external test every 10 years

Talks around the need for improvement of quality of teaching in schools has been the hot debate in seminars but nothing much has been done so far on that front.

“Time and again surveys have shown how Indian school children are ill-equipped to read the texts or solve Maths problems of even junior grades. The committee’s recommendations to make Teacher Eligibility Test (TET) compulsory for recruitment is welcome; so is the recommendation to make teacher certification compulsory and renewable based on independent external testing as this will ensure quality of teachers. However, we need more interventions to address the issue of teacher absenteeism in Government schools which is a rampant problem degrading Government school education,” Bhalla says.

The only concern is that duration of the TET is said to be too long.

“Ten years is a long time period. There is no point if you don’t have the exam at the National level. If you have it at State or district level, the corruption will crop up and the entire system will get spoilt. It has to be tested in the interval of two years instead of 10 years. There should be provision that if a teacher is failing repeatedly two times, their licence should be barred,” Bansal says.

  • The setting up of an Indian Education Service

Experts feel that to come up with IES looks impossible in the near future and will require years of effective planning, strong unit and notifications from the Government of India.

“Conceptually this is a good idea but the big question is how are you going to execute this? Are you going to have an administrative office from a non-teaching background or an educationist on board. Educationists in India are not around the age of 50. Are you going to have young people or the elders? What is going to be the criteria to recruiting them, hierarchy, job profile etc? The entire education system is amalgamated with bureaucracy. How are you going to amalgamate it is going to be the big challenge. Before putting the education services on the line of Civil Services, we must have a commission who is working at all the national, State and district levels. Education cannot be competitive. Thus there should be educationists in their panel who should develop the right module and reforms of education in specific areas after analysing the social, economic and geographical features of the region,” Bansal says.

  • Amending the RTE Act to include private unaided religious/minority schools, providing free education to children from economically weaker sections

This recommendation comes in conflict with the fundamental rights in the Constitution of India that gives special status to the religious schools.

“We have a clause in our Constitution — Article 28, 29 and 30A — which gives special status to the religious schools. It signifies that Government will neither aid them nor will they interfere in their day-to-day religious affairs. These Acts are related to the Fundamental Rights. As per this recommendation, amending the RTE Act for these special schools will be difficult. How are they going to amend the rights will be an issue and constitution amendment will be needed for that,” Bansal asks.

  • Restricting political activity on campuses and doing away with student groups based on caste, religion or political parties and warn against letting campuses turn into ‘political arenas’

The recent political activities in some universities have lead to some disturbing environment and to serious security and law and order situations. This prompted the members to incorporated this in the draft.

“The aim of introducing the political activities in colleges was to introduce the leadership qualities to the students who can rule India in the future. Twenty years back, political influence on the student leadership in college politics was too much. The main aim of having leaders in college has gone into a different tangent. Now they have become centres for flexing muscles for the political parties. The only solution is that we must not allow any kind of political activities in universities and school. They should make strict norms on which activities should be allowed and which are not; outside campaigning, student unions should be abolished, etc,” Bansal says.

OTHER RECOMMENDATIONS

TEACHER MANAGEMENT SYSTEM

  • The Centre & State should jointly formulate transparent & merit-based guidelines for recruitment of teachers, principals etc.
  • Recruitment will only be done by independent teacher recruitment commissions.
  • Teachers should be made accountable for their performance.
  • The reward and punishment structure of teachers needs to be closely linked to continuous assessment of student performance and teacher evaluation.
  • For existing teachers, compulsory training every five years should be the norm.
  • Compulsory licensing or certification for teachers in Government and private schools should be made mandatory, with provision for renewal every 10 years.
  • Courses on the use of ICT as an aid for enhancing the teaching-learning process should be made a part of the curricula of teachers’ training colleges

REFORMING AICTE, NCERT, NUEPA & UGC

  • The mandates of UGC and AICTE, set up under different laws, should be reviewed in the light of the proposed national higher education promotion and management Act.
  • NCERT needs to focus sharply on increasing the quality of school education and redesign its text books in a manner that teachers become facilitators & encourage self & peer learning.
  • There should be peer reviews & periodical external reviews of the work of NUEPA.
  • When the new overarching higher education management law is enacted, the UGC Act should be allowed to lapse.
  • Standing Education Commission: Ministry of HRD requires the assistance of a high-quality thinktank in the form of a standing education commission to study emerging challenges, evaluate & interpret policies & programmes, & provide information & guidance to the ministry from time to time.

REDUCE CURRICULUM LOAD

  • Need to reduce curriculum load & avoid rote learning.
  • Complete overhaul of exam system which tests only rote memory.
  • Performance of a student shouldn’t be judged only by the Board results.
  • Alternate method of using scaled scores and percentiles should be introduced.
  • Assessment capacities in CBSE and State exam Boards need to be strengthened.
  • Class X Board exam in Maths & Science should be in two levels: Part A at higher level and Part B at lower level. Students who wish to complete their studies at Class X need, by choice, to appear in Part B only.

HIGHER EDUCATION

  • Process of selection & appointment of VC should be depoliticised & done on merit.
  • Accreditation should be made mandatory for all institutions of higher education, including technical education, medicines & agriculture, both in public & private sectors.
  • Mandatory for teachers to attend training programmes in teaching & communication skills.
  • The top performers (Class XII) could be offered scholarships for five-year integrated course leading to specialisation in specific subjects to ensure they enter the profession.
  • Regulatory regime for higher education should have the capacity, sensitivity, objectivity and discrimination to deal with different institutions of different quality.
  • A National Fellowship Fund, designed to support the tuition fees, learning material and living expenses for about 10 lakh students every year should be created.
  • Restrict political and other distractions on campuses. Educational institutions should not be allowed to become political arenas to settle national rivalries.
  • It is essential to find right balance between free speech and freedom of association guaranteed by the Constitution, with the primary purpose for which the universities have been established to enable the pursuit of education.
  • To restrict the period of stay of students on campuses, there should be a debate on the need for the students to achieve the minimum benchmarks for scholastic progress to prevent the misuse of campus facilities.

(The article also got published in The Pioneer Newspaper – http://www.dailypioneer.com/avenues/change-to-educate.html)

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