The Modi Govt cabinet, on July 29, gave the green signal to the much-touted National Education Policy (NEP). The D. K. Kasturirangan Committee had submitted a draft policy (NEP 2019) last June. The complete draft of the policy was available in English and Hindi languages only.
The public was asked to offer suggestions within a month, initially, later extended by one more month. Within a two month window, whopping 2.25 lakh people had sent their comments, as disclosed by the HRD Ministry.
It’s not clear what kind of policy has finally been framed and adopted by the government. However, based on media reports, the government has finally agreed to spend 6% of GDP on education. That is a very positive step. The draft policy had tried to link the education expenditure at 10% of the government (Central and State, both) spending. That would have been inadequate considering the proposed complete revamp of the education sector.
The draft policy’s ‘out-of-the-box’ revamp of the education sector was seen as government’s attempt to privatize education (albeit through philanthropists), give them full autonomy in all respects, make scholarships difficult to obtain, abolish reservations, stratify the delivery of education, create ‘Ghettos’ for SC/ST/OBCs/Minorities. Essentially trivialize education.
Nevertheless, this last point, of ‘trivializing education’, is seen to be the most celebrated reform in this policy. Everyone has been talking about this ‘novel’ approach to child education. “There will be no rigid separation between arts and sciences, curricular and extra-curricular. All subjects like music will be taught,” said School Education secretary, Anita Karwal. Singer Asha Bhosle also tweeted, in excitement, in response to this.
— ashabhosle (@ashabhosle) July 29, 2020
The draft policy had a detailed recommendation on the subject. “All school subjects will be considered curricular rather than extra-curricular or co-curricular, including sports, yoga, dance, music, drawing, painting, sculpting, pottery making, woodworking, gardening, and electric work.” (page 78) (Emphasis added).
Offering vocational subjects as academic education itself is pushing them away from the opportunities of higher education. There is every chance the wards of the rural populace, SCs, STs, and OBCs, even Muslim minorities, those who aren’t educated, and women will be thrust upon with more of vocational courses, possibly strengthening their respective caste vocations in many cases.
One wonders should the purpose of education be to overcome caste ‘disabilities’, or to strengthen them?
That apart, such an approach, at the school level, will render many students redundant for higher education and further opportunities to rise in life. India, with its youngest population in the world, cannot afford for its youth to waste time studying trivial hobbies in the guise of education—proper in the crucial formative years of middle and higher school education.