Education is a key aspect for any potential human achievement towards a better world encompassing liberty, equality, welfare, and development. India has always stressed upon the need for equitable, quality and value-based education to achieve a respectable position on the global stage in terms of social justice, economic growth, scientific progression, human integration, international engagement and culture. The talent pool of each country needs strategic nourishing through an inclusive vision and resource utilization to create critically thinking, rational, responsible, better informed and ethical individuals who serve humanity over myopic considerations and self-interest.
Indian visionaries like first PM Pandit Nehru pioneered an inclusive agenda for India to enhance lifelong learning opportunities for every citizen in a bid to secure the future of the country during an era of rapid scientific and technological advancement, digitalisation, data revolution, artificial intelligence, specialized skill development and multi-disciplinary research.
Creative reforms must be undertaken within our system to overcome various challenges we encounter in the way towards addressing the aspirations in the sector of education. Fresh ideas, thoughts and methods must evolve to aggrandize the art of learning and building everyone’s capability to absorb the content to think critically and solve problems via innovation. Freedom of thought, emotional strength, scientific temper, reason, critical thinking, inclusiveness and orientation towards humanitarian principles should be the fundamental center of any reform.
We adopted the National Policy on Education in 1986 and later modified it in 1992 with a prime focus on the issues of access and equity. The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act was passed by the UPA government led by Dr Manmohan Singh in 2009 to establish legal underpinnings for achieving universal elementary education.
Today, it’s clear that a blatant attempt of the state is underway amidst a deadly pandemic to commercialize education by destroying the public institutions and universities through rigorous fund cuts, ideological coercion and attacks. The latest decision of the Modi government to impose a New Education Policy (NEP-2020) unilaterally—without respecting the valid observations of states, academia, teachers and the student community—is completely in the line of capitalist interest and centralisation.
A deceitful perspective intended to centralize, privatize and commercialize the whole education system will have extensive impacts upon the future learning, individual personality and the great values upon which the nation is established. A few positive aspects of the new policy cover the dangerous agenda of the ruling right-wing to distort India’s true history and legacy.
In this age of global socio-political turmoil, we must stick with the constitutional principles, and inclusiveness is the fundamental aspect behind it. Unfortunately, the new policy has no content of such pivotal qualities. India has over 800 universities and 40, 000 colleges to reflect its sociocultural diversity and energy. A pluralistic and heterogeneous consideration is quintessential to exhibit the complete potential of such institutions, since we are not a nation of monolithic identity or structure.
Majoritarian goals to rewrite history and culture through ‘revivalism’ and distortion of perspectives could be achieved through the latest policy. A system proposed to make students job-ready through training, from the school level itself, will limit the vision of education by making mechanical human beings for a materialistic industrial world. This will act as an assault upon the fundamental aim of education and the vision provided by the stalwarts who gave life to independent India. The current policy has not addressed the importance of ensuring education to all, especially for the marginalised sections, through state support and affirmative action.
The NEP 2020 has overthrown the state regulatory bodies that managed the education and human resource sector over the past years, while encouraging inputs from the private sphere. Many initiatives proposed in the policy are not feasible as per the system followed by the states, since it requires a huge raising of funds for land, infrastructure and other amenities.
The spending on education has fallen from 4.14% in 2014-15 to 3.2% in 2020-21 under the NDA government. The Government of India must provide more clarity about the funding and operation of the proposed higher education institutions. Any unstructured plan of action may further privatise education to turn it into a commodity.
The most problematic content of the policy is the creation of a Rashtriya Shiksha Aayog with Prime Minister as its chairman to manage education sector of India. The sanctity of academia is paramount and any political intervention within the sphere could harm it. The education policy must become a tool to revive India as a country of reputed scholars, critical thinkers and philosophers.