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The Future Of Education In India Continues To Be Uncertain Despite The New Policy

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This post is a part of Kaksha Crisis, a campaign supported by Malala Fund to demand for dialogue around the provisions in the New Education Policy 2020. Click here to find out more.

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The new National Education Policy (NEP) that was approved recently has been applauded by many. It has taken half a decade for the Government to come up with the policy document.

On December 2014, when Smriti Irani was the Human Resource Development (HRD) Minister, initial media reports came out about the new education policy being developed by the government. Since the beginning of the NEP’s development process, it has already seen 3 HRD ministers, multiple secretaries, 2 expert committees, and long consultation process.

The T. S. R. Subramanian Committee developed the first set of recommendations and the K. Kasturirangan Committee developed the second set of recommendations. It is a great loss for the country that T. S. R. Subramanian passed away in 2018 and couldn’t witness the final version of the NEP.

The NEP must get due credit for some of the reforms it has recommended, which, if implemented in the true spirit of the policy, will have long term positive impact. So far, all the different roles, such as planning, implementing, monitoring, and funding were done by the Ministry of Education, which I feel gave enough scope for internal ‘fudging’.

The NEP has recommended independent and autonomous bodies, specifically for the administration of school-level education, as well as higher education. It would completely change the regulatory architecture of education, bring in scope for specialization, and at the same time, increase accountability and transparency in the system.

The Right to Education Act of 2009 made several input norms such as infrastructure, teacher competency, class size, and more mandatory. It shifted the focus of education-related administration from learning outcomes to inputs, with serious consequences on access, cost, and quality of education. It even resulted in thousands of low-cost private schools closing down.

The NEP has recommended bringing back the focus on learning outcomes with ‘light but tight’ regulation. One of the demerits of the Indian education system for long has been its compartmentalization, with streams such as arts, commerce, and science, with almost no space to shift from one stream to another.

school children playing in a classroom
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The NEP has also recommended for the propagation of multidisciplinary studies, giving students a choice to study subjects of one stream with another. Also, the multiple entries and exit points in higher education will empower students to plan and take courses in a manner that suits them the most. So, the rigidity of the education system will go away to a large extent.

Another missing piece of our public education system was the absence of early childhood education. This gap was addressed in private schools with the introduction of kindergarten, but public education started from the age of six years, with an entry into class one.

Now, according to the NEP, education will start at the age of 3 years, with 3 additional years of early childhood education by revamping the current arrangement from the ’10+2′ system to a ‘5+3+3+4’ one. The NEP has also placed emphasis on vocational education in the school years, and on research in higher education.

While the NEP has some major breakthroughs, it still disappoints in many aspects which, unless addressed, would make NEP meaningless.

  • Firstly, it misses out on the aspirations of parents, and therefore on the trends.

Between 2011 to 2018, student enrollment in public schools fell down by 2.4 crores but increased by 2.1 crores in private schools. The trend is simple. The parents’ aspirations for quality education is changing, and therefore, they choose expensive private schools over free public schools. NEP’s public school-centric approach seems to go against the parents’ approach and might make itself irrelevant.

  •  Secondly, the NEP makes the same mistake of designing the policy by keeping teachers in the centre instead of students.

With the lack of competence and motivation coupled with the lack of accountability and incentives to perform, the old machine wouldn’t be able to produce new goods.

  • Thirdly, the NEP has not been bold enough to address the biggest hypocrisy of education system: Educational institutes must be operated by charitable organizations and therefore must not make a profit.

It is an open secret that almost all educational institutes make a profit but sometimes through unfair practices. This fundamental hypocrisy results into flaws at multiple levels and sullies the sacred job of providing education. The new education policy of the 21st-century should have been bold enough to shed this core hypocrisy.

  • Fourthly, the NEP reflects a complacent attitude, of ‘I know it all and therefore I can fix it all’.
student giving an exam
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The reality is that the world is changing at an unprecedented pace and the future is unpredictable. The life and nature of work may completely change in the decades to come. In such a scenario, the NEP could have focused more on developing human resources to deal with the uncertainty of the future.

The NEP needed to create a system which puts itself in an ‘auto-pilot’ mode, by giving the liberty and space to change its curriculum, pedagogy, technology integration with the changes in the real world rather than keeping the possible best of today. It would be completely disheartening to see the hard work of five years become redundant in 10 years.

Note: Dr Amit Chandra is a passionate promoter of market-based policy solutions with hands-on experience. Views expressed are his personal. You can reach the author on Twitter.

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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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