The draft National Education Policy, 2019 is out in the public domain, with comments sought from all stakeholders. Drawing inputs from the T.S.R. Subramanian Committee report and the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), the K. Kasturirangan Committee has produced a document that is comprehensive, far-sighted and grounded in realities.
Unique features of the policy:
The draft policy seeks to revamp all aspects of the sector and suggests brave new ideas. The idea that lifelong education is based on four pillars — learning to know, learning to do, learning to live together and learning to be — has inspired the committee to cover every aspect of the education sector: school, higher, vocational and adult education.
It also includes the whole gamut of professional education — engineering, medicine, agriculture, law, etc.
- Early childhood education:
In school education, the idea is to cover children of 3-18 years [instead of the present 6-14 years under the Right to Education (RTE) Act], three years under early childhood care and education (ECCE) and four years under secondary education.
- Restructuring the 10+2 education structure into a 5+3+3+4 structure so that the five years from ages three to seven or till the end of Std 2 are seen as one “foundational stage”.
The next two stages, of three years each, are “preparatory” and “upper primary”, first ensure the acquisition of foundational skills and then their development.
These stages are not only consistent with the development of children, but they are also useful to meet the overall goal of ensuring basic learning outcomes stage-by-stage.
- Higher education:
The aim is to double the Gross Enrolment Ratio from 25% to 50% by 2035 and make universities the hubs of research.
– Tier I universities/institutions devoted primarily to research and some teaching.
– Tier 2 universities devoted to teaching and some research,.
– Tier 3 institutions comprising mainly colleges that are to be converted gradually into degree-giving autonomous institutions.
- Achieve ‘universal foundational literacy and numeracy’ through initiatives like the National Tutors Programme and the Remedial Instructional Aides Programme.
- Introduction of school complexes, a system of modular Board Examinations to allow flexibility, setting up Special Education Zones in disadvantaged regions, recognising teachers at the heart of the system, moving teacher education into the university system, and stressing the importance of learning new languages are among the key recommendations.
- The policy recommends community and volunteer participation in collaboration with schools to overcome the current crisis. Schools generally work in isolation from the community they serve.
- The policy recognises the crucial importance of liberal arts (it recommends setting up five Indian Institutes of Liberal Arts offering four-year courses) and the study of modern and classical languages (it recommends setting up National Institutions for Pali, Prakrit and Persian).
- It proposes separate institutions for regulation, funding, standard setting and accreditation, a National Research Foundation, and a Rashtriya Shiksha Aayog/ National Education Commission.
- Vocational education, meant for 50% of the students, is sought to be integrated with school and higher education.
Challenges in implementation:
- Doubling of public funding to 6% of the GDP and increasing overall public expenditure on education to 20% from the current 10%.
This is desirable but does not appear to be feasible in the near future given that most of the additional funding has to come from the States.
Though innovative financing schemes have been proposed, involving the private sector, how those schemes will shape up remains to be seen.
- Expanding coverage under the RTE Act is extremely important, but should be introduced gradually, keeping in mind the quality of infrastructure and teacher vacancies.
- The idea of regulation being brought under the National Higher Education Regulatory Authority, standard setting under the General Education Council and funding under the Higher Education Grants Council may require a revisit so that there is synchronisation with the current Bill for the Higher Education Commission of India.
- Language issues have to be handled sensitively in view of their emotional overtones, as witnessed recently.
The “learning crisis” is very deep. The education system — public and private — has been deteriorating rapidly and has affected the quality of our human resources.
If this trend is not reversed, the dysfunctional system will become more and more expensive but will not deliver the goods. It will require a huge commitment and conviction to make it happen.