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Ushering In The 21st Century For India In Education

The last time as a millennial kid we got excited was India was winning the cricket world cup in 2011 after 28 years. And this has been succeeded by the New Education Policy approved after 34 years by the cabinet (without discussion in the parliament). The changes are already uploaded on the ministry’s website in the form of a PowerPoint presentation, so instead of wasting time about what all changes have been added, let’s talk about the implications.

Increased Share Of The GDP

6% of GDP on education means we will be spending more than some developed countries of Europe like Italy (4.1%) and France(5.5%) and not much behind the top-ranked countries in the field of education like Sweden (7.6%) and Finland(7.1%). Earlier India used to rank at the 62nd position globally with 1.7% of GDP spent on education.

According to the economic survey of 2018-19, India spent 0.7% on research and development of science & technology (GERD) which is far behind the USA(2.8%) and Japan(4.5%). Talking about research work, the govt. has decided to scrap M.Phil courses. While this move is being opposed we should also keep in mind that it will encourage more people to go for Ph.D. and moving into research fields as a middle path has been scrapped.

The Option Of An Inter-Disciplinary Curriculum

No matter how much we spend on education, the doubt regarding career options is always in the mind of teenagers. With no guidance and parental pressure, most of the teenagers are found regretting this in life later, but this problem has been addressed in the new policy with the inclusion of career counseling. To reduce more confusion from a teenagers mind, students will now be allowed to pick inter-disciplinary subjects and the rigid wall of division between different streams so a student can explore different areas at once and maybe change his career decisions later and not follow a pre-decided career path for his/her stream, a move which is already seen in various European systems like the UK.

If the system is allowing multi-disciplinary options, different entrance exams will just end up pressurizing and frustrating the students therefore a common entrance exam test was necessary and so the govt. have included it.

There’ve been certain allegations that members of RSS were consulted for ideology inclusion in the NEP but the fact that the top 100 universities of the world will be allowed to set up campus here (which can be a threat to ancient traditional & cultural methods) and emphasis on regional language/mother-tongue (against One Nation: One culture) proves otherwise.

Kids in their elementary level can learn the most in a language they are comfortable with and master globally recognized languages in a later phase of their school life only after they’ve understood the basics of maths, science,etc. in a language they are familiar with. This will also help to break the stereotype which judges a person based on their fluency in the English language, even though the majority of India does not have English as a first language.

Inclusion Of Digital Education On A Larger Scale

We can’t imagine the future without computers and technology and therefore the decision to make computer programming training from class 6th onwards is a big step because not only is the future is driven by technology but also future jobs are also driven by technology, therefore, computer programming is a supportive decision for employability for a country like India having maximum organized sector jobs computer-based.

The pandemic worked as a mirror to show us the digital and economic divide between different economic classes and how prepared are we to educate and learn via online platforms therefore the decision of focusing on E-education was a necessary one. The decision of focusing on internships and vocational training from an early age is not only necessary for all-around development of a kid but also for employment in different sectors and not just focusing on limited overcrowded career options already suffering with job availabilities due to mob mentality of people.

Apart from improving our rank in the top universities list we also need to improve our rank in the medal tally of Olympic and for that initiation like 10-bagless days and focus on physical activities will prove to be a wonder as a sportsman is not prepared to win a medal if you invest in him a month back but when you invest in his conditioning since childhood days with China and USA being prime examples. The fact that multiple exit points are availabe in new policy means that if someone due to unavoidable circumstances has to leave education before graduation atleast will leave with a certificate or diploma in hand and this may help to get a job. However, the govt. and society collectively try to help someone who is willing to dropout due to personal reasons by providing aid and scholarships.

Emphasis On Mental Health

The recent death of a Bollywood actor by suicide raised a nationwide concern on mental health and therefore the decision of mental wellness, counseling, cutting down of syllabus to core concepts along with yoga will prove to be a miracle. On the other hand, the exclusion of the importance of sex education in an education policy of the 21st century will prove to be a disaster.

Day by day we are witnessing a rise in sexual harassment and assaults case in which the culprits have seen a significant rise from the educated background, young, school/college students, etc. Law and order strictness might not be enough to reduce the rate of this and eradicate this problem. The situation of females continuing education is not great, the high dropout rate supports my argument and maybe a slogan of ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ was not enough therefore we see the gender-inclusive nature of the policy and not to forget it includes third gender as well by creating a gender inclusion fund.

This step should be considered as a huge step to bring ‘other’ genders into the mainstream and fighting the taboo. Not only we, the current education system faced gender inclusion issue but also the inclusion of handicapped and disabled children and that point has also been taking care of like special classes for deaf. MHRD to be renamed as Education Ministry which will lead to a greater focus on education both in the political and public domain. However, instead of renaming a new ministry carved out from MHRD would’ve been more beneficial.

Centralization Ensures Uniformity

Moving on from school students to school teachers, have we ever thought why Kendriya Vidyalaya being a govt. school outperforms other govt. schools each year? The answer is Kendriya Vidyalaya accommodates kids of some of the highly reputed public service jobs. The inclusion of 4 year B.ed programs with TET and National Professional Standards for Teachers is a positive step with some people criticizing the move of making education centralized but should remember the above-given example of Kendriya Vidyalaya’s excelling and choice of medium as a regional language but at the same time other state models like Kerala education model with nearly hundred percent literacy rate or Delhi’s govt. school model which has outperformed private schools in the national capital recently should be taken in consideration as well.

Talking about criticism there is a whole world to criticize, point out the mistakes which is necessary as well to bring in reforms but for now, we should welcome the decision that we were supposed to welcome 34 years ago which means we are still 34 years behind and we got a lot to cover.

We’ve often heard the 21st century is of India or at some point of our life we must’ve been proud in calling India a young country with the majority being below 35 years old age mark and to develop them, to make them more skillful, to provide them employment and to later use the skills they have learned for the development of India, we needed reforms in the education policy. If the govt. has the right to make decisions, the public has the right to dissent, and constructive criticisms should be welcomed.

The author is a Political Science (bachelors) student from SGTB Khalsa, University of Delhi.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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