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the new education policy ---- comments

the new education policy ---- comments

let me start with some comments on the new education policy obtained from letters to editor in some newspapers.

sankara rao writes “it is hoped that the funds reach the many schools across the country which do not have even a toilet or a roof”

dhananjayan says, “ the teaching in mother tongue will enable children to value their regional language more. it will help them develop an interest in regional literature”.

sunil chopra opines, “english is the language required for the jobs and opportunities the world over, so it should be made compulsory for all students”.

balvinder is of the opinion that “it will be difficult for children to suddenly switch over their medium of instruction after class 5 especially when they have to grasp difficult concepts in subjects like science and history”.

viishal dabas says, “india is a land of thousands of languages, so what happens, for instance, to the children of the parents with transferable job. second, there is emphasis on digitisation but not everyone enjoys access to digital facilities”.

there, in a nutshell, you have the hurdles facing the new education policy.

they say – hell is paved with good intentions. this will apply here. there are good points and bad points in the new education policy. difficulties will be put in the way of implementing good points. the negative points will be used to sabotage the entire policy. already you can hear the political overtones. marxist party leaders have said, “attempts to centralise, communalise and commercialise the education”. the secular press sounds warning by saying “saffron outfits celebrate focus on indian culture”.

another danger lurks on the side, backed by vested interests. the papers say kendriya vidyalaya sanghatan is unlikely to follow the policy regarding languages. the minority institutions will be exempted from the operation of the policy just as they have been released from obligations under the right to education act. the top residential schools like doon college,sanover, will likewise be exempt. so it will leave government schools and the private finance starved schools to bear the burden of new education policy.

regarding negative points, the most worrying thing is extending the right to education act to begin at age 3. this will require merging of anganwadis with the schools. education ministry and the teachers will be in charge. the idea behind starting anganwadies was nutrition aspect of bringing up children. they also serve expecting ladies and lactating mothers. with the emphasis on education (ncert will draw up the syllabus, with a new foundational literacy and numeracy mission), the nutrition aspect will suffer and, more likely, suffocated.

there is a proposal to make examination for class 10 and 12 simpler and easier. this year cbse reported that in tenth class 91.46 percent of students passed. over 9.84 percent examinees got over 90 % of marks. in twelfth class exams 88.78 percent of students passed. a total of 1,57,934 students have scored more than 90% marks. Of these, 38,686 students have secured above 95%. it is a matter of concern that if the examination is made easier and simpler, how high this percentage will go. will it not be a farce rather than an examination?

but the proposals to allow students to have another chance to improve marks is welcome. in fact why limit it to one chance. let the student have multiple chances till the time he has appears in the next public examination (class 12 for class 10; graduation for class 12)

the real mischief lies in making two types of standards, the lower and the standard. not satisfied with the present stratification of population, they want to add one more criterion. there will be elite students and then students who are just students who somehow pass and can be considered illiterate for all practical (i.e. employment) purposes.

the recommendations about examinations after class 3, 5 and 8 should be commended. it will help to assess the competence of the student and efficacy of the teacher. to be of good value, the paper should be set at district level and evaluated at the local level (mp was doing it for class 9 and 11, setting the examination papers centrally and evaluating locally).

regarding languages, the medium of instructions till class 5 should be mother tongue/ home language. but there is a rider “so far as possible”. article 350 a in the constitution since 1956 says the same but words used are “shall endeavour”. over the 64 years, such endeavours have not resulted in concrete steps. books have been prepared in odisha, jharkhand, andhra pradesh (and telengana) and elsewhere but are they being used extensively. it is doubtful. santhali is the only tribal language whose use is worth mentioning but then struggle for santhali has been going on for 125 years.

a word for the minor languages. the usual complaint is (1) lack of script for a language; and (2) lack of books in that language. bhili with fifty lakhs speakers, gondi with twenty five lakhs and a host of other languages are shunned on this account. a greater hurdle is the representatives of those speaking tribal languages who fear losing their base. the excuse is always the job market. this also explains craze for english language being introduced in class one with those in the anganwadis (actually their equivalent in urban areas – kg level shops) where jack and jill lead to children tumbling over.

if they are really serious about use of regional languages at higher education levels, there should be a national translation authority (not autonomous) which will be in charge of making available, within months, latest books in science and technology. (cstt has published umpteen number of equivalent technical words in various subjects which can be put to use).

there is a proposal for peer tutoring. but the details are not specified. there is to be a national tutor programme. the reference is in the words “peer tutoring can be taken up as a voluntary and joyful activity for fellow students under the supervision of trained teachers and by taking due care of safety aspects”. the obvious danger is that volunteers often demand regularisation after a lapse of suitable time.

fifty percent ger for higher education is good. but with the subsidized education, will the funds available allow it to be achieved. they say that what comes free (or almost free)  is seldom valued. it is the case with higher education. if we can make higher education harder to get in, it will mean better students (cf. iit and iim) the fifty percent should come with riders. educational loans (meant to be returned and not written off at election times a la farmers loans), scholarships (may be a part of csr effort of companies) to the deserving will help. the millionaires may get in but the proportion will be limited.

likewise the lateral exit from undergraduate courses will be another dampener on the parity of students. it may be called an option but will really be an imposition. one may recall students being advised to go in for state secondary board exams where, they were told, they will have chances of better marks (the real idea was to spare the releasing school of blushes because of low scoring students). those who will be advised to leave with a certificate (or a diploma) will stand out as failures to move on to higher standard and be saddled with a lifelong stigma. a much better idea would be to have separate one year, two years, three years courses for those inclined to take it (provided it means paying for the privilege and not free loading which will not encourage shorter courses).

there is a good point also in the policy. there will be no hard segregation between science, medical and humanities students. the choosing of particular career was imposed much too early even before the student was ripe enough and whence parents decided for them.

six percent of gdp for education is something being recommended for the last 70 years. there was a joke saying that if they did remove poverty, what slogan other than garibi hatao, they will have for the next election. same is the case with this six percent. committee after committee, commission after commission come up with this proposal. something must be left for the next commission to recommend. after all six percent appears to be the impregnable wall so that seven percent cannot be recommended. (but seven percent can certainly be recommended for gst on all goods, except those totally exempted)

usual emphasis on research is welcome provided research means research. descriptions of schemes and how they have fared in a particular block (or a village) is not research which most of them are now. another piece of research is collection of ideas of about a dozen persons working in the particular field and making a garland of them (with comments working as the thread to hold them together). actually the research means extending the field of knowledge (i.e. innovations).

another initiative is the rise of autonomous colleges who can award their own degrees or alternatively be part of the university. as of February 2017, there are 789 universities, 37,204 colleges and 11,443 stand-alone institutions in India, as per the latest statistics from the UGC website. These numbers would only have increased by now. and by the time ger of 50 % is achieved, the number of colleges may be 80000 and of standalone institutions 25000. one lakh autonomous institutions awarding degrees would really mean something. in my view the rot in the higher education started when the lecturer in begum ganj (a tahsil headquarters 100 kilometre from bhopal) got the same salary as the lecturer in the prestigious presidency college or allahabad university. with time bound promotions, there was no incentive to move. with four or five acres of agricultural land in begum ganj or nearby and no pressure to prove anything or improve anything, the standards of education can be imagined. if he had to pay a bit of ransom to the powers that be for letting him be in begumganj, it was worth it. if the delhi fellow did not want to shift to a village, it was because he had become used to big city life. good intentions there but the sheer volume will kill the proposal as surely as anything if it is meant to improve the standards of higher education.

a few words about adult education and i am done. the aim is high but one has to take care that it is not so high that instead of hitting the bird on the tree, it misses the tree altogether. the targets for adult educations are stated to be (a) foundational literacy and numeracy; (b) critical life skills; (c)vocational skills; (d )basic education; and (e)continuing education. i would limit it to just (a) and (e). the main thing is to cultivate a habit of reading. rest will follow.  

my gut feeling is that the whole policy is under the shadow of supply driven syndrome. while presenting, the difficulties are enhanced – examination phobia; heavy curriculum phobia; interference phobia. contrariwise there is need to attain certain targets in certain periods.

finally good word about the writers. it really is great task writing such lengthy piece on education with such a flowery language. the hindi summary itself is 102 pages long and very beautifully worded. this can be a good text for class 8 or 10 students. likewise the englsih version though it is a bit smaller.

kewal krishan sethi

august 5, 2020


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