The new National Education Policy (NEP), which was approved by the Union Cabinet on Wednesday, evoked mixed reactions from academicians as well as political leaders. While some welcomed the move, saying that it will make education more holistic, others argued that it would pave the way for privatisation.
The NEP brings about sweeping reforms in the education sector including reduction of curriculum to core concepts, replacement of 10+2 structure of school curricula with a 5+3+3+4 structure and medium of instruction up to Class 5 in mother tongue or regional language.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that the NEP is a long due and much-awaited reform in the education sector which will transform millions of lives in the times to come.
In a series of tweets, he said the New Education Policy is based on the pillars of "access, equity, quality, affordability and accountability".
NEP 2020 has provisions to set up a Gender Inclusion Fund and also Special Education Zones. These will specially focus on making education more inclusive. NEP 2020 would improve the education infrastructure and opportunities for persons with disabilities.
" Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) July 29, 2020
Referring to the consultation process before the policy was brought before the Union Cabinet, the prime minister said framing of NEP 2020 will be remembered as a shining example of participative governance.
Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) VC M Jagadesh Kumar said the Cabinet nod to the NEP was a positive step forward.
"NEP is the outcome of an extensive, highly participatory and inclusive consultation process. NEP aims at meeting the existing challenges in education and build the foundation of India''s promising future.We look forward to its implementation," he told PTI.
However, the claims of the process being consultative were contested by some, including the CPI (M), which termed the NEP as a "unilateral drive to destroy Indian education", alleging that the Parliament has been completely bypassed in the process of forming the policy.
"The Polit Bureau of the CPI(M) strongly denounces the Union Cabinet decision to unilaterally impose a New Education Policy and rename the Ministry of Human Resource Development," the CPI(M) said in a statement.
"Education is in the Concurrent List in our Constitution. It is a gross violation by the Central Government to impose a New Education Policy unilaterally bypassing all the objections and opposition recorded by various state governments," it said, while demanding a "thorough discussion" in the Parliament before the implementation of the policy.
"This unilateral drive is to destroy the Indian education system with a policy that seeks greater centralisation, communalisation and commercialisation of Indian education. The Polit Bureau of the CPI(M) strongly protests against this move by the BJP Central government," it added.
Union Home minister Amit Shah, however, said that India was in dire need of "such a futuristic policy" and said that it will contribute to the overall development of children across the country.
Objective of National Education Policy 2020 is to bring in a huge transformational change in the Indian Education system through holistic and multidisciplinary approaches. Focus on different aspects will lead to the overall development of the children across the country. #NEP2020
" Amit Shah (@AmitShah) July 29, 2020
BJP president JP Nadda said that the much-awaited reforms and regulatory framework cater to the needs of a "New India".
"Formulated after wide consultations, NEP 2020 ensures early child care and education, equity to all learners and a robust teacher recruitment apart from fostering quality research," he said.
Formed HRD minister Smriti Irani also hailed the move as transformative.
Grateful to PM @narendramodi Ji & Cabinet for approving National Education Policy 2020 - a transformative restructuring of Education in India encompassing every stage of learning from early education to higher education with greater emphasis on technology & digitisation. #NEP2020
" Smriti Z Irani (@smritiirani) July 29, 2020
Telugu Desam Party (TDP) president N Chandrababu Naidu welcomed the decision, stating that it would boost the education sector. He also said that the emphasis on education in the mother tongue would enhance critical thinking abilities among children.
The policy emphasizes mother tongue/local language/regional language as the medium of instruction until Grade 5 which is certainly a welcome move. This is crucial for children to develop critical thinking & literacy skills leading to better academic performance. (2/2)
" N Chandrababu Naidu #StayHomeSaveLives (@ncbn) July 29, 2020
The move was also welcomed by the Confederation of Industries, which said that it was glad to note that its recommendations had been accepted by the government.
"CII looks forward to working closely with the Ministry of Education on various action points which were discussed at the CII Education Summit and which have become part of a new system with the approval of the NEP today," it said.
A panel led by former Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) chief K Kasturirangan had submitted the draft of the new education policy to Union Human Resource Development Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal when he took charge last year.
The draft was then put in public domain to seek feedback from various stakeholders and over two lakh suggestions were received by the HRD Ministry about the same.
CPM leader Sitaram Yechury, however, alleged that none of the suggestions sent by academicians had been taken into consideration.
The draft of New Education Policy was put out in the public domain seeking suggestions from all stakeholders, mainly the academia, the teaching community and the students. In addition, many intellectuals had also sent in their observations. None of these have been considered. https://t.co/xEyQlZyWvi
" Sitaram Yechury (@SitaramYechury) July 29, 2020
CPM affiliated Students Federation of India (SFI) also raised objections to the NEP.
First they came with UGC guidelines, now without any consideration and discussion they are implementing highly problematic National Education policy. Let's get United and raise our voice. #RejectNEP pic.twitter.com/BbTYWI7nEF
" SFI (@SFI_CEC) July 29, 2020
The All India Students Association (AISA) also accused the Centre on not taking into consideration issues raised by stakeholders and said that the agenda of privatisation was being pursued by the government.
The pandemic crisis turned into opportunity to push for privatisation in education! Behind the veil of inclusion, there is nothing but provisions for exclusion!
" AISA (@AISA_tweets) July 29, 2020
Delhi University's Academics for Action and Development (AAD), a teachers' body, called the NEP a policy of "tall ends with little means''.
Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader and Delhi deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia said that the party would comment after studying the new policy, but indicated that the party was expecting a "roadmap" for the implementation of the reforms listed.
"National Education policy after so many years of wait is welcome step. But as I have said earlier, an education policy cannot be a compilation of all wishful thinking about education. It's important to say 'what we'll do' but it's more important to tell 'how we'll do that'," Sisodia tweeted on Wednesday.
Other provisions of the NEP include extension of the Right to Education (RTE) Act to to pre-primary and secondary levels, a single regulator for higher education institutions, multiple entry and exit options in degree courses, discontinuation of MPhil programmes.
Under the NEP, Sanskrit will be will be offered at all levels of school and higher education.
Former Delhi University vice-chancellor Dinesh Singh, who also reviewed the draft document in an official capacity, said the policy lays down the road map pretty nicely. "The policy has a good vision for school education, which is the foundation for higher education," he said.
"They have talked about experiential learning which is so useful. Unless you improve school education, you cannot improve higher education. The concept of transciplinarity, hands on experience, breaking down of barriers between subjects and connecting them to society are some of the key points in the policy. This is the best chance of universities to create curricula around the challenges of society," news agency PTI quoted him as saying.
Jamia Millia Islamia vice-chancellor Najma Akhtar also lauded the NEO, calling it"groundbreaking". Higher education in India will now be holistic and multi-disciplinary with a shared focus on Science, Arts and Humanities, PTI quoted her as saying.
"A single regulator for all higher educational institutions is a great idea as it will bring coherence of approach and purpose. It will realise the vision of education in India," she added.
However, Delhi University professor Naveen Gaur said that the policy has just "jazzier things" to say.
"Even though it says that the Higher Education Commission of India will be a single regulator, it will have four verticals, which means that one vertical will be responsible for policy formulation and another for funding which is dangerous," he said.
He also termed as dangerous the entry of foreign universities in India, without any regulations, which he said the policy enabled. The professor argued that the policy will take away the autonomy of institutions rather than making them more autonomous.
Jamia Teachers' Association secretary Majid Jamil questioned the timing of the policy changes.
"At a time when there is coronavirus pandemic, what was the need to hurry? The policy talks about online learning and virtual labs but there is no substitute to face-to-face learning. It also talks about four-year undergraduate programme, something which was implemented in Delhi University, but was met with opposition and was subsequently withdrawn. We do not agree with it," Jamil added.
With inputs from agencies