- Calendar Scheduler
- News Letter
Reflections about the Draft on National Policy 2019
The Strengths in the Draft National Education Policy 2019
- We must congratulate the Chairperson of the NEP, Shri K. Kasturirangan and his team for the holistic outlook to the needs and challenges mentioned in the education policy. The policy tries to situate school education in the present context and proposes a vision and goals to make school education responsive to the challenges of modern times. In other words, NEP touches every aspect of education and it demands urgent action.
- It attempts to reach out to every citizen according to their cognitive, affective and pyscho-motor developmental stages in view of creating a just and equitable society.
- The draft takes into consideration: UN General Assembly -1948 declaration “everyone has the right to education”; the ‘full development of the human personality’ from Learning: The Treasure Within’ by Jacques Delors; the holistic education from the Indian heritage; the past National Education Policy; The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 (RTE Act); and the sustainable development goal 4 (SDG4) of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
- It incorporates success stories of some prominent school education NGOs in suggesting educational goals for various stages and strategies for pedagogy, classroom climate, contribution of stakeholders and holistic development.
- The policy is comprehensive but with a basic presumption that all those involved in making the policy workable are committed, passionate, free from self-interest and that the government is committed to allocate big funding for social welfare, especially education.
- It gives increased focus on foundational literacy and numeracy [P2.2] to achieve age-appropriate foundational literacy and numeracy by 2025.
- It suggests the inclusion of both early childhood education and secondary education into RTE Act, doubling the budget allocation for education, strengthening decentralized mechanisms of teacher management and support, expansion of school nutrition programme to include provision of school breakfast, and a possible return of the no-detention policy.
- It seeks to transform curricular and pedagogical structure based on children’s cognitive and socio-emotional development. The curriculum will be integrated and flexible with equal emphasis on all subjects and fields. There will be no separation of curricular, co-curricular or extra-curricular areas—with all in a single category of equal importance. Vocational and academic streams will be integrated and offered to all students.
- The Examination systems will be radically changed to assess real learning, making them stress-free, and aiming at improvement instead of the passing of judgements.
- It envisages all Indians between ages 3 and 18 to be in school by 2030. The Right to Education Act will be extended from pre-school to class XII.
Inherent Contradictions in the Policy
- Our Political Leaders- Allocators of Tax-Payer Money for Education: A good number of our new MPs are corepatis, some have allegations of murder, and some others of heinous criminal activities and corruption. Most of them have pumped in a lot of money to become members of the Lok Sabha 2019. History of Lok Sabha tells us that parliamentarians use their position for self-serving interests rather than have a commitment to social welfare especially education of rural poor children of our country. This comment may be strong but not far away from the truth. Our political leaders will spend a lot of tax payer’s money on foreign trips, media and print publicity for their self- glory rather than spend on the welfare of poor. The policy which envisages bringing many categories of students under RTE, and funding for infrastructure, staff training, pedagogy and teaching materials, etc. could have a poor start-up if proper funds are not allocated. Unless the policy states and makes the parliament accountable to allocate 7-10% percentage of GDP to school education, the policy stands to fail.
- Deep Discontent & Disappointment Among Teachers: Many States have stopped appointing regular teachers in government schools. Instead they have started the practice of contractual teachers. In Bihar, around 3.5 lakh teachers, who were hired on consolidated pay, demanded equal pay for work, stating that they should also be given all the benefits similar to the regular teachers as they had the same educational qualifications. Though the Patna High Court’s order ruled that contractual teachers in government schools were entitled to salary on a par with regular permanent teachers working in various government schools in Bihar, the Supreme Court refused to regularise them. The success of the policy to a great extent depends on the commitment and creativity of teachers in the government schools. This is hardly possible by discontented contractual teachers.
- Deep Rooted Corruption Among Government Officials: India is the 78 least corrupt nation out of 175 countries, according to the 2018 Corruption Perceptions Index reported by Transparency International. Those dealing in paper work in government offices know what corruption is. You cannot get any work done with greasing their palms. Besides corruption through bribery, the other rampant forms are extortion, nepotism, patronage, and embezzlement. Rarely do we hear about a clean government official. Often money for poor students are siphoned off by their network contacts. The policy envisages monitoring and implementation of the education policy by government machinery. It is so sad that monitoring always mean finding faults, fixing problems and depicting bright statistics by corrupt practices rather than helping institutions with skills and strategies to make education work successful.
- Apathy to the Culture of Volunteerism: The New Education Policy to a large extent seeks the participation of parents, community, NGOs, and other stakeholders for its success. The realization of policy objectives demands harnessing the immense potential of volunteerism. Often lack of financial stability kills the spirit of volunteerism. The role models of volunteerism are celebrities or philanthropists. Sustained volunteerism is utopian ideal or nearly impossible where vast majority of our people struggle to make their both ends meet. Only those capable of affording to work without payment are able to gain the experience.
- The Tyranny of Too Many Goals in the Policy: The draft has too many goals. We all know instinctively that we cannot do everything. We have fixed amount of time and energy. This is especially true where goals demand a paradigm shift in our thinking, work ethic, and passion for the common good. If we try to focus on many different goals at once, we will not give individual goals the attention they deserve. The success of the policy rests on focusing on just a few goals at a time. We need to use the ‘quality, not quantity’ rule for implementation of the policy.
- Our Over Burdened Teachers: The policy envisages for children from 3 to 6 years not only continued healthcare and nutrition, but also developing crucially self-help skills (such as “getting ready on one’s own”), motor skills, cleanliness, the handling of separation anxiety, being comfortable around one’s peers, moral development (such as knowing the difference between “right” and “wrong”), physical development through movement and exercise, expressing and communicating thoughts and feelings to parents and others, and all-important lifelong skills of cooperation, teamwork, social interaction, compassion, equity, inclusiveness, communication, cultural appreciation, playfulness, curiosity, creativity, as well as the ability to successfully and respectfully interact with teachers, fellow students, staff, and others. Developing these skills requires that the teacher accompanies students in their growth process for a sustained period of time. However, according to the survey, government teachers actually spend mere 19.1% of their working hours in teaching related work. The remaining time is spent on election duty, carrying out surveys, pulse polio campaigns and maintaining mid-day meals records.etc. The report stated that of the 220 days mandated by the Right to Education (RTE) Act, just 42 days were spent on teaching in 2015-16. It came to light that 81% of their time was spent as Block Level Officers (BLOs), conducting surveys and duties in the election year. The data was released after National Institute of Education Planning and Administration (NIEPA), an autonomous body under the Ministry of Human Resource Development, conducted the study in selected states under Vineeta Sirohi and Manju Narula of the Department of Educational Administration. The states covered were Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Orissa and Uttarakhand. The non-availability of teachers does affect student achievement level and their holistic growth.
- NGOs Contribution to Education is Different: NGOs are making a significant contribution to ensure that rural and poor children are not deprived of their right to receive an education and do not lose their childhood to earn bread for living. They ensure that every child especially the poor receive the opportunity to build a better future through education by their work at the grass-root level to strengthen the education system, spread awareness about the importance of education and enroll as many children as possible so they can thrive on life. They bring about improvements and changes in a micro-social context. They devised innovative solutions in a manner sensitive to the needs of the local communities and individuals that they served. Many strategies and objectives mentioned in the policy are vetted by NGOs success in education. They have the passion and commitment. This is not possible in a governmental setup where rules and procedures come in the way of innovation and sensitivity to the needs of small sets of people. Hence many strategies in the policy may not have the desired effect in governmental controlled endeavour. Also, it paves the way for corrupt practices to pass or gain more marks!
- Cautious Teachers: In the context of POCSO, students and parents know that they can hold the management and teachers responsible for correction of students. Often simple correction is twisted to put the management and teachers in trouble. As a result, when students misbehave in the class, many teachers ignore their tantrums. Further in rural areas there is not much support coming from any quarters. No one wants to stick their neck out. These cautious teachers are more keen to keep themselves away from trouble and thus lose their moral authority in the classroom. In such an atmosphere there is no scope for the development of values. Further, insults and lewd comments on teachers by parents and students make teachers frightened and lose their self-respect.
- Survival and Greed Hinders Effective School Complex
Though the concept of school complex was originated from the report of the Kothari Commission (1964-66), and is also mentioned in the Programme of Action 1992 document of the NPE 1986/92, it has faltered in its implementation because schools to survive and to get more students tend to be competitive rather than work cooperatively for the improvement of their educational standards. Often a large group stands in the way of successful functioning of the school complex. Use of facilities also involve some payment. Small schools would prefer gradually building their facilities rather than make payment to other schools. Further, the headmaster prefers status quo and do not want teachers to involve in ‘out of box’ teaching strategies. The ‘inspection raj’ by government officials, often is a way of corruption rather than helping schools to be effective, makes schools secretive of their strengths and weaknesses. Weak and small schools do not want an intimating big school to reinforce a sense of inferiority on its teachers and students.
- Coaching Culture: Coaching culture has taken currency for several reasons. Most parents have developed a myth that it is only through coaching one can get high marks and have better chance in competitive exams. The employment openings are few but there are too many aspirants in all fields. Our culture and society recognizes people with white collar jobs. Hence, young people seek competitive exams. Towards this end, coaching centres train and promise students success for competitive exams. We have two different approaches for board exams and competitive exams. Further, the board officials support schools with ghost students. Whenever, there is change in pattern of questions and assessment in examination, coaching classes are quick to exploit them and hapless parents have no option than to allow their wards to attend coaching class.
Responses to Particular Points
- A vision for the education system in India: [p.24] We have proposed the revision and revamping of all aspects of the education structure, its regulation and governance, to create a new system that is aligned with the aspirational goals of 21st century education, while remaining consistent with India’s traditions and value systems.
Response: India is a vast country with widening gap between have and have-nots affecting mindset, lifestyles, accessibility and equity. Trying to revamp all aspects of the education system is too ambitious and scripting for failure. For example, the no- failure policy and CCE emanating from RTE, though educationally sound, did not succeed because of parents and teachers’ mindset, and post-school focus on marks. Attitudinal change takes time because all citizens are not on the same page with reference to social life, financial earning, etc.
- How should India best deliver quality ECCE? [p.45] The Policy begins with viewing early childhood care and education (ECCE) as a part of the Foundational stage of school education (three years of pre-primary education and Grades 1 and 2), a single curricular and pedagogical phase of play-and discovery-based learning for very young children, between the ages of 3-8 years.
Response: The needs of pre-primary are totally different in terms of hours in school, physical growth, motor skills, education pedagogy. Attempting to club grade 1 & II in ECCE will not only delay child’s formal study and developmental activities, but we may see that rural parents start seriously thinking of education at only class III. Urban children will be at higher cognitive level than rural within the same age group. Further, the draft envisages that ECCE is taken seriously in rural areas by parents and teachers. This is wishful thinking.
- [p.46] Far too many 6+ year olds are entering Grade 1 with very limited ECCE. Furthermore, far too many children are enrolling in Grade 1 before the age of 6, due to a lack of any suitable preprimary options; these are often the children that remain the most behind in primary school and beyond. In fact, during the academic year 2016-17, over 70 lakh children were enrolled in Grade 1 prior to the age of 6 (Unified District Information System for Education (U-DISE) 2016-17).
Response: All boards seek five plus years for admission to class 1. So the reason given in the draft that this is due to lack of suitable preprimary options does not stand. Further the draft presents a rosy picture of ECCE in terms of joyful and playful learning and lifelong skills. This may be possible in some places of some states. Often preschools do not exist in rural areas. Preschools are expensive and parents do not consider them important even in towns and urban areas. Parents’ objective is to cultivate in a child the habit of being away from home and to sit for playful learning. The draft states that ECCE is perhaps the greatest and most powerful equalizer. I do not agree with this observation. Rather, I foresee ECCE giving the rich and urban motivated parents a good foundation for children since they are career conscious and demand accountability. This may not be true in rural areas.
- Extension of the RTE Act to include early childhood education: [p.53] Given the necessity and importance of developmentally-appropriate learning during a child’s most critical phase of brain development, the availability of free and compulsory quality pre-primary education for all 3-6 year olds will be included as an integral part of the RTE Act (see P8.4.1). Here, by ‘compulsory’, it is meant that it will be obligatory for the public system to provide appropriate and quality educational infrastructure, facilities, and educators to all children in the age group 3-6 years, with a special emphasis on reaching the most socio-economically disadvantaged children through ECCE services.
Response: Though RTE is in place, most government primary schools lack appropriate and quality educational structure and facilities. The government may demand all this from private schools. Further, midday meal has totally disrupted teaching in most rural schools. Paper work and orderly distribution of meals are substituted for teaching. So the supervised play-based education of building the child’s innate abilities and all-important lifelong skills of cooperation, teamwork, social interaction, compassion, equity, inclusiveness, communication, cultural appreciation, playfulness, curiosity, creativity, etc. may end up with good reports and no correspondence to what happens to children.
- Foundational Literacy and Numeracy: [p.55] Numerous studies show that, in the current educational system, once students fall behind on foundational literacy and numeracy, they tend to maintain flat learning curves for years, perpetually unable to catch up. So many capable students have found themselves in this unfortunate black hole, unable to emerge. For many students, this has become a major reason for not attending school, or for dropping out altogether. At the same time, teachers have explained the extreme difficulty they currently face - due to the sheer size of the problem today - in covering the mandated curriculum while also simultaneously paying attention to the large numbers of students who have fallen vastly (often several years) behind.
Response: This may be true. Often teachers are absent from schools due to various non-educational related works given to them by officials. Further, officials and teachers have an understanding about absence with appropriate bribes. Teachers have to travel a long distance to their schools. These and other factors lead to no classes and as a result parents and children do not see the importance of being regular to school. These realities are the real issues and nothing to do with curriculum. However, wherever NGOs are involved, their motivated staff conduct excellent pre-primary and primary education for the poor in urban and rural areas. But their success in no way can become a success story in other rural areas due to teacher absenteeism and other factors.
- “Every child in Grades 1-5 will have a workbook for languages and mathematics in addition to the school textbook.” (p. 59)
Response: We already have a well-defined curriculum and schedules for classes up to 5 and so there is no need for any further redesigning. What is needed is to provide a conducive climate to achieve minimum levels of learning in a joyful and playful classroom context. Instead of adding more books to the load of the bags, what is required is to ensure that the children are provided sufficient practice in these areas in the school itself.
- Encouragement of large-scale community and volunteer involvement: [P2.7. p. 61] Qualified volunteers (such as retired teachers and army officers, excellent students from neighboring schools, and passionate socially-conscious college graduates from across the country) will also be drawn on a large scale to join the NTP and the RIAP on an unpaid basis, during the academic year as well as in the summer, as a service to their communities and to the country.
Response: Volunteerism will have few takers among the unemployed, low-paid people, caste-conscious persons, etc. It is often difficult to create the spirit of volunteerism among school children. Our rich may make offerings in places of worship but often refuse to help poor anonymously.
- The importance of parental participation: [P2.12, p.63] Research evidence points to the significant impact that home environment has on children’s academic learning. Collaboration with parents is an essential ingredient in optimizing learning, regardless of parents’ literacy, numeracy, or educational status.
Response: In my work with supplementary education in rural Bihar indicates that parents do trust good NGOs who display consistent commitment for welfare of the deprived section of the community. But with the caste system being an unconscious force, most teachers do not want the low caste children to come to government schools and neither do they want to intermingle with them. Hence an unwelcome and hostile attitude in villages negates parental participation.
- Pupil Teacher Ratio: [P2.14, p.63] Ensuring proper teacher deployment and teacher conditions, and a Pupil Teacher Ratio under 30:1 at every school: All the measures for strong foundational literacy and numeracy will require that the PTR be less than 30:1
Response: This suggestion is possible in countries with less population. For our country it is not possible. Currently the government is not able to pay regular salaries to teachers. As a result, the teachers are dissatisfied. Maintaining this ratio will require many more schools and teachers. If the ratio is not increased to 50:1, we will quickly have children not in classes due to the lack of schools.
- Semester System [p.75] Each year of the Secondary Stage will be divided into 2 semesters, for a total of 8 semesters.” (page 75). The policy suggests that every student will study 6 to 8 subjects during each of these semesters with some core subjects being common.
Response: In our country’s context, parental attitude and admission into higher education, the semester system may dilute the rigour and in depth study required of various subjects.
- Reduce curriculum content to enhance essential learning & critical thinking: [P.4.3. p.77]
Response: This is envisaged to make space for more holistic, experiential, discussion-based, and analysis-based learning. Further it hopes that teaching-learning will be conducted in a more interactive manner; questions will be encouraged, and classroom sessions will regularly contain more fun, creative, collaborative, and exploratory activities for students for deeper and more experiential learning. This is a misplaced reason. How do we make this happen in rural schools? Most teachers do not come to school or make attendance and leave the place. New appointments are contract basis, who lack motivation to help students. Further, this new focus of teaching-learning demand that teachers are creative, committed to students’ welfare and ready to invest the school hours on students and nothing else. At least now with the current curriculum we reduce rote learning on a larger content, and with some collaborative strategies we obtain some of the desired result. Reduction of syllabus is bound to make the rural students unfit and it will be advantageous for urban students. Further, this should definitely not occur at the high school level which needs to be very focused in depth study of various subjects which will lead the student to higher learning for the future.
- Special emphasis on Sanskrit in school education: [p.87] “Sanskrit will be offered at all levels of school and higher education as one of the optional languages at par with all Schedule 8 languages.”
Response: While we acknowledge the contribution of Sanskrit language and Sanskrit literature in India, it need not be over emphasised or imposed on the students. It should be left to the individuals to pursue the study of Sanskrit according to their interest.
- [p.102] “Textbooks will aim to contain only correct, relevant material; when unproven hypotheses or guesses are included, this will be explicitly stated.”
Response: This is a very contentious suggestion. Textbooks which will form the foundation of learning for the children, should not contain any unproven hypothesis, guesses or arguments. This should be totally avoided in textbooks.
- Transforming assessment for student development: [P.4.9, p.104]
Response: While I acknowledge that the assessment of our schooling system must shift from rote memorization skills to one that is more formative, promotes learning and development of our students, and tests higher order skills, but in reality this may be a non-starter. CCE was a failure not because it was bad initiative, but it served no purpose at Plus Two or College admission process. Further `this involves accompaniment of students and a quality of developing these skills across all topics of all subjects. In the context of government school teachers being absent from schools and involved in non-academic work, the shift from rote learning to the testing of higher order skills need to be very gradual providing sufficient NCERT material both for teachers and students. Otherwise this initiative will only benefit the city schools, leaving a big gulf with the rural students. Large failure due to this initiative may discourage students to schools.
While recognizing that there are lots of drawbacks in the current board exams, it makes sense in a place with a large student population like ours. At least 40% of the students both from urban and rural backgrounds do not study if there are no exams with due dates. Acknowledging there is stress created, yet this stress is the only reason why students study. Further, when schools make their campus available for exams once in a year, then we know for 3-4 week classes will be suspended and teachers will be pulled out of schools for corrections once a year. Having flexible timings and expanding the choice of subjects will result in lack of school days, teaching hours and decreased motivation for hard work in students. The policy to allow students to repeat subjects in the board examination if they feel they can study and do better is welcomed. But to repeat should be limited to once a year for the above reasons plus to make students serious in their preparation for the examination.
- Census examinations in Grades 3, 5, and 8: [P4.9.5, p.108] To track students’ progress throughout their school experience, and not just at the end in Grade 10 and 12 - for the benefit of students, parents, teachers, principals, and school management committees in planning improvements to schools and teaching-learning processes - all students will take State census examinations in Grades 3, 5, and 8 in addition to the Board Examinations in Grades 10 and 12. Again, these examinations would test core concepts and knowledge from the national and local curricula, along with relevant higher order skills gained during the respective levels of education, rather than rote memorization. The Grade 3 census examination, in particular, would test basic literacy, numeracy, and other foundational skills.
Response: This exercise will be unwieldy, resulting in loss of classroom teaching, shifting benches and desks, encouraging cheating and other malpractices. One needs to be in Bihar for Matric exams. The government machinery, parents, and other interested parties make a laughing stock of board exams.
- Transforming assessment for student development [p.104-105]: First and foremost, the Grade 10 and 12 Board Examinations place an enormous amount of pressure on students over just a few days of their lives. Second, the current structure of Board Examinations force students to concentrate only on a few subjects at the expense of others, preventing a truly holistic development. Third, if life-determining Board Examinations are given on only two occasions, in Grade 10 and 12, then it is inevitable that these examinations will be mostly summative and not formative, which is a wasted opportunity.
Response: It is good to experiment these important concepts in some classes only.
- National Testing Agency [P4.9.6 p.109]:
Response: Though the exams conducted by NTA brings certain uniformity such as NEET, yet it deprives the state from conducting its exams especially for admission in state medical, engineering colleges. Since the NTA does away with state domicile, it will benefit students outside the state. State entrance exams gives preference to domicile students. This benefits local students and those who bring lesser marks. In the long run NTA will make the federal structure of our country weak.
- Service environment and culture [p117-119]:
Response: In this section several decent and pleasant service conditions are ensured for teachers. Adequate and safe infrastructure to ensure that teachers and students are comfortable and inspired to teach and learn in their schools; creation of a vibrant communities of teachers who would share best practices; teachers will not be involved in non-teaching work; recognition for teachers using novel approaches to improve learning outcomes; etc. For the last 50 years a lot of promises are made for the welfare of teachers. Often the budget allocated is meagre and is siphoned off by unscrupulous ministers, government officials and local village and school heads. The pathetic infrastructure of rural schools is far away from that NEP proposes. Even in big schools, teachers do not have with them the dream of professional upgradation. Those who tend to make more money after class through coaching classes do not give their best in their classrooms.
- Effective teacher recruitment and deployment [p.121]:
Response: It states that merit-based scholarships will be given to encourage outstanding students to enter the teaching profession: The recruitment process for teachers will be rigorous and transparent, designed to find the best teachers, instill confidence in them, so that the society will hold them in high regard. For the last two decades the best brains are not entering into the teaching profession. Teaching in schools has become a launching pad to attract more students for tuitions or to make a name so that one earns better in a coaching centre. Today most teachers do not want to give extra time for remedial teaching, training students in debates, speech, one-act plays, etc. Further, most teachers do not want to give home-work because of corrections. Briefly the teaching profession is considered a burden. This sickness has spread not only in rural areas but also in urban areas, in unaided and aided schools. Currently, those who apply with the required qualifications even in private schools, fail to possess depth of knowledge in the subject matter and other professional skills.
- The Rajya Shiksha Ayog .
Response: According to the draft, the apex body will be the primary institution for overall monitoring and policymaking for continual improvement of the system. It will not be involved with the operation of schools (service provision) or with regulation of the system, which will be carried out by separate bodies to eliminate conflicts of interest. This is a highly centralizing subtle move because the apex body will have the power for overall monitoring and policy making for continual improvement of the system. Of late we have myths converted to scientific facts making us a laughing stock in the world. Who will rectify these absurdities if the Rajya Shiksha Ayog subscribe to them. Keep in mind the federal structure, every state is responsible for education, the policy making should not be centralized.
- Regulation of private schools [p.189]:
Response: Though regulatory requirements are necessary to maintain quality of education, however in practice regulation has become another form of harassment and corruption, rather than helping schools to reach the required quality standard. As of now the requirements are only for private or public schools but not for government schools. As a result, the public is losing their faith in government schools which is run by tax-payers’ money. Hence a disclosure on basic parameters should be applicable to all schools so that the regulation is objective and transparent.
Some Concrete Suggestions
- Maintain the past Stages of Education:
- Foundational Stage (Pre-Primary – 3 - 5 yrs)
- Primary School Education: Grade I – V
- Middle School Education: Grade VI – VIII
- Secondary School Education: Grade IX – XII
- Make Pre-Schoolers a Separate Entity: Doctors, educationists, other professionals focus on growth and development of 3-5 year children as a separate entity. These children (preschoolers) need around 11-13 hours of sleep at night. When children sleep well, they are more settled and happy during the day, and it strengthens the child’s immune system and reduces the risk of infection and illness. Since at the age of three the child becomes much more coordinated with running or going up and down the stairs, play and movement becomes integral to knowledge and development. Further they use magical thinking to solve problems or explain things and role-playing is practiced for the future. Preschoolers need shorter time in school. These pre-schools need to be closer to their home especially in the villages where often parents are working in the fields during day time. The government should support establishment of small pre-primary schools managed by families so that emotional accompaniment, play and language development take place. These children should be provided with mid-day meal. Hence preschoolers should not be clubbed with children of grade I & II.
- Make the Student-Teacher Ratio 40:1 for Pre-Primary; 45: 1 for Primary; 50: 1 Middle; 55:1 for high school; and 60:1 for Plus Two.
The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009 in its Schedule lays down Pupil Teacher Ratio (PTR) for both primary and upper primary schools. At primary level the PTR should be 30:1 and at the upper primary level it should be 35:1. Often a higher ratio is considered a barrier to play-based, multilevel, and individualized learning. Often proponents of this ratio focus on teacher-centred classroom and the classroom climate is competitive in terms of learning outcomes and grades. Today neuro science and collaborative approaches to teaching-learning number do not see higher student-teacher ratio an obstacle. Rather, they see higher ratio for better collaborative activities, peer accountability, and individualized space for learning. Further, given the size of our population where we desire accessibility and equity for all students, a practical ratio would be 40:1 for Pre-Primary; 45: 1 for Primary; 50: 1 Middle; 55:1 for high school; and 60:1 for Plus Two.
- Select one objective each tor teaching-learning and staff recruitment with 5-year timeline.
Trying to change the overall system is doomed to fail. Focus for the next five years on teaching-learning for every stage and the training and recruitment of teachers.
- Keep parents out as the de-facto regulators of private schools.
Make the management of the school responsible for quality education and the holistic development of students. Already sufficient damage is done with political interference in various institutions and by parents with ulterior motives.
- Strengthen Early Childhood Care and Education.
The selection of aganwadi teachers is vested in village authorities who are illiterate and having financial concerns. These be screened and trained properly in achieving the goals of ECCE
- Train all Pre-Primary and Primary Teachers for interactive and fun classrooms in 5years
Sufficient funds need to be allocated for this training. Further link spot assessment regarding its implementation. If there is no improvement after further training, these teachers may be asked to leave. No teacher should believe that due to their several years of teaching experience they can’t be removed from the post if they are dysfunctional, ineffective and with high absenteeism. The political and administrative co-operation to accomplish this will be crucial for the success of this programme.
- Maintain limited essential common subject for all.
Providing great flexibility in selecting electives will cause strain on finance and problems in administrative matters. Further a teacher with less teaching period becomes a nuisance and demotivating person for other teachers.
- Contribution of Small Schools
Between government schools and affiliated schools, there are many small unaffiliated private schools catering to the education needs of urban and rural poor. In fact, they cater to 33% of the education needs of our country.In this context we consider that it may not be feasible for such schools to adhere to the high infrastructure, salary and other facility requirements that are expected of affiliated schools. Government should facilitate their functioning by making necessary concessions and grant permission for their existence if they maintain the minimum levels of learning and the desired pedagogy of teaching.
- Ensure Digital Education in Rural Areas
It is estimated that 43 crore children in the age group of 0-18 years are in the country. It is imperative to realize the potential of these children who are the future of the nation. A modernized education system can channelise efforts and supplement teachers’ outmoded teaching methods, shortage of qualified teachers, inadequate teaching material. The use of technology can help in mitigating aforementioned concerns. Education can be digitized in rural areas by providing multimedia teaching tools to teachers and engaging students through learning methods that utilize digital tools, such as smart-boards, LCD screens, videos, etc., to teach them different concepts. By making it possible for one teacher to deliver information remotely across several locations, interactive digital media will also help address the shortage of teachers in these schools. For instance, Pratham, in partnership with Vodafone Foundation India, has started the digital classroom initiative called “Learn, Out of the Box” to enhance teaching and learning in low-income schools using technology as the primary teaching tool.
- Uphold but Broaden Indian Culture: Uphold the importance of Indian history, culture, heritage, and indigenous values but broaden the term” Indian” to include the diversity of Indian cultures and do not refer to only one strand, even if majoritarian. Give space to every section of society to express their culture. We have many cultures and subcultures that make up a mosaic of the nation.
- Immediately Stop the Practice and Appointment of Para-teachers
In Bihar about 3.5 lac teachers are para-teachers with no regular appointment while only 66 thousand teachers are with regular appointment. The big lofty ideals will come to naught if teachers are not invested in.
- Make Officials and Management of BEd colleges accountable.
Closing down of corrupt and substandard teacher education institutions that sell degrees with little actual education will not solve problems. Make officials and Management responsible and have appropriate punishment if found guilty.
- Change the Concept of Monitoring from Inspection leading to Corruption to empowering of schools
Today any government monitoring implies breeding corrupt practices in finding faults, slow movement of files, etc. If the power to penalize is removed from the officials, then we could have schools with the climate visualized in the NEP. Further, regulation should be only broad guidelines. These regulations should not lead to interference in the administration and management of schools.
- Make India’s contribution to mathematics, astronomy, medicine, yoga, scientific, evidence based.
- Uphold Country’s Pluralism: The NEP should uphold the country’s pluralism of religion, culture, language, traditions and behavioral pattern. It should not impose uni-culture and uni-dimensional history and tradition. It should address the local sensitivities by encouraging and promoting legitimate aspirations of every segment for bringing about social cohesion and religious amity.
- Encourage and support the use of technology in education.
All new recruits should be trained on the use of computers for teachers’ professional development. More funds, proper security, and use of computers in teaching should be highly recommended.
- Provide required infrastructure, trained personnel to pre-primary and primary.
The next five years the focus should be on the pre-primary and primary to attain the goals mentioned in the NEP
- Review of the RTE Act but definition of Minority institution.
The review of the RTE Act is welcome. There should not be any dilution of the minority rights of the institutions in the name of review of RTE Act. The definition of minority school as provided in the constitution should not be changed at all. The definition is any institution that is established and administered by the minority community and it does not depend on the number of students served from the minority community. But the suggestions in the draft policy reflects otherwise. The Government should respect the rights of minority institutions. Promote and support the work of nation building through education rather than create hurdles and hassles to minority institutions.
- No Increase in flexibility in choice of subjects
The four suggestions are: No hard separation of content in terms of curricular, extra-curricular, or co-curricular areas, No hard separation of arts and sciences, No hard separation of “vocational” and “academic” streams. The secondary and plus two stage is time to prepare oneself for the higher studies in the future. Hence a clearly defined framework of studies of various subjects at this stage, otherwise large variations and flexibility will defeat the purpose of achieving the 21st century skills.
- Do away with the TET as the first screening for recruitment:
The policy suggests that the TET will be the first screening for recruitment. If the students who have completed the four-year integrated B.Ed programme will have to go through another test to prove their ability, then move back to 2 year B.Ed or scrap the TET.
- Respect federal autonomy of the States: Hence avoid measures to centralize, control and communalize.
- Collaborate with the Christian Community: The Christian community has a good record of imparting education in rural areas. Do not take a hostile stand to the Christian community’s education work in the country. Rather give directives to the States to enter into partnership with Christian community in the task of education for the poor, dalits and tribals. Cut bureaucratic red tape in granting recognition, filling vacancies in aided posts, releasing salaries on time, and granting the same benefits to students studying in Catholic schools as those in government schools.
- Encourage Sports & Fitness: Sports and fitness is often neglected but widely recognized to create an environment of active and healthy lifestyle. in India, sports are considered more of a distraction rather than a constructive activity, therefore causing many parents to restrict their children from sports. Hence NEP should give more encouragement to sports to keep children active, healthy and fit.
- Value Education: As part of value and spiritual education, the NEP should endeavour towards developing integrity and character of individuals by teaching epics pertaining to Hinduism and Sikhism, Buddhism, Jainism, Islam, Christianity, and quite importantly the folk traditions of the tribal populations.
This draft policy is against almost all the core and basic values and principles underlying the COI and the UDHR. Apart from this there are serious contradictions in the findings and proposals related to each of the segments. The issues mentioned here and those raised by others criticizing the policy appear to be very relevant. There are so many additional but serious issues not yet touched by many. Stealthy attacks on minority rights under article 30, attempts to reverse the benefits of RTE Act, truncating the fundamental rights of children under Article 21A, suppressing the constitutional obligations of the state to provide and regulate education at all levels as charity in tune with the ideals of the Constitution and similar other important problems are worrisome. However, to establish all these in writing needs time…..
Norbert Menezes SJ
For JEA Secretariat
19th June 2019