Why we need to welcome New Education Policy 2020

The policy has rightly tried to not be too prescriptive. Instead, it draws a balance between creating an enlightened vision and offering practical pathways for implementing that vision.

 |  5-minute read |   31-07-2020
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The Government of India has, at last, announced the new policy on education. A great deal of thought and deliberation has gone into it. The document that outlines the policy says all the right things. The policy has rightly tried to not be too prescriptive. Instead, it draws a balance between creating an enlightened vision and offering practical pathways for implementing that vision. I welcome this announcement.

School reforms

Taking a closer look at what it has to say in the context of school education, there is much to commend in the document. The overall level of school education in India is extremely poor. There are many ways to infer this but none more telling than India’s performance in the 2013 PISA tests conducted by the OECD to gauge the level of school education in nations of the world. India stood at the very bottom with just Kyrgyzstan below us. Since then we have chosen not to participate. It is indeed very welcome to note that the policy delves deep into the ways and means of reforming school education.

main_indian-govt-sch_073120104516.jpgAlmost all insightful studies conducted quite recently emphasise the use of the mother tongue at the beginning level. (Photo: Reuters)

I welcome the stress on introducing learning through the mother tongue. Almost all insightful studies conducted quite recently, such as some commissioned by UNESCO, emphasise the use of the mother tongue at the beginning level. In India, many enlightened individuals have said this repeatedly over the ages. Mahatma Gandhi emphasised this very strongly. He had experimented on the matter when he personally ran a school in South Africa. I have had many parents calling me up to express concern on this matter. It just goes to show that they have no real understanding of educational psychology. These parents forget the document leaves room for immersive bilingual education. Parents must understand that modern science recognises the advantages to human development that accrue through practical mastery in at least two languages.

Against rote learning

Society must recognise that education is not just about gaining knowledge in traditional disciplines such as history or mathematics. It goes beyond that and this policy document says this very when it states that at the level of schools, the segregation between the traditional subjects of the humanities, social sciences and sciences and the extra-curricular subjects such as photography, dramatics, debating or the NCC and sports has to be dissolved. Each of these activities is an exercise in getting educated and the sooner society and schools learn of this the better. After all, Sachin Tendulkar, who has no formal qualification beyond high school and who devoted himself almost wholly to cricket, is one of the most ‘educated’ persons in India.

The other valuable recommendation centres around reducing the curriculum so as not to overwhelm the child. This is essential since schoolchildren in India are so heavily burdened by the number of disciplines that they have to study right from grade 1. This is done in a very harmful manner and is detrimental to the child’s intellectual growth in the long run. The policy also de-emphasises rote learning. The PISA tests indicated our schoolchildren don’t seem to imbibe or understand in a meaningful manner. To take care of this pedagogical malaise the policy urges and asserts that experiential learning must be incorporated into the curriculum. If we make our schoolchildren learn to use their hands by putting knowledge into action it would make learning that much more fruitful. Tagore and Gandhiji, among many, others, had said this very strongly long ago.

I wish to commend the decision to make testing more meaningful so conceptual understanding can happen in school education. By the time students engage with a college education, they seem to have lost the ability to think originally and to relate their learning to the real world. There are many other very enabling provisions on school education such as the emphasis on understanding Indian culture. However, I hope that this shall not inculcate an insular approach. We must, as Gandhiji had said, open the doors and windows of our homes to the winds of culture and knowledge of the world around us. The important thing is, as he said, not to be blown off our feet by any of these winds i.e. we should stand rooted in our culture. It is wise to lay stress on the making our students adept at coding at an early age and the document lays this down clearly.

For higher studies

As regards higher education, the document has placed a constructive and welcome pathway before India. The policy lays the ground for a ‘hands-on’ and trans-disciplinary approach with entry and exit points for undergraduates at several levels. The annual dropout rates in Indian colleges is high. The policy states when a student leaves after a year or two years, she has the option of obtaining a certificate or a diploma, which is an enabling step. It allows enormous flexibility in the choice of subjects and dissolves the barriers between science, humanities and technology and other non-traditional disciplines. To gain access to research and entrepreneurship the student can opt for the fourth year of study. The student has the option of taking her bachelor’s degree after three years. The policy lays emphasis on teacher education and training at higher education levels. These features are essentially what we implemented with great success at the University of Delhi in 2013-14 and thus I can vouch for them with conviction.

(Courtesy of Mail Today)

Also read: Why the New Education Policy 2020 is full of loopholes


Dinesh Singh Dinesh Singh @dineshsinghedu

The writer is former Vice-Chancellor, Delhi University and currently Adjunct Professor of Mathematics, University of Houston, USA

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