Edit & Opinion

Costlier NEP: Cut years, educate more

By Shivaji Sarkar

The much awaited New Education Policy (NEP) has turned out to be old wine in not a well-crafted supposedly new bottle. It takes us back to the 1960s and not 2100 with virtual repetition in concepts, approach and making it cumbersome with an unnecessary four-year degree course that may only help the multinational education lobby, alien to the Indian concept.

It has not done much to help even the private sector Indian education system. The concept of 5+3+4+4 is not different from the 1950s’ primary, middle, high school and intermediate education. The 1960s tried a failed model of three years of higher secondary education with examination at Class 11. Many States like Uttar Pradesh did not follow it and found they were wiser as in a few years again it was 10+2 to be followed by two-year and later three-year degree course.

Now a vague system of four-year-degree course, the UPA government tried to introduce through Delhi University and failed, is being foisted again. It would lead to loss to sudents of one precious year of entering the job market. There is confusion of having option to complete it in three years – with blocking future career – closing option to improve career later or do in four years and then have option for higher education. The thought of giving certificate and diploma would merely add to the confusion.

It is strange that educationists could think of blocking careers in a society that with new technologies and other options continuously add to knowldege. There could be arguments that indirect options are available. Is that really so? Peculiar part of the argument is incomprehensible about extending term of education. It becomes costlier, cumbersome and wastes on time – each of it precious for a country that has 80 crore people who have to sustain on doles.

Another cumbersome part is to have a class 9 to 12 – four years in a block that practically becomes difficult to manage for any education system. It does not change the pattern of Lord Macaulay but makes it complicated. The wiser part would have been to reduce one-year of school term. Nobody has studied the loss or benefit of doing away the class 10 or 12 examinations.

And why it has to to be 5+3 of primary and middle schooling? Why cannot it be 5+2 = 7 years? Wisely it can follow a three six-monthly systems in two parts after 5+2 to let the students exit schools in 3 years, that is 10 years in all. It has some practical administrative problems, so again it can be a 2+2 system.

It can be followed by a three-year degree and one year of post graduation, the four years that the NEP is saying would be fruitfully utilised. This would reduce education term to 15 years without any loss in cognitive deliveries. Let India force the rest of the world to reduce the teaching term to a maximum of 15 years, with post-graduation and three-year pre-schooling – total of 18 years.

This would leave more time for those students who want to pursue still higher education or other skills. On an average it would prepare students for jobs at the age of 20. Overall the family expenses per child would reduce. It would help the country grow and reduce costs on the nation.

The NEP is confused about its stress on research. Over the past at least three decades the nation has wasted resources on “research”, a copy-paste system. It has to realise that research has to be on volition and not compulsion that the UGC has done now. If UGC is proposed to be removed, though the rationale is yet to be comprehended, how its flawed research methodology could continue?

Let the nation redo it. Even teachers should not be forced to do the so-called research. It does not add to learning but causes precious loss of years, finances and energy. Let us rethink, redo and chalk-out a research strategy separate from an education policy. The lackadaisical ornamental approach has caused more harm to research and resources. Forcing instituions and universities to ensure PhDs has done more harm. So let research be separated from the 15-year intense education process. A confused lot of advisors are preventing solution and real in-depth research.

The stress on privatisation of education without government funding is another bane. It has led to many undesirable practices because organisations cannot sustain the system financially. It is also incomprehensible why so much leeway is proposed for foreign institutions.

Any foreign body is interested in profit by making education expensive with false promises of their linkages with employers. They are planning to ride piggyback on Indian institutions claiming 50 per cent of the fees they are charging. It would weaken Indian institutions and malpractices are likely to be institutionalised and legalised. Let a self-reliant India shun it.

Collaborations have to be ensured to be beneficial and viable for the country. The FDI bogey in industry has drained a lot in repatriation. Education can be spared of it.

There is less clarity on National Testing Agency (NTA) as centralised testing organisation to conduct entrance examination. There is a fallacy. What about other testing mechanims?The examinations, certificates and degrees at various stages should continue and must have recognition if many do not want to go to NTA.

Similarly, National Higher Education Regulatory Authority (NHERA) is supposed to end regional varieties or State boards. It is fraught with too many risks. The multi-disiciplinary and research universities (MERU) should not do away with many excellent institutions and their practices.

Another void is being seen in the early child education. There are confusions and lack of clarity.

Education costs the government Rs 99311 crore as per 2020-21 Budget. Another Rs 1 lakh crore or more is spent by parents through private systems. Still it is less than the required and that tells on the quality of teachers.

The admission to higher education would still remain a tug-of-war. A new inspector or regulatory raj, apprehended by Anil Swarup, former Education Secretary, may be a reality.

The nation should have another process of review instead of rushing through it. The aim should be to improve education, reduce burden and create an unparalleled quality with maintaining regional varieties and wholesome but not centralised system. And finally a system with clarity.

 

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