G. Balasubramanian | Chairperson, Board of Advisors, ICSL | Editor-in-Chief, The Progressive School
The New Education Policy (draft) proposed by a committee constituted by the Government of India with Prof. K. Kasturirangan, former Chairman of the ISRO, as its Chairman has been put to public debate. Fifty long years after Kothari Commission report (1968) and after the NEP 1986, this document puts across certain recommendations which are appear to be responses to the dynamics of change that impact the way we learn and the way we run the learning organizations. It must be acknowledged that the commission appears to have examined several explosive issues as well as the administrative ills and inadequacies that haunt the education system and its ethical edifice. In this article, I intend to focus only on its recommendation relating to the School systems. Others would be considered in subsequent articles.
Some of the recommendations of the commission are well thought of, keeping in view the concurrency of the subject and the challenges of co-existence between the Central and the State forces that deal with them. Though the recommendations have been largely kept in mind, the superiority of the national demands over the states, it has certainly not ignored the local interests. Nevertheless, some of the recommendations appear to be demolishing the citadels of Power that commanded the lobbies of educational institutions with their authority and the mandate for “Inspection Raj”- be it in the field of school education or higher education. One has to keenly watch how these power centres who viewed the subject of educational administration from the chambers built in their ivory towers would respond and react is anybody’s guess, as no one would like to lose the ‘power’ and the ‘revenues’ gravitated by these powers.
To be precise, some of the following suggestions call for close watch with respect to the reactions they would get from the market place.
The establishment of Rashtriya Shiksha Ayog (National Education Commission) as the supreme body for all educational policies with a specific recommendation that it may be headed by a person at the level of the Prime Minister. Further, the establishment of State Shiksha Ayogs reporting to the RSA and following its guidelines.
The restructuring of the pattern of education from 10 + 2 to 5 + 3 + 3 + 4 which does not appear to any marginal adjustment of the educational hierarchy but is associated with an entire gamut of inputs that impact the thought architecture of their relevance, role and implementation. This also calls for a re-engineering of the curricular architecture and the pedagogical methods in delivering and managing education. Though one may not see any negative responses, the time and level of preparation required to move to new portals is indeed a challenge.
The elimination of the idea of “Higher secondary” and “Junior college” as the culmination of a schooling process is certainly likely to challenge both the eco-systems and the ego-centricity of those who run institutions using such brands. Making the four-year schooling process as ‘secondary’ would require a cultural shift in the administration of these institutions and several businesses carried out at these levels for preparing the learners for their onward journeys.
The redesign of the Boards of Education as “Boards of Assessment’ depriving them of several functions like affiliation, accreditation, regulation and others is like asking someone to vacate and handover 90 percent of the place they have occupied for several decades. This shift is very bold but needs to be handled with the sensitivity it needs. To add, their role and occupancy in conduct examinations continuously and periodically with several refocused themes to relieve the pain of rote-learning, requires a large-scale preparation both in their thought leadership and in preparing human resources who would understand and facilitate such processes.
The suggestion to give a better and a holistic meaning to the word “Curriculum” by removing the ‘co-curricular’ and ‘extra-curricular’ activities and making the curriculum more synergetic and synthetic, is proof enough to a forward and wishful thinking. Neuro-cognitive researches have always indicated that learning is a holistic process and is not a piece-meal activity. Integrated, inclusive and multi-disciplinary approach to learning and the curricular architecture is indeed the foundation to creative, constructivist thinking in a connected world. The efforts required to put this process in place is indeed mind-boggling, but if the system engages to give thrust in this direction, I think the future generation of learners would be fortunate.
The commission has acknowledged in no uncertain language the evils that seem to be haunting the teacher empowerment including the award of teacher degrees, teacher deployments, the poor quality of the inputs that go into developing the human resources, their deployment to non-teaching engagements and several others. Though it has called for a fresh thinking in the recruitment drives for teachers, it has suggested shifting the teacher training programs to multi-disciplinary colleges and universities from a host of private institutions which seem to playing fake games in the conduct and award of such degrees. Indeed, it would be a step in the right direction. Further, the curriculum and method of teacher development courses require updates relevant to the modern schooling systems
The proposal to have a ‘two semesters’ approach to the secondary curriculum with examinations at each stage, however giving opportunities for flexibility in the choice and study of subjects is a positive Moe to shift the learners from the rat-race competition and the stress-prone dynamics of learning. However, it has to be articulated with technology enabled transparent systems in place.
The idea of “School Complex” suggested by the commission is towards facilitating and optimising the resources of the governance to ensure their maximum utility and reach. While in terms its ideals it is commendable, the practicalities associated with its organization, operation and accountability has to be closely examined so that the real benefits of such a system reach the consumer, and it does not remain as non-operative shared vision.
While the document has spelt in clear terms that its focus will be India-centric, and would encourage the understanding of heritage, legacy, culture and native life styles, it is equally important to have a global perspective. Any ‘myopic’ vision would be disastrous. The commission also states in clear terms the need to promote all Indian languages with a multilingualism, the political sensitivities in the issue of administering languages in schools has always been sensitive and needs to be handled with care.
There is adequate mention about digital literacy and taking the learners to the world of future. But somewhere there appears to be absence of clarity in putting things in their right perspective.
There are a large number of issues which one could pick up from this document which concern the future of the learning universe either directly or indirectly, but they need to be examined much more closely. Drafting an education policy for a country like India with its multi-lingual, multi-cultural spectrum is indeed a challenging task. The commission has reasonably done a convincing job. Yes, certainly it is not an old wine in a new bottle.