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The NEP Fails To Tackle The Real Issue In India’s Classrooms: The Quality Of Teaching

The much-awaited National Education Policy (NEP) was released last week leaving many underwhelmed by its attempt to make education “fun”, assessments “easier”, and effort “basic”. The inspiring vision of an ecosystem that provides students with holistic education opportunities, promotes their interests and motivations and is grounded in innovative strategies led by teachers, meets an unimaginative climax with sub-par ideas on curriculum, pedagogy, and teacher professional development.

The NEP boldly states that the “principles on which this Policy is based include flexibility.” Yet, it goes on to suggestively mandate that the language of instruction in both public and private schools, “wherever possible,” be in the local language. It is ironic and counterproductive in a country, which has two official languages, to have a policy with such strong recommendations on the medium of instruction in elementary schools.

Image for representation only.

After selling a story on the need for multi-lingual teaching and learning, the NEP almost immediately goes back on this vision. It counter-intuitively suggests that teaching should be in the native language until grade 5.

Is this because our policymakers fear that our teachers are not capable of teaching in a language that is not native to them? If so, then why are we not seeing conversations on strategies to develop these competencies in our teachers?

What adds to the mystery is that NEP unequivocally appreciates the importance of English and states that “children pick up languages extremely quickly between the ages of 2 and 8” and yet goes on to recommend the introduction of teaching with English only after grade 6. The policy ignores the fact that infants do not speak any language at birth and without any concerted effort become fluent in their native tongue because of their own inherent skills of observation and meaning-making, and an environment of continuous contextual engagement.

The NEP is correct in stating that multi-lingual learning is key to a well-rounded education. Still, in a developing economy like India, it should involve a global language of business and connectivity at foundational levels so that students achieve native proficiency early in their lives.

By suggesting that foundational literacy and numeracy be in the native language followed by teaching and learning in English in higher classes, the NEP is recommending steps that could cause disastrous ramifications for our youth and our nation’s competitiveness in the future.

प्रतीकात्मक तस्वीर। फोटो साभार- सोशल मीडिया
Image for representation only.

The real problem is not the language of teaching and learning because children are clearly more than capable of learning languages, but of the way the language is taught—the real problem is our teacher education.

With a plethora of research on the Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) across the world, it is almost criminal that these elements were not explicitly mentioned as the guiding principle of our ECE teacher education curriculum at the foundational levels (certification or diploma)—especially given India’s aspirations to become a “global knowledge society and economy”.

While the NEP does identify a robust lens for the NCERT and SCERT to develop the necessary foundational curriculum and teacher professional development programs for ECE, it overlooks the identification of critical details, such as the contextual needs of the cadre of ECE teachers. It provides no information on the metrics to measure the quality of the implementation of the programs developed by the NCERT.

Overall, a centralized approach to the design and development of a professional development program seems detrimental to the vision of flexibility and autonomy. Ideally, the development of the initial cadres should have been led by the SCERTs after consultations with the Block Resource Centers and Cluster Resource Centers (resource centers for teacher education) to create programs that are contextually relevant with stakeholders having a higher degree of ownership.

Lack Of Accountability

Finally, one of the most glaring gaps in NEP 2020 is the overall lack of policy on accountability between and within government institutions.

The NEP fails to detail how the government will track and measure, and finally, publicly disclose the progress it makes.

While the identification of foundational literacy and numeracy by grade 3 sets the stage for the kind of accountability we as citizens expect from our government institutions, there are too few examples that clearly detail out such checks and balances. Unfortunately, it seems that the drafting body of the NEP gave up on our government’s will to provide quality educational opportunities.

That being said, there are few sparks of brilliance, especially with the recognition that current school regulations have been restrictive to “public-spirited” private schools, suggesting a need to create separate government institutions responsible for regulation and governance of schools, and a much-needed review of RTE.

However, more often than not, the policy missed important connections that you would expect to plug through the three years of consultation that has led to the design of this document. While the NEP may be satisfied with “basic” effort, we as citizens will accept nothing less than excellence from our education ecosystem.

About the Author: Kayhan brings over 10 years of passion and experience in learning design and has worked in diverse roles across for profit and non-profit education organizations. With a Masters in Instructional Technology and Media from Columbia University, Kayhan specializes in leveraging technology for curriculum design and online and blended pedagogy. Before moving back to India, Kayhan led the design of leading Master of Science programs at Columbia University as an instructional designer for the School of Professional Studies.

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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, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’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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