By M. Burhanuddin Qasmi
The New Education Policy (NEP) of India, 54 pages, are out for public now. To me it looks smart and appealing. It speaks about present needs and gives a holistic approach towards education. Keeping the emerging technology aspect in mind, the NEP talks about creativity and skill development in the students from the early stages.
The thrusts are on practical learning and the evaluation pattern is kept both subjective and objective from the school level. This will help students to score marks as per their original ability, rather than being habitual of theoretical parrot-learning or copy-pasting to score marks in board exams only as in the present system.
I have been talking for past few years that the exam pattern in our school education system has been not adequate to produce creative minds, rather it promotes parroting like a xerox machine, thus it needed to be changed. The NEP has partly addressed that concern.
5+3+3+4 structure of education is a new idea. It sounds good. It apparently doesn’t affect the age of the students, instead, the students have an advantage. At the age of 18, a student will pass Higher Secondary School, this has been same in the existing structure too – beginning the formal education at the age of 6 from standard one. However, the new one seems more inclusive – which brought value to the Middle School Stage in standard IX.
Only thing that struck my mind is the classification of the stages of education in the NEP. Education from Std. III to V cannot be a Preparatory Stage, as in the NEP, instead, it is part of formal schooling, thus, it should have been classified as Primary Stage. Similarly in the Foundation Stage, in the NEP, 5 years is too much time. Children 3-6 years of age should have been under Foundation Stage and Std. I and II should have been classified under Pre-primary Stage. This way the structure of new education system would have been – 3+2+3+3+4
(Foundation 3, Pre-primary 2, Primary 3, Middle 3, Secondary 4).
The eligibility of certificates during graduation level is an appealing move. This will add value to education and will encourage students to enroll even if they drop in between. At present, if a student is enrolled in the 3, 4 or 5 years graduation course and for any reason, if he or she fails in the final (year) examination of the course or drops after 1st or 2nd year (in some cases semesters), then the student will have to begin afresh from the 1st year (semester) and pass the final exam or his/her studies and time, following the 12th Std. is a mere waste. This is not the case in the NEP. The student can begin from where he or she left and may even get a certificate after one year or two of study following the Higher Secondary.
However, this is yet not quite clear, it needs more clarity. If the case is as I stated above then it is really a creative and appreciable move by the NEP.
I also find it appropriate to change the name of Ministry of Human Resources and
Development (MHRD) into Ministry of Education (MoE) which emphatically represents education in the centre stage. India being a country of diverse culture and huge population of 1.37 billions and not so advanced in education, should have a primary focus on education in all levels.
One more important aspect that is missing in the NEP is the consideration of the private madrasa education system. The NEP could incorporate private madrasa education under school education, while keeping them independent minority institutions as they are, following due evaluation in the Middle School Stage and Secondary Stage. This would surely give a massive literacy rate boosting in India without spending a single penny from the Nation’s treasury. Madrasas are providing standard schooling of primary and middle stages which are volunteering in education and helping to better our literacy ratio by all definitions of literacy in the world. Their students can read, write and understand more than one national and international languages, in addition to other subjects’ knowledge, and none of the madrasa graduate puts a thumb-mark in place of his signature. Millions of Indians are lettered and learned by all standard terms, without putting any financial burden over any Government. This fact could have been acknowledged by the ‘Ministry of Education’ in the NEP.
Planning is a first step for anything, which is done. However, contents development for all stages of education under NEP will be a challenging and mammoth task and thereafter smooth and honest implementation of the same will be the real faced of the present BJP-led Government. The latter two steps are yet to land on the surface. Without looking at the actual contents of the schooling, it will be too early to make an honest argument. The intention of the present Government, posturing and boasting from certain group of right wingers over so-called cultural aspects in our schools and tempering with the genuine history of modern India are the concerns that one cannot simply appreciate the NEP but remain skeptical about its implementation and outcome. Nevertheless, an honest review of the NEP doesn’t invite much negative criticism. Instead, it demands wait and watch till the class contents of the New Education Policy are available for introspections.
The author, M. Burhanuddin Qasmi, is a Mumbai based scholar and Director of Markazul Ma’arif Education and Research Center (MMERC). He is an alumnus of Darul Uloom Deoband.