Monday, February 6, 2023

National Education Policy and the Education Budget 2022   

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By M.R. Lalu

The Education Budget 2022 has been increased by 11.86% from the previous year with a significant fund allocation for digital education and skill development. As the National Education Policy completes one year of its implementation, an increase of Rs.11054 crore from the previous year needs to be taken with the right spirit. NEP 2020 is all set to change India’s education system. A growing economy, with an ambitious generation of learners, India has the real potential to systematically reinvent its abilities and move ahead breaking all obstacles. It is a reform with tangible and assertive steps designed to ward off anomalies. Imprint of perfect expertise is visible throughout the draft. Beginning his formal education at the age of three, a child is prepared to get ready for the real task in the next five years, which means, the Anganwadis and other institutions to cater pre-primary education will have to equip themselves to set the scene right. In his most criticized comment on the education system of Kerala, one of the most celebrated actors in the Malayalam film industry had to face the ire of the Kerala Women’s Commission. The actor courted controversy after he said in a TV programme that children in Kerala were at a disadvantageous position with regard to education, as they were initiated to the process of pre-primary learning by uneducated Anganwadi teachers, who did not get work elsewhere. He had to face the fury of the Commission as he compared the pre-primary learning in the state with developed countries such as Japan, where highly qualified teachers taught Kindergarten kids. Actor Srinivasan, a famous Marxist liberal was warned by the Kerala Women’s Commission terming his opinion misogynistic. The actor was trying to reflect the reality of the situation to the world. More than 66000 workers are employed in about 33000 Anganwadis in the state.

The NEP 2020 makes proposals to strengthen the infrastructure of Anganwadi centres with modern learning materials. With this, the Anganwadi teachers and the system of pre-schooling became part of the formal schooling. But reality on the ground is not so encouraging. We have a scanty resource mobilization at present when it comes to the strengthening of the pre-primary education system. There are various reasons contributing to the dismay. From choosing a place to establish Anganwadis to the recruitment of teachers to the facilities available, the dominant element visible across the system is laxity. Unfortunately, a large number of Anganwadis in many areas in India fail to conduct regular classes for at least three hours every day. Anganwadi workers are supposed to play the most prominent role in providing basic education, nutrition and ensuring health in rural India. As per the policy, the Anganwadi workers are to undergo certificate and diploma programme to strengthen their abilities in pre-primary teaching. Consistent and straightforward efforts are to be taken to bring the system to an unshakable track.

Swami Vivekananda had a vision for education. According to him, education is the manifestation of perfection already in man. Mahatma Gandhi also thought in the same line as he says that education should be the process of putting the best in body, soul and spirit. Thus, it is evident that the new narrative in the NEP directs us towards a different outlook which had been forgotten for long; reinvention of a value-based system of education with adequate elements of skill development assisted by modern technologies. The education system in the country has undergone multiple changes and amendments and recommendations since Independence. Various commissions had been set up to refurbish it. Yet, we lacked essence when it comes to its ability to deliver in comparison with developed countries. Now, a positive change is welcome with proper implementation put in place. Education system can bring about a variety of changes to society and the NEP passed in 1986 with its modifications in 1992 served good results throughout the last three decades. But marching with time, with new requirements in innovations and inventions with inclusive approach strengthening its frame and outlook altogether, NEP 2020 brings a smile on every face with a shimmer of hope visible. Attending the aspirations of a sizable young generation, helping them march with the massive developments in technology is a big challenge. We cannot deny the fact that employability is a serious issue that we face today as a country. It is said that in India, the top 10 IT companies are recruiting 6 percent of the total engineering graduates. A study in the IT sector was shocking, which tells that 94 percent of the engineering graduates in the country are not employable.

This is because of the widening skill gap. Those who graduate in the field are not able to trek with the latest technological changes. In fact, many companies are initiating skill development programmes for their employees. Alarmingly, the All-India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) states that nearly 200 engineering colleges have applied for closure in recent years. According to the Council, there is a decline of about 75000 engineering seats every year. The council has already approved the closure of about 400 colleges.  When it comes to the other streams in graduation, many graduates are unable to write even basic sentences properly. With the 5+3+3+4 formula comes into practice, every child, as he reaches his fourth segment of this formula, enjoys a free will to follow whichever subject he feels like to study. The 10+2 formula has awkwardly compartmentalized students segregating them to the ‘meritorious science’ versus the ‘rest’. The multiple entry and exit points in higher education, as per the new policy, reduce the burden and stress of the students. The new academic credit bank will enable students to start from where they left without any loss.

In its initiative, the policy advocates for education in the mother tongue in the first five years, which is a welcome move. This indeed is much criticized as a large number of people move from one state to another in search of jobs and the local languages change from state to state. Many are skeptical about this proposal as mostly proficiency in the English language is considered to be a requisite for employability and of course, a large number of parents want their children to gain proficiency in English at a younger age. The policy also provides equal opportunity and promotes meritocracy. To provide universal access to quality education, we have a long way to go.  The budget allocates funds for major schemes such as Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan and for the creation of ‘Exemplar Schools.’ About 15000 schools in the country are to be converted into Exemplar Schools with quality education. Fund is also allocated for teachers training and adult education and for scholarships. Strengthening Teaching-Learning and Results for States (STARS) is a new project with financial assistance from the World Bank aiming to improve the learning assessment systems. Obviously, it is a paradigm shift. In a new geopolitical scenario, a resurgent India is possible only through pertinent changes implemented in the education system which caters elements for progress consistently from the grassroots.

(Author is freelance journalist and social worker based in Kerala. The views expressed are personal opinion of the author. He can be reached at [email protected])

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