The article is the second part of a two part series. Find the first part here.
The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act (RTE) outlines the modalities of the importance of free and compulsory education for children between 6 and 14 in India under Article 21a of the Indian Constitution, making it a fundamental right. It makes education free in public schools and requires all private schools to reserve 25% of seats for children of 3-7 age groups. The RTE puts the responsibility of ensuring enrollment, attendance, and completion of education on the Government. This statute is said to be modified to enable implementation and enforcement of NEP, the Act has a provision to provide free and compulsory education to children in the age group of 6-14 years which means it is not taking into consideration the pre-primary and post-elementary stage. However, NEP emphasises greatly upon early childhood care and education and proposes that the foundations of a child’s learning ought to be strong since the beginning and thereby there is a probability that by way of an amendment, the children as young as 3 years would be covered within the free and compulsory education bracket. This change is extremely necessary, in India most of the towns have no concept of pre-school or nursery and it would make no sense to teach a child directly from 6 years of age. The upper age would also be increased from 14 to 18 years.
RTE AND NEP correspond with regard to certain provisions, for instance, RTE prohibits giving private “tuitions” by teachers and the policy also staunchly advocates the need for employing good quality teachers and keeping them engaged throughout, these two things would certainly reduce the demand as well as an opportunity by school teachers to give tuition which is a very prevalent practice wherein it is observed that the same teacher demonstrates exceptional teaching skills at home while he/she may be criticised in the school. This goes against professional ethics making these professors culprits of committing the crime of “commercialisation of education”.
FALLACY OF THE NEW EDUCATION POLICY
In terms of economic aid, the policy does mention providing scholarships and facilities but it is confined to children belonging to the under-represented groups. This is a major flaw of the education policy, financial capability is independent of one’s caste and community and the provisions concerning reduced fees, and waiver, etc should be based on merit rather than on the basis of representation. The policy is assuming that the adequately represented groups require no aid. Higher education policy is oblivious to the needs of children with special needs. There is no deadline set to improve schooling and education for CWSN.
In terms of linguistic learning, heavy emphasis has been laid upon Indian languages and local traditions negating the importance of learning foreign languages in a global world. Achieving fluency in another country’s language in no way means being less nationalistic but is an inevitable need for dealing with people of other countries and the local languages are usually spoken at home or neighbourhood, mandatory incorporation as a separate course termed as “The languages of India” appears a bit irrational. The two-year mandate of opting for any classical language is absurd and devoid of valid arguments. Foreign languages are proposed to be introduced at the “secondary stage”, however, most of the research studies have established that the language picking skills are at their peak when the child is between the age of 2-8 years, thus the delay in introducing these languages is futile. Proponents of modern and classical Indian languages may argue that preserving one’s own language and culture leads to advancement as seen in the west, however, they fail to accept the fact that India is way behind those developed nations. The need to procure the benefits of globalisation, foreign aid, and investment is primarily the concern of our nation, we must master their language so as to negotiate efficiently. Further, this 21st century document fails to mention about the importance of sex education, the appropriate stage at which it should be introduced, how it would be imparted, etc.
The education policy incorporates digital education, without considering the fact that not all people have access to smartphones, laptops, and tablets. According to the Key Indicators of Household Social Consumption on Education in India report, based on the 2017-18 National Sample Survey, less than 15% of rural Indian households have Internet as opposed to 42% urban Indian households. A mere 13% of people surveyed (aged above five) in rural areas — just 8.5% of females — could use the Internet. The poorest households cannot afford a smartphone or a computer. The Government as per the budget may not be able to make all this available to every student.
The issue of “access to technology” and network connectivity needs to be resolved first before being dependent upon heavily and using their assistance to improve the educational system. Internet connectivity is still not resolved, even prominent international universities are not yet well-equipped to provide promising internet connectivity facilities.
The policy talks about reforming institutions offering B.Ed but is silent with regards to alterations, modifications of universities offering M.Ed. Secondly, shutting down substandard teaching institutes that operate merely to sell degrees, is a very good step, however, the provision has some ambiguity. It is not explained what would be the parameter of closing a university, whether the institutions offering the 2-year B. Ed programme will be getting an opportunity to convert into institutes providing a 4-year course or they would be abruptly shut. The autonomy granted to Private Higher Education Institutions offering professional courses needs to be re-thought, if policy aims to make education affordable then such autonomy and freedom would grant these institutes the freedom to fix their fee structure which would not cater to the middle, lower-class. As it is, the high fees charged by big brands remains an issue even today. The establishment of primary schools, secondary and high schools, world-class universities can be initiated in the backward regions on a priority basis, particularly northeast to reduce the notion of “unequal development” and regional imbalance.
The keyword here is “implementation”, as we analysed, RTE, NCF, and NEP are all based on more or less similar lines and thereby the attention needs to be shifted from drafting policies to devising methods that help in its successful implementation. Corruption, commercialisation, or deviation from the set norms should attract heavy penalties for the wrongdoers who try to manipulate or jeopardize the education system. It is time to acknowledge our role as being dutiful citizens, the success of any policy is never one-sided, it does not solely depend upon the legislature or executive but also how the policy is perceived and utilised by citizens of the country. Encouraging children to attend school, conducting fruitful lectures, and attending classes are the tasks to be performed by parents, teachers, and students.
Views are personal.
Image credits: Provided by the author
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Priyanshi Sarin is currently pursuing law from Symbiosis Law School Pune.