I had decided not to write anything on the new NEP 2020 as a lot has already been written on it. However, after having read and observed a number of views and opinions on the policy, I was compelled to write on the line of arguments which have been picked up by both, the far Left and the far-Right sides.
The Left has criticized the policy for having to further an agenda of Hindutva or manuvadikaran (because it excludes the most socially and economically deprived groups), however, going by this logic, the previous government too, have brought forth the same agenda.
The NEP of 1986 and Programme of Action in 1992 have legitimized the system of non-formal education for the first time in India, the system which has promoted child labour and substandard quality of education for out of school children, whereas this policy plans to do the same within the school by vocation-alizing the education of children.
However, it does not mean that the doings of the previous government provides a sanction for the acts done by the current government. The point here is that the language employed for criticizing two policies furthering the same agenda has been different for different governments.
Both policies, previous and present by offering a sub-standard quality of education (wherein the work takes prominence instead of the accumulation of advanced knowledge) and promotion of privatization, have furthered the class interests. Although, this policy has gone ahead and tried to push it more strongly.
Secondly, another argument employed by some of the Left to critique the policy was through referring to Gandhi’s views on education in particular and on the nation in general. This is counterproductive, as a lot of policy’s recommendations are in line with Gandhi’s vision on education and nation. Like Gandhi’s emphasis on imparting education associated with work, thus, advocating vocational education, this policy too has made arrangements for the same.
Moreover, Gandhi while himself being English educated and foreign return has exhorted everything local and cultural. Similarly, this policy too has given special emphasis to the local knowledge as well as mother tongue. Moreover, the foundation of the public system of school education, as well as higher education, cannot be based on Gandhi’s vision, who had advocated self-sufficiency of education system, which could be parlance as ‘autonomous’ educational institutions in the context of the national education policy.
Now, coming to the far-Right groups who have tried to extinguish every attempt at criticizing the policy as the cynicism of Congress or Left, have failed to not only take in the criticism but also failed to argue with the Left on the basis of valid points. It is interesting to note that the policy which emphasizes a mother tongue or the local and national culture has tried to implement the American model of the education system.
Most of the far-Right have proclaimed that ‘the policy is good in intention and now everything depends on its implementation’, saying this brings us back to the display of ‘distrust’ by the Right itself, the sentiment with which the Right was rejecting the criticism of the policy.
Moreover, dissociating the policy recommendations with its implementation is similar to disassociating the means with the end. The actual ends could be different than what has been thought of previously, however, making no strategies to achieve the end in view does make the adopted means useless.
In my opinion, the policy is always made with prioritizing a certain set of beliefs, values and ideology. The work of the stakeholders is a careful analysis along with checking up of their own biases. Knowles and Clark (2018) have indicated towards a large number of studies demonstrating when the ideological and institutional barriers are not checked then the limit of the free flow of ideas and deliberations are hindered.