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Saturday, Aug 08, 2020 14:15 [IST]

Last Update: Saturday, Aug 08, 2020 08:32 [IST]

The right to education

The debate over the recently unveiled National Education Policy (NEP) has been reignited and has been received with mixed reviews across the country.
While most have “hailed” the new NEP terming it as “heralding a new era in Indian higher education, an outstanding vision statement and an inspiring policy document that seeks a fundamental transformation in the landscape of higher education,” there are wide-spread criticism too, given the complexity of the provisions envisioned in the document and the difficulties in implementing it, given the diverse socio-economic structure of the country.
Others, especially academicians have argued that there are many reasons why this policy needs a close scrutiny, a full debate, for what it says and what it doesn’t. They have pointed out that this policy is an ambitious and complex document and it has been adopted during a pandemic and a lockdown, which renders discussion and debate difficult.
For example, the new policy emphasises Early Childhood Care and Learning (ECCE) from 3+. But who will implement this? Children of poorer working mothers are, at best, sent to rural child care centres managed by ayahs. Who will convey the national curriculum and give them foundational literacy? There is talk of teacher recruitment, but nobody wants to work in aaganwadi day care centre. Unless teachers are well paid and supported by ayahs, we cannot attract the best. The addition of breakfast to the free lunch was necessary, as most children come hungry to school, thus diminishing their learning ability. 
Also, the NEP wants children educated in their mother tongue or regional language. But today’s generation is aspirational and wants their children to be educated in English. Nobody wants to go to government schools, even if they are free. Today, knowledge of English is essential to get a well-paying job. Each state and school will have to make a judicious choice of language.
Now, NEP is coming under the scrutiny of political parties, including members of the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA), who have raised doubts about the three-language formula. Some Opposition parties are considering raising the NEP-related issues at the parliamentary standing committee on human resource development (HRD) when it meets on 10 August as per schedule. While the agenda of the meeting is to discuss “Preparedness of School, Higher and Technical Education Sectors during COVID -19 pandemic", the ruling BharatiyaJanata Party (BJP) is taking no chances. Any move by Opposition parties to raise the NEP for discussion is now being challenged by some BJP leaders who say standing committees cannot take up policy decisions for scrutiny.
Among the parties that have raised questions about the NEP, the All India Anna DravidaMunnetraKazagham (AIADMK), which supports the Union government, has questioned the three-language policy. The NEP 2020 bats for early implementation of the three-language formula to promote multilingualism. “The three languages learned by children will be the choices of States, regions, and of course the students themselves, so long as at least two of the three languages are native to India," the policy document states.
The implementation of this policy is left to the states, as education is a concurrent subject. Let’s hope politics does not get the better of what is essential for our society.

Sikkim at a Glance

  • Area: 7096 Sq Kms
  • Capital: Gangtok
  • Altitude: 5,840 ft
  • Population: 6.10 Lakhs
  • Topography: Hilly terrain elevation from 600 to over 28,509 ft above sea level
  • Climate:
  • Summer: Min- 13°C - Max 21°C
  • Winter: Min- 0.48°C - Max 13°C
  • Rainfall: 325 cms per annum
  • Language Spoken: Nepali, Bhutia, Lepcha, Tibetan, English, Hindi