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New Education Policy 2020: Blueprint For A Better India?

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The Ministry of Education’s new National Education Policy (NEP, 2020) has been implemented in the country. In the context of higher education, this policy has a blueprint for shaping India into a knowledge-driven society as well as an economic power, in light of the upcoming fourth industrial revolution.

This policy is important in the context of higher education, but it has some flaws that need to be addressed. One of them is the emphasis on places running multi-disciplinary courses, instead of single programme-based institutions. A significant number from our 51,000 higher education institutions focus on single programmes.

Most colleges offering bachelor’s programmes, engineering, law or management courses are single-discipline colleges. Both ancient Indian universities and modern universities tell us  how useful multi-disciplinary teaching-cum-research institutions can be.

The NEP (2020) advocates that higher educational institutions have a multi-disciplinary approach. Representational Image. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

What’s So Different About NEP (2020)?

Another innovative recommendation in the NEP (2020) is to emphasize multi-disciplinary undergraduate education, rather than orienting education towards specialization. On the one hand, students studying humanities will be given the opportunity to also opt for courses in science or vocational subjects.

On the other hand, science and technology programmes, as well as vocational courses, will be integrated with humanities. This approach will be followed in engineering schools like the IITs. The discussion of knowledge of 64 arts in the ancient, Indian tradition gives one the same integrated knowledge.

These 64 arts ranged from music, literature and art to scientific disciplines such as engineering, medicine and mathematics. They also include workmanship and craftsmanship. Today, the liberal arts education at the graduate level is similar to this method.

Latest research also shows that such education, unifying humanities and sciences, has a positive impact on one’s creativity, high-level thinking, problem solving, teamwork, communication skills etc.  A survey in the draft NEP (2020) cites that Nobel Prize-winning scientists are three times more likely to have artistic hobbies, when compared to average scientists.

A proposal to include community engagement, social service and development studies in the higher education system is also a part of the draft.

Furthermore, students will be offered internship opportunities with local industries, businesses, artisans and professors accustomed to equip them with theoretical as well as practical knowledge, to improve their productivity and efficiency. Such a system is prevalent in many a Western country.

Common Entrance Exam

The policy wants to eliminate individual entrance examinations for admission to undergraduate programmes. Instead, it recommends a single, common entrance exam conducted by the National Testing Agency (NTA). This will free students from worrying about different exams.

It will also save their time, money and energy. It is important to note that the marks of 12th standard won’t be overlooked. This is because the NTA exam will be designed in the multiple choice format, while 12th standard exams have subjective questions based on comprehension.

In such a situation, the balanced view would be to account for both the scores during admission.

Another point of contention in the NEP (2020) is that there is a confusion about whether the duration of a bachelor’s degree will be three years or four. Various institutions will run graduate courses according to their convenience. This will create a chaotic situation.

Whether we opt to stick with a three-year course like England, or a four-year course along the lines of USA, uniformity is necessary here. In my opinion, a four-year course is preferable as it is more research-intensive and lays a better ground for further, higher education.

Focus On Vocational Education

There is a lot of emphasis on professional education in this policy. According to the 12th Five Year Plan, only 5% of the Indian workforce in the age group of 19 to 24 years, receives vocational education. This percentage is much higher in developed countries.

For instance, it is as high as 52% in the USA, 75% in Germany and 96% in South Korea. A major reason for this shortage in India is the focus on vocational education only during 8th to 12th standards.

There is also a provision for monitoring education, such that it is commercialized as per Indian values, ​​in the NEP (2020). In private sector institutions, the determination of unbridled, increasing fees will be monitored. But, no clear road map has been given. In such a situation, it is preferable that a maximum limit (of fees) be arrived upon.

Importance Of Technology

An important highlight of the NEP (2020) is the promotion of the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and other technology in teaching and learning. This will ensure that labour and resources are utilized optimally.

A new feature in the context of teachers is that, in addition to parameters like innovation, quality and the impact of research, their colleagues and students will also review their professional activity, for promotions and increments. Such a review by one’s peers and students is bound to be controversial, even though I think that it is theoretically appropriate.

If all the aforementioned limitations of the NEP (2020) are overcome, there is no doubt that it will prove to be a cornerstone in the creation of a new India.

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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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