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Modi govt panel wants school fees regulated, Indian languages given prominence

The new policy, by a panel set up by the Modi govt in 2017, has also called for primary school education in the mother tongue and a four-year liberal arts degree.

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New Delhi: Primary school education in the mother tongue, an option to attempt board exams multiple times and better regulation of fees in private schools are some of the key suggestions in the National Education Policy (NEP), formulated by an expert committee set up by the Modi government in 2017.

The committee has submitted a draft policy to the Human Resource Development (HRD) ministry, which will be looked at by new HRD minister Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’.

Some of the other important suggestions in the NEP, accessed by ThePrint, include the introduction of a four-year bachelors degree in liberal arts and the creation of a new apex educational body, the Rashtriya Shiksha Aayog (RSA) or National Education Commission to be headed by the Prime Minister. The RSA will be responsible for developing, articulating, implementing, evaluating, and revising the “vision of education in the country” on a continuous and sustained basis.

The NEP has also recommended that the Right to Education (RTE) Act should cover complete school education, from pre-primary school level right up to Class 12. RTE covers classes 1 to 8 at present.

It also proposes to change the name of MHRD to Ministry of Education to bring the focus back on education and learning.

ThePrint highlights key suggestions that could become part of the new government’s education policy.

Class 10, Class 12 board exams

The NEP says students should be allowed to take a board examination in a given subject in whichever semester they take the corresponding class in school — that is whenever they feel most ready. It also calls for a policy to allow students to repeat subjects in the board examination if they feel they can study and do better.

Board examinations in each subject may replace the in-school final examinations for a semester or year-long courses, whenever possible, so as not to increase the examination load on students, it says. “All examinations such as board and entrance examinations will not be as ‘high stakes’,” if students are allowed “best of multiple (at least two) attempts”, it adds.

Fees in private schools

The policy says private schools may be free to set their fees but they shall not increase the amount (taken under any head) arbitrarily. It further says that a reasonable increase, which can stand public scrutiny, such as inflation-related, can be made.

Any substantial increase in the fees that cannot be anticipated or justified shall not be made, including under any ‘fees head’ such as ‘school development’ or an ‘infrastructure fund’, the policy says. The percentage fee increase, permissible based on inflation and other factors, will be decided by a new regulatory authority for schools, the State School Regulatory Authority (SSRA), for every three-year period.

Also read: Modi govt will finally announce New Education Policy by 31 May after 4-year delay

Financial support for students

The policy says that a National Scholarship Fund will be established, which will ensure that all students who require financial support to attend a public higher education institution will receive it — this could also cover stipends, boarding and lodging, and may not be limited to just a waiver of tuition fees.

The NEP says private higher education institutions will have to offer scholarships ranging from 50 per cent to the full 100 per cent for at least half of their students.

Flexible bachelor’s degree options

The proposal has stated that for ideal attributes of liberal education, institutions will offer a four-year Bachelor of Liberal Arts (BLA) or Bachelor of Liberal Education (BLE) degree (or BLA/BLE with research). The courses will include broad-based liberal education together with a rigorous specialisation in a field or fields.

The four-year Bachelor of Liberal Arts/Education will provide the full range of liberal education with a choice of majors and minors.

The three-year traditional B.A, B.Sc, as well as B.Voc degrees will continue for those institutions that wish to continue such programmes, but all Bachelor’s degrees will move towards taking a more comprehensive liberal education approach, the policy states.

Liberal education in higher education institutions

The policy stresses on liberal education as it points out that among the eminent graduates and scholars of the ancient universities of Takshila and Nalanda were the philosopher and economist Chanakya; the Sanskrit grammarian, mathematician, and discoverer of generative grammar, Panini; the leader and statesman Chandragupta Maurya; and the mathematician and astronomer, Aryabhata.

As such, the policy states, a “liberal education approach” will be the basis of undergraduate education in all fields and disciplines at the undergraduate level, including professional education.

The notion of ‘streaming’, where science, arts and vocational students are separated, based on their academic performance, majors, interests, or any other such criteria, will end. Courses across all subjects will be available for all students across majors.

Also read: The future is here, but our education systems are stuck in the past

Primary education in the mother tongue

The NEP has championed education in mother tongues, calling for local tongues to be the medium of instruction in the lower classes. “When possible, the medium of instruction, at least until Grade 5, but preferably till at least Grade 8, will be the home language/mother tongue/local language,” the document says. “Thereafter, the home/local language shall continue to be taught as a language wherever possible.”

In addition to this, the policy states that all students from pre-school and Class 1 onwards will be exposed to three or more languages with the aim of developing speaking proficiency and interaction, and the ability to recognise scripts and read basic text, in all three languages by Class 3.

“In terms of writing, students will begin writing primarily in the medium of instruction until Grade 3, after which writing with additional scripts will also be introduced gradually,” it adds.

The document also says that those interested in studying a foreign language will have to choose it as the fourth language and an elective.

English an elitist language’

Coming down heavily on the use and reliance of English language in India, the document states that “despite the rich, expressive and scientific nature of Indian languages, there has been an unfortunate trend in schools and society towards English as a medium of instruction and as a medium of conversation”.

It further states that since Independence, the economic elite of India has adopted English as their language and that only about 15 per cent of the country speaks it.

“Furthermore, the elite often use English (whether deliberately or inadvertently) as a test for entry into the elite class and for the jobs that they control: English is regularly used by the elite as a criterion to determine whether someone is “educated”, and perhaps most unfortunately of all, as a prerequisite for jobs — even in cases of jobs where knowledge of English is entirely irrelevant,” it states.

Incorporation of Indian knowledge systems into the curriculum

Indian contribution to knowledge — and the historical context that led to them — will be incorporated wherever relevant, into the existing school curriculum and textbooks, the document says. The topics will include Indian contribution to mathematics, astronomy, philosophy, psychology, yoga, architecture, medicine, as well as governance, polity, society, and conservation course on Indian knowledge systems

NCERT curriculum to be revised

The policy has called for a revision of NCERT textbooks.

“NCERT textbooks will be revised to first contain only the essential core material in each subject, keeping in mind a constructivist, discovery-based, analysis-based, engaging, and enjoyable style of learning in accordance with the revised National Curriculum Framework, 2020,” it adds.

Higher education

The policy envisages moving towards a higher educational system consisting of large, multi-disciplinary universities and colleges.

“The main thrust of this policy regarding higher education is the ending of the fragmentation of higher education by moving higher education into large multidisciplinary universities and colleges, each of which will aim to have upwards of 5,000 or more students,” it says.

It says that clear merit-based procedures for appointments of the board of governors (BoG), the chancellor, and the vice-chancellor of higher education institutions will ensure the elimination of external interference, including from the government.

It also states that there will be one regulator for all higher education, including professional education, from the current multiple watchdogs. In another important change, degree-granting powers, which at present are vested only with universities, will be extended to autonomous colleges that can also grant their own degrees.

Inviting foreign universities into India

Select universities (those from among the top 200 universities in the world) will be permitted to operate in India. A legislative framework facilitating such entry will be put in place, and such universities will have to follow all the regulatory, governance, and content norms applicable to Indian universities, the policy says.

Focus on language, literature, arts, sports, and music

All undergraduate programmes will have to have a special focus on language education, the policy says, adding that institutions will be encouraged and funded to offer several Indian languages, as well as some foreign languages.

“Students will be required to attain proficiency in discussing their major in at least one Indian language through an appropriate written project or presentation in that language,” the policy says. “Yoga shall form an integral part of such efforts as well. Institutions will be encouraged and funded to offer full-fledged programmes and courses in these areas.”

Further, universities seeking to become attractive destinations for foreign students will receive funds to develop and offer specially designed courses in Indian languages, arts, history, Ayurveda, yoga, among others.

Indian languages

All doctoral students will take a unit on communication in at least one Indian language other than English, as part of their course on teaching, “in order to develop the capacity to communicate their discipline/field in that language”, the policy says.

“This is considered important to write newspaper articles and conduct interviews in Indian languages, and to visit and speak in areas (e.g. at schools) about their subject where that language is prevalent,” it adds.

Rashtriya Shiksha Aayog

A new apex body, designated as the Rashtriya Shiksha Aayog or the National Education Commission, will be constituted for “developing, articulating, implementing, evaluating, and revising the vision of education in the country on a continuous and sustained basis”.

It will also create and oversee the institutional frameworks that will help achieve this vision, the policy states. The prime minister will be the RSA chairperson and will convene a meeting of the body at least once a year or as often as is deemed necessary, the policy says.

Ministry of Education

To bring the focus back on education and learning, the MHRD will be redesignated as the Ministry of Education (MoE).

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  1. Western countries are teaching Sanskrit/other Indian languages to their students and here we judge someone’s intelligence by checking if he/she can speak English like English peoples or not.

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