New Education Policy 2020: Grass root-level reality in Sikkim, a student’s perspective
In this article I will highlight the background of Right to Education, the growth of Education Policy in Indian history, background of Concurrent List, the new National Education Policy 2020 in terms of school and higher education.
In the end, I have tried to bring in the current education system of Sikkim which exists in grass root level, this will also show us the darker side of the education system.
The Right to Education (RTE) has been recognized as Human Right in a number of International conventions. The Constitution (Eighty-sixth Amendment) Act, 2002 inserted Article 21-A in the constitution of India to provide free and compulsory education of all children in the age group of six to fourteen years as a Fundamental Right in such a manner as the State may, by law, determine. The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009, which represents the consequential legislation envisaged under Article 21-A, which means that every child has a right to full time elementary education of satisfactory and equitable quality in a formal school which satisfies certain essential norms and standards.
Article 21-A and the RTE Act came into effect on 1st April 2010. The title of the RTI Act incorporates the words ‘free and compulsory’. ‘Free Education’ means that no child, other than a child who has been admitted by his or her parents to a school which is not supported by the appropriate Government, shall be liable to pay fee from pursuing and completing elementary education. ‘Compulsory Education’ casts an obligation on the appropriate Government and local authorities to provide and ensure admission, attendance and completion of elementary education by all the children in the 6-14 age group.
A new National Education Policy (NEP) usually comes every few decades in India. India has had three to this date. The first National Policy on Education (NPE) came in 1968 under Indira Gandhi, the second one came in 1986 under Rajiv Gandhi. The National Policy on Education (NPE) of 1986 was revised in 1992 under Prime Ministership of P V Narasimha Rao. The third is the new NEP2020 released 29th July 2020 (Wednesday) under the Prime Ministership of Narendra Modi as informed by the MHRD minister Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ after almost 34 years (1986) since last NEP, as informed through an official video press release at Press Information Bureau, National Media Centre.
This is not a legal or constitutional document; this is an overall vision or fundamental principles laid down by the government. In 2019 a report was made by a committee of almost 480 pages, after summarizing every aspects of the report a final draft was prepared of almost 60 pages which was proposed as NEP2020.
The legislative section is divided into three lists; Union List, State List and Concurrent List. The Concurrent List or List-III (Seventh Schedule) is a list of almost 52 items, though the last item is numbered 47) given in the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution of India. It includes the power to be considered by both the Union and State Government. In item number 25 of the Concurrent list it is mentioned that, “Education, including technical education, medical education and universities, subject to the provisions of entries 63, 64, 65 and 66 of Union List or List-I; vocational and technical training of labour”.
This means NEP2020 falls under the purview of Concurrent List, which implies a thorough discussion and consultation with all State should have been initiated, mandatorily, which was done partially. To cover these loopholes the committee said that they have initiated wide range of consultation process.
They claimed to have approached 2.5 lakhs Gram Panchayat, 6000 blocks, 6000 ULBs, 676 District also a draft of NEP 2019 summary was widely spread in 22 languages/audio books. They also claimed a Special Meeting of CABE (21.09.2019) and Parliamentary Standing Committee on HRD took place on 07.11.2019 for the consultation process. Adding to this, the committee claims that they had dialogue with MPs of AP, Kerala, Telangana, TN, Puducherry, Karnataka and Odisha, this means that roughly Southern part of India was consulted.
But what about other regions? Why the North-Eastern part of India was excluded? Is this a proper mechanism?
The NEP2020, Committee chaired by Dr K Kasturirangan, has 27 major highlights or reforms, 10 out of 27 items focuses on School Education; 10 out of 27 items focuses on Higher Education and remaining 7 items are common to both which includes online education and technology.
In School Education, in the year 1986 the concept of Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) was initiated. According to the NEP2020 there will be universalization of Early Childhood Care Education (ECCE), ECCE curriculum will be devised by National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT).
Those students studying in between 3-6 years of age, studying in pre-school or anganwadi, will be continued but the curriculum will be activity and play based. Those students in between 6-9 years of age to focus on their basic literacy and basic numeracy, a National Mission on Foundational Literacy and Numeracy will be established.
The main objective of this mission will be to build a basic foundation on literacy and numeracy for a student till he/she achieves 9 years of age (till Class III).
Currently, in School Education we have 10+2 structure, but NEP2020 bring in 5+3+3+4 (15 years) curricular and pedagogical structure.
In a significant shift from the 1986 policy, which pushed for a 10+2 structure of school education, the new NEP2020 pitches for a 5+3+3+4 design corresponding to the age groups 3-8 years (foundational stage), 8-11 years (preparatory), 11-14 years (middle) and 14-18 years (secondary).
According to this structure till eight years a student will achieve the basic foundation through experience-based and activity-based learning (5+3). From Class VI to Class VIII (3), subjects will be introduced and explored, the approach will be multidisciplinary.
From Class IX to Class XII (4), there will be no streams. A Science student will be allowed to take subjects related to Arts or Commerce background and vice versa. Class VI onwards the students will be taught coding, to increase their mathematical and computational thinking.
The separation which exists today will be removed. Talented kids (almost 3% out of 100%), Girl Child, students with disability are also focused. The curriculum will be reduced, this will impart more time for the student to think about scientific temperament.
Vocational class will be introduced from Class VI, internship will also be provided along with it. NEP2020 introduces new National Curriculum Framework for ECE, School, Teachers and Adult Education. The board exams will be low stakes based on the practical knowledge and application-based questions.
The board exams will be classified into two categories, one objective and descriptive. Medium of Instruction till at least Class V will be in regional language. Now this particular initiative has topped in the list of criticism. Critically writing, inter-state migration of student will be hampered by this particular initiative. A student from Southern part of India will have to be confined in his particular region, where he/she will have the flavor of regional language. What about people in transferable jobs or children of multilingual parents? This is the main drawback when it comes to regional language. The report card format will be different, this report card will have their past history.
To track the learning outcomes in literacy and numeracy, a totally new initiative, National Assessment Center - Performance Assessment Review and Analysis of Knowledge for Holistic development (PARAKH), has been included in NEP2020. According to NEP2020, National Testing Agency (NTA) will offer a Common Entrance Examination in every College and University during the time of admission. This particular initiative will not be mandatory. A standard will be created, NCERT and NCTE combined, to provide the role expectation of teacher and the benchmark for teachers which will be known to us as National Professional Standards for Teachers (NPST), which will be implemented nationwide. For public oversight and accountability schools will have transparent self-disclosure system in online, for Private as well as Government Schools. By 2030, universalization from ECCE to Secondary Education can be achieved as promised by NEP2020, this aligns with Sustainable Development Goals. Teachers will be prepared for assessment reforms by 2023.
In Higher Education, the NEP2020 focuses in Holistic and Multidisciplinary Education by providing flexibility of subjects and multiple entry/exit option for the students. The concept of credit system has been introduced, this means, if a student drops out after completing 1st year and if his/her credit score is enough to get admission in 2nd year, then the student can get an opportunity to pursue 2nd year even after dropping out from 1st year. The concept of major and minor will assist any students to pursue their dream subject which was not possible earlier. In India there are almost 45,000 existing colleges which are affiliated under many universities.
To tackle this problem the notion of graded autonomy has been initiated in NEP2020. This implies that based on the accreditation of college A+, A, B, etc., will be given graded autonomy in Academic, Administrative and Financial aspects. Those having high grades as compared to low grades, they will be given more autonomy. This concept might be the source for inferiority complex among many HEIs. In order to get best teaching faculties National Mission on Mentoring has been initiated.
Till date, we have University Grants Commission (UGC), All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) and National Council for Teacher Education (NCTE) as our regulatory bodies for Higher Education. According to NEP2020, there will be “single regulator” for Higher Education who will look after all the disciplines, excluding Legal and Medical studies. The “single regulator” is based on “online self-disclosure” transparent system.
Initially, for any motive UGC, AICTE and NCTE used to send inspection team for collecting authentic information but according to NEP2020 a self-disclosure system will be initiated. In India many Central Universities, State Universities and standalone institutions have their own distinct norms, but NEP2020 modifies this concept. It says that for quality reasons the norms will now be same and not as per the ownership, weather it is deemed universities, KVs or standalone institutes.
On the basis broad regulatory framework, a cap shall be imposed for ‘fee’. NEP2020 claims for Private Philanthropic Partnership, which implies that International HEIs will be set up in India. We understand that the quality might improve as our competition will be on international level. But the question remains whether a student suffering from financial difficulties can pursue education in those international institutions. Thus, Private Philanthropic Partnership can only benefit those having big pockets full of treasury rather than underprivileged ones. Currently India invests around 4.43% of GDP in the field of Education, NEP2020 claims to invest 6% of GDP from now on. This initiative totally depends on the transparency and dedication of the authority. Indian policies have always been different in paper and ground reality.
MPhil degree has been phased out according to NEP2020. To cater the needs of research, innovation and patent related with scholars, National Research Foundation (NRF) will finance the major projects inside India, in the field of Science and Social Science.
The NEP2020 promotes technology in the field of Education (Education Planning, Teaching, Learning, Assessment, Administration and Management, Regulation and PWD student) but it is still not clear how will those underprivileged students without any device be benefitted by this initiative.
This policy focuses on Literature and Scientific Vocabulary of Indian Languages, by promoting use of regional language and promoting research on Languages.
In almost eight languages e-course or e-content will be provided, use of virtual laboratories has also been focused. National Educational Technology Forum (NETF) has been initiated to connect minds from Private Sector, Government Sector, Educationist and Technologist, but this way we are increasing the bureaucracy rather than connecting people from different sectors.
The NEP2020 seems to provide only a broad direction and it may not be mandatory to follow. As mentioned earlier, since education is in Concurrent list or List-III, which implies that both Central and the State Governments can make laws on it. The major reforms mentioned above can only be implemented collaboratively by the Central and State Governments. This will not happen immediately; sufficient funding plays a crucial role in here. The 1968 NPE was hamstrung by a shortage of funds. On top of that this is not the first time that the Indian Government has brought in these initiatives. In 1986, 1992 and 2015 also the government brought in the concept of skill education, make education affordable for almost everyone, flexible education system which was technology driven, trained teachers and also appointed a Nodal Officer for each school to examine the education quality.
But all these could not be achieved till the end, so NEP2020 can also be an uncertain initiative. NEP2020 seems to bring in “Centralization” of Education system which cannot always be in favor of the commons. The advantages of Private Philanthropic Partnership seem to bring in high fees along with it, thus the majority of the students may not be able to avail for Education in such institutes.
Sikkim, a peaceful state located in the Northeast belt, landlocked by different countries has its own history. We do have elected members of legislative assembly but the administrative level is dominated by white collar “Bureaucrats”. The policy printed on white paper differs from its implementation is grass root level, in almost all policy.
In Sikkim, there are numerous Schools for students to educate themselves up to Class XII. There are Sikkim Government Colleges (SGC) and many Private Institutes where a student can pursue under graduation (UG) courses in diverse field like, medical, degree course, engineering, etc., after completing School Education. But we student fraternity of Sikkim know the reality which exists in grassroot level.
Many Government Colleges are running in rented building, like Mangshila Arts College, North Sikkim, despite having land for construction. Colleges like Sikkim Government College Namchi has no hostel and laboratories facilities, this means the quality of education is degraded. NBBDC Tadong has UG as well as PG in five departments.
Those students pursuing PG have been kept in dark since its initiation, students do not have proper faculties (UG teachers are taking PG classes) and laboratory facilities are poor.
How will they gain practical knowledge? The students do not get the subject according to their will, instead a student from Science background has to settle themselves in either Arts or Commerce, I am not discriminating but writing the truth. Sikkim has a Central University known to us as, Sikkim University founded in the year 2007. This Central university provides platform for Masters (PG), MPhil and PhD programmes in almost 32 departments.
But the sad part is a student has no idea about this till they reach Sikkim University.
SGCs should have implemented all these departments in UG, which would broaden the minds of students. Departments like Microbiology, Horticulture, Geology, etc., should be mandatorily be introduced in SGCs so that after completing UG a student would have opted for PG in the same discipline. The admission process in SGCs is done online, this brings in a major problem.
A student does not get a subject of their choice, this will demotivate them mentally and their academic performance is ruined. SGCs have had BA Physical Education (Hons) degree but the course in itself should have been Bachelors in Physical Education (B. Ped) which is a professional course. This BPED is not available in Sikkim, if anyone wishes to pursue this course has to travel out of state. Despite of having these many Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) but still we lack many courses in Sikkim, which is a major drawback for a student.
In SGCs, we have Bachelors in Vocational (BVOC) Courses, like Pharmaceutical Chemistry, Software Development, etc., but there is no future plan for those students who pursue these courses in Sikkim. A student after completing BVOC will only have results in their hand. Sikkim has many private pharmaceutical companies; the government of Sikkim could have at least provided placement for those coming for Vocational background within the purview of State Government.
In Sikkim we also have a law college for legal studies, but I fear they are not recognized by Bar Council of India (BCI), which means the validity of their degree has a question mark. In Sikkim we also have a skeleton of Sikkim State University (Nepali and Sanskrit Department) without any regular staffs (excluding the Vice Chancellor, SSU), the students suffered in every situation.
The government of Sikkim has neglected the basic foundation of Sikkim State University from the initial stage. In a state, a State University should be available mandatorily as all the students do not get opportunity in Central University or everyone is not financially strong to study in Private University with huge fee structure. The Government does change but the Education system has never changed inside Sikkim.
The youth population of Sikkim has always been under the shadow of dark clouds. Even if NEP2020 is implemented in Sikkim it will take decades for implementation. We do not know what future holds, but the current scenario of education system will itself demotivate those students up on whom their family members are having their total faith.
(Nishant Chettri is general secretary, Sikkim University Students’ Association, Sikkim University. Views expressed are personal)