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India doesn’t need new education policy, but correct diagnosis of problems: Ex-IAS officer

The new Narendra Modi government must take forward the initiatives that were launched in the last three years to their logical conclusion.

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In less than a week since Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s cabinet took charge, the draft National Education Policy has already run into controversy over a clause of ‘mandatory Hindi lessons’ for non-Hindi speaking states.

Education has often been a victim of politicisation, and has never got due importance as a policy. The consequences are there for everyone to see.

What first Modi govt did

The previous Narendra Modi-led NDA government did manage to take some initiatives, especially in the last three years, to address persisting problems. In February this year, it had announced that an integrated four-year Bachelor in Education (B.Ed) course would be launched in 2020.

Such a step has the potential to eliminate dubious and uncertified teacher training colleges, encouraging only those who are keen to pursue teaching as a profession.

The first Modi government also successfully moved an amendment to the Right to Education Act, giving no less than 11 lakh teachers time till 2019 to acquire the prescribed minimum qualification.

Also read: Rahul Gandhi’s interest-free education loan can’t help much if banks are student-unfriendly

A portal called ‘DIKSHA’ was launched in 2016 to provide scientific training to teachers. Similarly, to facilitate better coordination between Centre, states and funding agencies, ‘Shaala Sarathi’ portal was launched in 2017.

To do away with segmented approach to school education, a comprehensive centrally sponsored scheme, Samagra Shiksha, was launched, which replaced segmented schemes like Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan and Teacher Education. In a first, school education was treated holistically, from pre-school to Class 12.

Don’t need a new policy

The previous government spent a lot of time in formulating a new education policy, yet could not come up with one.

In fact, there is no need for a new education policy. Correct diagnosis and timely remedial measures are enough to ensure education gets its due in policy-making.

The new Narendra Modi government must get down to business to make things happen on the ground.

First, take forward the initiatives that were launched in the last three years to their logical conclusion. Second, launch fresh, target-specific initiatives in the sector.

Teachers must be at the centre of education reforms. The decision to launch an integrated B.Ed course must be implemented in letter and spirit so that fraudulent training colleges are forced to shut shop.

Centralisation of teacher recruitment process can control malpractices like salary disparity, preferential allocation of teachers, skewed quality checks. States like Tamil Nadu have done commendable work in this regard and can be role models for others.

Also read: Finland has found the most effective method to counter fake news – education

‘DIKSHA’ portal has enormous potential, but needs to be strengthened and leveraged for in-service training. It can be used for maintaining teaching-related data. Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh have used the portal effectively, and their methods can be replicated across the country.

Technology can be a game-changer. It can transform the delivery of education and make experiential learning an enjoyable experience. Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh are already doing that.

Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh have shown how technology can be used to ensure attendance of teachers. Central government can incentivise the use of technology in classrooms and encourage states to learn from each other.

One model can’t work for all

India is a diverse country and the same approach to education cannot work in all the states.

Each state requires a different set of intervention in terms of teachers, curriculum and pedagogy. Practical action plans need to be worked out for each state in consultation with all the stakeholders wherein what needs to be done, how it will be done, who will do it and by when it will be done are clearly outlined. The National Achievement Survey (NAS) done in November 2017 can come handy in preparing such plans. Implementation of these plans will need to be facilitated and monitored by the central government.

Also read: Ex-IAS officer’s take on 6 key economic challenges new Modi govt faces

Encouragement provided to the NGOs has had the desired impact over the last few years. This partnership has increased the reach of education to remote corners of the country, and must be nurtured.

A number of other issues related to curriculum, vocational training, educating the girl child, enrolment of children with special needs, and school dropout rate need to be addressed. There is a need for greater emphasis on value-based education and the ridiculous marking system should be corrected.

The steps taken by the Centre in the last few years have given us hope that school education can be transformed. The new Modi government must get its act together and prioritise education.

The author is a retired civil servant and former secretary in the government of India. Views are personal.

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  1. I will surely say it as Hindi Imposition.

    Reason: when Hindi states have given chance to learn any language as third language, Non Hindi states are asked to learn Hindi(regional language, English and Hindi). Why non Hindi states aren’t given chances for choosing any language, but Hindi.

    To Live in this competitive world, English is essential, not Hindi. If I learn Hindi, I may roam India. But with English, I can roam the world, including India

  2. The criticism of New Education Policy 2019 has been trivialized by Hindi debate. Dr Kasturirangan has skirted the real, shall we say “foundational” issues constricting the growth of a robust school system capable of delivering the outcomes he desires. There is a crying need to revisit the TSR Subramaniam lead Education Policy/Report of 2016. The Political/bureaucratic hold over the management and development of school system needs to loosened-substantially.
    For starters, may I suggest that first 5+3 stages devised by Dr Kasturirangan be uniform across ALL schools in the country to deliver the “foundational literacy and numeracy”? And set up only such schools all over the country -public and private; with a target of 110% seats?

    Await the New Education Policy 2020, 2021, 2022……

  3. 4 years B.Ed is the dumbest suggestion one can have to improve education. More govt, high turbulence

  4. Pratham maps learning outcomes in government schools each year. The findings are dismal, and growing worse each year. One has never understood this strange fascination for having a “ policy “ on each subject. Perhaps that is because we have so many ministries that need to justify their existence. What should a “ policy “ on civil aviation achieve, beyond making air travel increasingly affordable, safe and punctual. 2. As far as education is concerned, the schools run by the BMC are closing down. There is no reason why primary – or even secondary / higher – education should be largely dominated by the government. Let private schools flourish, with light regulation, meant to ensure continuing improvements in quality. Poor families should be supported by cash vouchers. 3. Keep ideology away from education. It will wreck any chances India has of joining the First World.

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