Primary education


The draft National Education Policy 2019 is in public domain for wider discussion by stakeholders. The draft report needs to be debated at all levels and it augurs well that the date for suggestions on the draft has been extended up-to the end of July 2019. The current education policy was drafted in 1986 and revised in 1992 and hence there is need for revisiting the entire landscape of education so as to catch up with requirements of twenty first century. This is necessitated also by arrival of new actors – private and foreign players on the scene. The policy has 20 years vision and the same is explained in the report as “bringing in proper alignment between aspirational goals of twenty first century education consistent with India’s traditions and values”. The policy claims that benefits of education cannot be viewed in economic terms as far as goals of democracy, equitable society and cultural vibrancy are concerned. The idea that draft NEP considers all financial support and spending on education as investment and not as expenditure opens a space for wider debate on status of public education in India. Having said that, the NEP- 2019 appears to be a comprehensive programme which – if implemented seriously – can change the educational landscape of the country. With a significant focus on critical thinking, scientific temper, creativity, collaboration, multi-lingualism, problem solving ethics, social responsibility, digital literacy – the policy has all the ingredients that make education education. This elaborate framework can shift our attention from the trivial to the profound. It can convert a formal strait-jacketed pedagogy to an informal, broad-based, multi-pronged system of knowledge exchange and idea-sharing. The letter is good. But again a big if! If implemented in sprit, it can deliver effectively on the ground. Here it’s not possible to dwell on all the aspects of the policy, but one point that needs a particular mention is about schools. Why we prefer higher education in a government run institution and ‘lower’ education (if it could be called ‘lower’ in contrast with the ‘higher’) in their private equivalents. Besides broadening the educational framework, there is a need to broaden the market base. Government schools too have to attract a clientele like private schools do. Can it be made mandatory for all government employees to admit their wards in government schools? No selective sermonisation, it has to be uniformly applicable. Otherwise we will be irrevocably pushing our children from bad to worse. If NEP has tried to bridge the rich-poor divide in education, this step will help in bridging it further. Well, doing this may be undemocratic and coercive as a state can’t thrust a choice on an individual. There is a second – and a more practical, viable and a least oppressive way out. Incentivise it for government servants to admit their children in government schools. Whatever the incentive, somehow make it dividend-based and see the impact. That will at least widen the base of these schools to the middle class of the society. Otherwise our government schools are no different from slums and cowsheds. Though we have better qualified, and undeniably a better paid staff, but these schools can’t attract people anymore. The privatisation of education is fundamentally based on the marketing principle. Whether they offer the required quality education and whether they give the service they charge us for is a question that varies from case to case, but their major focus is to make the offer too tantalising to resist. A little focus on the body can change the soul of school education. School education is the foundation on which the higher education rests. In health policies infant mortality is a greater concern than the standard of living. Only when children survive, they can avail the amenities of life when they are adults. Here also the same analogy works. Better higher education is an ideal concept without a better school education. Its base first, face comes next.