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New Education Policy: An Equation Of New Aspirations And Age-Old Challenges

The Union Cabinet approved the New Education Policy (NEP) 2020 on 29th July, 2020, amid the shockwaves of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Subsequently, the MHRD has been renamed as the Ministry of Education, which shows the resolve and dedication of the Government to consider education the most crucial element of human resource development. It would be worthwhile to mention here that this is the first education policy of the 21st century to replace the old National Policy on Education that was formulated in 1986. Built on the five foundational pillars of sustainable development — Access, Equity, Quality, Affordability and Accountability — the NEP is aligned to the long-term vision to transform India into a self-reliant and global knowledge superpower by 2040.

As part of a major reform in education, the NEP 2020 proposes some radical changes that will bring a much-needed relief from the narrow vision of education and provide a unique opportunity to students to explore beyond the range of curriculum as per their choice, passion and competency. One of the major reforms pushed by the NEP is the multidisciplinary approach of education across schools and colleges. This approach will empower students to choose any subjects at the secondary and higher education level with a provision of credit transfer facility across institutions.

This will dissolve the very notion of streams such as Arts, Commerce and Science in future. The new approach will boost students to free themselves from the clutches of the narrow vision of education and they’d be able to work on the best of their talents and skills. Further, the multidisciplinary-based approach and freedom to students to choose subjects would also lead to greater critical thinking and flexibility. It will make education more interesting and make students more employable in the long run.

Multidisciplinary approach envisaged by the NEP will encourage students to choose ranges of subjects while instilling critical thinking and flexibility among them. It will make education more interesting and make students more employable in future.

As a second major reform, the NEP prioritises the use of local or regional languages as the medium of instruction in all schools, at least till Class 5. This reform, if implemented in a well-planned manner across the country, may yield excellent results and will be a boon for children who come from communities with a minority language, whose mother tongue is different from the medium of instruction in schools.

Apart from this, teacher resource enforcement and training are other areas where the right words have been used in the newly framed policy. As envisioned in the policy, the transformational changes will be planned and teachers will be prepared for the new digital era keeping the need, aspiration and demand of society in mind. There are many other things that the NEP rightly addresses, such as the focus on teacher training for schools, the fund for educating girls, and new school education formula, i.e. 5+3+3+4, among others.

However, the most interesting change in the NEP is the real name ‘Parakh’. This aims to redesign assessment and standardise 60 educational boards across the country. This is first being done via a voluntary test for university admission, which is a great way to get data to calibrate board outcomes. This, combined with the other proposed changes in assessment, is the key that will transform education to make it relevant, consistent and therefore, usable.

Though there are buckets full of new ideas and propositions, the execution of the same remains an area of great concern. The NEP has emphasised on the use of mother tongue/local language/regional language as the medium of instruction till at least Class 5, but it does not address the position of the State boards that primarily impart education in their respective regional languages.

The vision, as elucidated in the policy and tasking, will need more than an action plan and implementation strategy; it will need real practitioners to define and absorb the the vision to give clear outcomes.

Perhaps, we need to await the outcomes that are set to come within the next 3-4 years. By that time, all such ambiguities would be cleared. And whether the State boards will agree to the proposed language policy is something interesting to see in the coming future.

The toughest criticism that the NEP may face from academia and implementation bodies is that it is idealistic in nature and lacks clarity on the role of respective State governments in the entire discourse. The vision, as elucidated in the policy and tasking, will need more than an action plan and implementation strategy — it will need real practitioners to define and absorb the vision goals to give clear outcomes.

Further, the post COVID-19 situation will unfold a great number of challenges for educationalists and administration to implement the promises made by the NEP and execute the same without much dilution. Despite all the apprehensions, this policy needs real champions who can take it forward. Without the champions and support from every concerned quarter and departments, all the good envisaged in the visionary document will get diluted or will disappear by the time it reached the point of delivery.

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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.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

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.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

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.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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