Far-sighted vision needed

Far-sighted vision needed

The Union Ministry of Human Res-ource Development (MHRD), had initiated the process of formulating a New National Education Policy sometime in the beginning of the last year. 

Subsequently, a committee headed by T S R Subramanian was appointed to evolve a draft national policy on education. The committee submitted its report in June 2016. The MHRD, which was not keen on making the draft public, has rele-ased a document titled “Some Inputs for Draft National Education Policy 2016” and has sought observations, suggestions and recommendations from the public on the same latest by July 31, 2016. Now it is further extended till August 16, 2016. 

At the outset, the draft document in its fervour to build a modernised education system, has thoroughly failed to recognise the widespread privatisation, commercialisation and commodification of education to a large extent. The propo-sed policy inputs deliberately avoid to bring on board the recommendations of the Education Commission of 1964-66 to build a National Education System of Education based on the principle of ‘nei-ghbourhood school’ which was later reiterated in the National Education Policy of 1968, 1986 and Revised NEP of 1992. The current draft needs to be drastically changed in contents and essence with respect to the proposed provisions of the NEP. Therefore, it is necessary to put forth the following observations and recommendations with respect to the ministry’s document: “Some Inputs for Draft National Education Policy 2016”.

Firstly, the Preamble to the document which gives  a brief  account of the education system in the ancient past mislead the people  that the present education system is almost close to perfect with not much issues and problems. In my opinion, the preamble to the policy should ideally state the essence of education by explaining what is education and why education is significant in the holistic development of man and its linkage in building an egalitarian society. The preamble should also give a brief analysis of earlier policy efforts made in the direction highlighting the major achievements and gaps that lead to the process of formulating the current new education policy. The present document gravely falls short in this aspect. 

As all of us know from history, education in India has been the privilege of elite classes than a right. This led to massive struggle to demand free and compulsory education to masses which became an important component of the freedom struggle in our country. It is saddening that even to this day, the struggle for quality education continues for the children coming from disadvantage and marginalised groups. 

Hence, to understand education in its true essence and to build a system of education based on Constitutional principles to achieve the goal of building, an egalitarian society is exceedingly significant. This needs to be effectively reflected in the preamble to the policy. 

Secondly, a clear vision is essential for the effective implementation of any policy document. Unfortunately, the vision of the proposed policy confines education for the development of skilled human work force. Instead, the vision of the policy should be drawn from the core values of the Constitution and particularly drawing from the  provisions of  Article 14, 15(3), 21, 24, 39 ( e) & (f) , 45 and 46  to ensure healthy development of children and protection from all forms of exploitation. Further, a clear vision on the lines of building a national education system based on the Common School System and the neighbourhood school principle as recommended by the Education Commission is crucial for an education policy. 

Finally, the draft policy for some inputs under its mission statement lays too much emphasis on acquisition of skills for improvement in employability by completely ignoring the holistic approach and the broader goals of education for building an egalitarian society based on the core principles of the Constitution. In this bearing, the mission of NEP should be directed towards achieving the larger purpose of education as connoted by the UN in its 1966 report. 

Four pillars of learningAccording to the United Nations, the following four pillars of learning are the fundamental principles for reshaping education; Learning to know: to provide the cognitive tools required to better comprehend the world and its complexities, and to provide an appropriate and adequate foundation for future learning; Learning to do: to provide the skills that would enable individuals to effectively participate in the global economy and society; Learning to be: to provide self-analytical and social skills to enable individuals to develop to their fullest potential psycho-socially, affectively (emotionally) as well as physically, for an all-round complete person; and Learning to live together: to expose individuals to the values implicit within human rights, democratic principles, inter-cultural understanding and respect and peace at all levels of society and human relationships to enable individuals and societies to live in peace and harmony.

The NEP is the fundamental document to shape the destiny of the nation. The ultimate goal of a sound and fair education system is to ensure that citizens, men and women equally, have the right to an adequate means of livelihood; the ownership and control of the material resources of the community are so distributed as best to subserve the common good and  the operation of the economic system does not result in the concentration of wealth and means of production to the common detriment. 

Equal pay for equal work for both men and women and  the health and strength of workers, men and women, and the tender age of children are not abused and that citizens are not forced by economic necessity to enter avocations unsuited to their age or strength as principles of policy to be followed by the state as outlined in the Constitution have  to be the other objectives of the policy.

(The writer is Fellow and Programme Head, Universalisation of Equitable Quality Education Programme, Centre for Child and the Law, National Law School of India University, Bengaluru)
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