The National Policy on Education was framed in 1986 and modified in 1992. Since then, several changes have taken place in the country’s demography and social fabric that calls for a revision of the existing policy.
The Government of India intends to bring out a revised and improvised version of National Education Policy to addressthe changing dynamics of the population’s requirement concerning quality education, innovation and research.
This year, for the first time, the Government has initiateda grassroot-level consultative process, which has enabled the Ministry of Human Resources Development to reach out to individuals across the country through over 2.75 lakh direct consultations while also inviting inputs from citizens online.
While the first draft of the revisedpolicy has taken shape, here are somethoughts on the newly-drafted policy and its major initiatives:
1. It is incredibly overwhelming to see an emphasis on Early Childhood Care and Education (3 to 8 years) in the draft as well as the continuation of education until 18 years of age by bringing extension in the RTE Act (3 to 18 years). Save the Children had been advocating for this extension with evidence through its research and programming on Early Childhood Care and Education. Recently, in 2018, Save the Children’s research-based advocacy on increasing investments in the early years of learning was also acknowledged by the NITI Aayog. The same concept is now being implemented in three states in selected aspirational districts.
2. The draft also recognizes the need for home language/mother tongue as medium of instruction in the early years and if possible to continue with the same. This will help improve both retention and learning outcomes.
3. For combating other issues, such as India’s burden of Child Marriage and Child Labour, there is a pressing need for convergence with Ministry of Labour to strengthen child protection structures at all levels – especially at the community level. The draft discusses the need for convergence with Ministry of Women and Child Development (MWCD)and MoHFW (Ministry of Health and Welfare) , butand other ministries such as Skill Development andLabour& Employment also need to be brought into the picture to devise better Child Protection structures.
4. The policy addresses learning crisis as a national issue and calls for support and engagement from communities (retired officials, volunteers) and families, particularly women. Theseneed to be taken into consideration in a more realistic manner, given a significant percentage of children are first-generation learners, and the culture of volunteerism in India is yet to be nurtured.
4. Further, in terms of governance, School Management Committees have been discussed, but Village Education Committees that can make it a priority at the local, Self-Governence level need to be givenimportance. Similarly, strengthening Urban Governance for urban poor and children in street situations needs more space in the Policy.
5. Most importantly, the draft recommends an increase in budget to serve the following purposes – building new school complexes, ensuring an adequate strength of teachers and educators for early education, planning capacities to design the new learning material, additional teachers to comply with three-language formula, trainers/teachers for arts, music, physical knowledge, communication skills, vocational skills etc. into curriculum.
Although all the pointers discussed above are essential, they will be rendered inadequate without qualified teachers, new ways of assessments and strengthened governance. An accurate budget estimate is required to translate the policy into action.