[National Education Policy 2020 is designed to strip education of its essence and wipe out whatever little of democratic education is still existing in the country. It might, therefore, require in-depth discussion on each of the pernicious aspects of this disastrous policy. However, right now, an article touching upon the cardinal points of the policy with brief elaboration is given here.]
After a meaningful silence for over a year, the present BJP-led Union government has made public a National Education Policy 2020 (NEP2020), an abridged reshuffled version of the Draft NEP 2019 (DNEP 2019) released in June last year. In both content of the Policy documents and the intent of the policymakers as well as in verbosity and flamboyance, the two match each other, though with some differences. So much so that, a section of intelligentsia and general people are mesmerized at the verbose presentation and flamboyant pledges to miss between-the–lines implications. In fact, verbosity and flamboyance of the content rather served for the government as a cover to conceal the intent, which in ultimate analysis comes down to blunt and vicious agglomeration of the entire attacks on education that had been continuing since independence, including in them the agenda of curtailment of education for the masses and doing away with all the nobilities and essence of a genuine education. However, the attempt proved abortive, as the NEP 2020 instantly gave rise to strong resentment from an overwhelmingly large section of academic and education fraternity from all corners of the country. Surprisingly for any democratic-minded person, the Union government made the announcement amidst the lockdown clamped on this huge country by none other than itself, that too under a meagre 4-hour notice. During this lockdown people particularly the toiling masses were forced to remain engaged in fighting for their life and livelihood due to the tragic Covid 19 pandemic. Schools-colleges- offices were closed for indefinite time. There was no scope for discussions-exchanges-interactions in public. The situation continues still today. And apparently the government has taken it as rather another cover, to push through its agenda. Not only that, such an important policy, a vital issue for the country and its people, was announced without any discussion in the Parliament. Nor there was involvement of representatives of any of the state governments in the process, though education is constitutionally in the Concurrent List and though in the measure of budget allocation on education in terms of GDP the Union government’s share is only 10% of the state government’s share. No educationist of national stature and name had any inkling of the oncoming announcement. To sum up. there was no meaningful debates- discussions-polemics in a way that were expected and essential to frame a national policy on an issue like education. Incidentally, the date of announcement, 29 July 2020, coincided with the 129 th death anniversary of Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar, that too falling in the birth- bicentennial year of this great man of our immediate past, who had fought life-long for the cause of establishing genuine education system, including equipped teachers, proper institutions in the country.
In both the Draft 2019 and final 2020 documents, in interviews or in speeches of ministers or ruling party leaders, as in the case of the Prime Minister’s speech, the government claims to have received accolades from lakhs of people. But the government never cared to mention equal, if not more number of scathing criticisms which it must have received and is still receiving, or it never clearly spelt out how it had addressed these criticisms in the NEP 2020. On certain issues, the NEP 2020 appears to have taken care of criticisms and has tried to circumvent them by subtly changing its stand from DNEP2019, obviously without admitting it. The outcome was such that, the RSS, an inalienable component, rather mentor-monitor of the ruling RSS-BJP combine and the principal proponent and executor of their agenda, was expressly elated to declare that nearly 60% of their agenda has been attained. To add in the end, the sneaky announcement was shamelessly unilateral, high-handed and grossly undemocratic.
Total annihilation of secular scientific education
As said, the NEP 2020 says a lot. For instance, it holds, education is ‘fundamental for achieving full human potential, developing an equitable and just society, and promoting national development’, ‘key to economic growth’, for ‘India’s continued ascent, progress, and leadership on the global stage’. ‘The purpose of the education system is to develop good human beings capable of rational thought and action, possessing compassion and empathy, courage and resilience, scientific temper and creative imagination, with sound ethical moorings and values. But on analysis all these savoury words and sweet jargons turn out to be means to camouflage the intention which boils down to befooling people and from behind that creating a blueprint of total annihilation of genuine education for people.
After Indian democracy had crossed more than seven decades, the BJP-led Union government framed the DNEP 2019. The Policy document held glorious Indian culture and tradition to have existed till the arrival of the British. It meant the Policy, the policymakers and the government did not recognize the entire period of the freedom struggle and the Indian Renaissance as part of the heritage. It also meant that they were set to write off from the Indian education system, the modern concept of democratic, secular , scientific education which developed during and accompanied that period. Rather they considered the dark medieval ages fraught with religious bigotry, superstitions, obscurantism, religious and casteist intolerance as the only period of the Indian heritage. Clearly it upholds the thoughts and ideas of the RSS-BJP combine, now in power. Despite vehement criticism of this skewed view of Indian heritage, the NEP 2020 maintains the same stand. It does not discard the idea embodied in the earlier DNEP2019, nor does it mention even for once the term ‘secular’ in any context. The NEP 2020 vouches for imparting scientific temper, mentions of Indian traditional knowledge, names a few scientists of ancient time, but ignores the galaxy of Indian scientists who had put the country in the realm of modern science in the world.
Rather, immediately before announcing the NEP 2020, the CBSE, at the behest of Union HRD Ministry eliminated a bunch of subjects from the Class IX to XII curriculum on the flimsy pretext of reducing students’ course load. Though committing to retain ‘the core concepts’, the MHRD-CBSE nexus actually chopped off such unequivocally important topics like secularism, federalism, citizenship, nationalism, theory of organic evolution including origin of man and a host of others, as to clearly expose their design and intent. The entire episode speaks of certain dangerous trends. One, in flagrant violation of the constitutional- conventional framework of the curriculum that has evolved in the country through the sustained lifelong struggle of the stalwarts of modern education in India, elimination of those topics will convert the entire curriculum into a disjunct array of subjects eliminating whatever remnants of genuine democratic, secular, scientific education still exist. Two, it is a time-tested method that before entering the higher courses of specialization in advanced stages of college-universities, every student should be acquainted with a broad general knowledge, as far comprehensive as possible at the secondary stage in schools. The MHRD-CBSE move totally contradicts that. Three, again, it is accepted in the academic world that at any stage of schools-colleges-universities, the course content should be decided by academicians acquainted with the requirements and ramifications of problems of teaching-learning. Here this practice is bluntly and nakedly violated with the government directly poking its long nose into what should be the syllabus .
Hence right from the word ‘go’ or even before that, the NEP 2020 and its creator the government, hatch the design of destroying genuine education, that is, the vestiges of democratic, secular, scientific education still existing in the country.
Total corporatization attempted
Exorbitant rise in cost of education trending to take it beyond the reach of students of poor and middle class families is the evil accompanying privatization-commercialization. It took a sharp shoot-up particularly when immediately following the NPE’86 promulgated by the Congress government, under the Vajpayee-led BJP rule the Birla – Ambani Committee, two top-notch monopolists dashing into education arena, declared: one, education is a market commodity, two, investment in education unique in its kind is sure to fetch return and three, the government must take its hands off the responsibility of educating people. The DNEP 2019, critical of the NPE’86, not only followed suit. It went steps ahead: one, it declared public and private investments on par, meaning it does not matter who invested and what for, but really implying that government was not keen on allocating money for education; two, it allowed private investors total freedom to increase the fees, that is the price for education at their sweet will. The NEP 2020 proceeds further, with cautious cunning moves. It does not negate the DNEP 2019 dictums, scathingly criticised by one and all. Rather the 2020 version says: one, it ‘unequivocally endorses and envisions a substantial increase in public investment in education by both the Central and all State governments’ to reach the 6% of GDP mark. The fact is otherwise; since 2014, during the BJP rule education expenses as the ratio of GDP has constantly slid down reaching a meagre 0.44% of GDP in the Union budgetary allocation (2020-2021). Besides the government vouches for increase, but forgets, or does not care, to indicate which way it would increase. But people can sense it. GDP covers the entire gamut of public-private partnership; and the CEO Google has already come into a deal with the PM to invest 75,000 crore of rupees in the Digital Indian Campaign. So that would be the source of money which will help the government to calculate the GDP on its basis and approach the magic figure of 6%. But its outcome will be that the education system will be shoved into the grip of corporate money.
A special note must be added for the much-hyped Digital India Campaign or the online education as part of it. At the outset it must be stated that use of technology, including online education in part, may become useful at higher stages of education, that too only as a supplement to the prevailing classroom teaching that serves for a comprehensive knowledge based on teacher-student live humanly interaction. But it is never welcome in lower stages , particularly at the primary or early secondary stages. Nor it can replace classroom teaching at any stage of formal studies. But the present hype on online education as envisaged in the DNEP 2019 or now in the NEP 2020 does not follow any time-tested scientific method- concept or ethics. Even it is not based on ordinary technology. It hinges upon Disruptive Technology, a term and concept generated in the Harvard University of USA in 1997 to provide methods to help the gasping world capitalism come out of its acute market crisis and economic recession. With that aim, Disruptive Technology is defined as an innovation that significantly alters the way in which consumers, industries and businesses operate. It sweeps away the old systems or habits, and replaces them with recognizably superior attributes. Artificial Intelligence is a disruptive technological means. This is the root of the new normal the government is harping so loud for, an environment disrupted from the older one and to that extent a new normal, which stands for ‘consumers, industrialists and businesses’ to operate smoothly, with no concern for the masses. The initial cost of laptop/desktop/smartphone involved in online education, the recurring cost of maintaining those, total uncertainty with electricity and internet connectivity, lack of preparedness in using these specialized devices very justifiably present in common students, their guardians or even teachers or authorities, all these may only create insurmountable difficulties in accepting this online mode by students, particularly those hailing from poor and lower middle class sections of the society, more so in rural settings. It is thus a heinous design to throw such students out of orbit of education. In fact, it has occurred that way as at least five students from different states , as also a parent from elsewhere ended their life out of frustration from not being able to fulfil the conditions required. The design of curtailment of education will only be hastened.
The government, in the document NEP 2020 has carefully coined terms or measures like encouragement of ‘public-spirited private schools’ or of ‘private philanthropic efforts for quality education’, or assurance that both public and private sectors will be made to participate ‘with no scope for commercialisation or profiteering’. In the same breath, it empowers private HEIs to set fees for their programmes independently. But it did not mention that in the present crisis-ridden moribund stage of world capitalism, the monopolists and their corporate houses of one and all capitalist countries (including former socialist ones now turned worst capitalists) are not only after profit, they are scampering for maximum profit with no concern for public-good or public-spirit. So given the scope to set fees independently, they will simply run havoc with it. Can we forget that it is India where an educational institute (Jio University) owned by a leading monopoly house of the country was given the status of the highest honour by the last BJP-led Union government to claim huge public fund as well as international recognition even before a drop of ink was put on the paper for its formation? Is it then difficult to assume what for and how will Google or such other corporate or monopoly houses work with their huge investments and how will the government act as their cohort? The net effect would be total corporatization of education while chanting words of public ‘investment’ and concomitant rise in the cost of education prohibitive for students from even middle class rung. Over and above these, the government will allow top 100 foreign institutions to set-up campuses in India. Remember the present government is a signatory to the GATS as well as to agreement with the World Bank for projects like the STARS. All these and similar other financing organizations, are aggressive advocates of developing a global market for education. The foreign universities will join that bandwagon. They would not come for philanthropy. Rather those will only add fuel to the fire of exorbitantly rising expenses, simultaneously acting as spread centres of rotten imperialist culture. And thus taking education system in their grip, they would not allow common people to draw close to it because of the exorbitant cost. It will only mean curtailment of education for the masses. Along with total wipe-off of secular, democratic, scientific education, this, an attempt to total corporatization , is what the NEP 2020 is rushing at!
Reducing drop-out or curtailment of education: multi-disciplinary or destruction of comprehensive education
Next comes the repeated calls in NEP 2020 for quality, holistic, multidisciplinary education, with great concern for high-rising drop-out rates. The calls are crafty enough to hoodwink some to fall on their knees and need scrutiny.
But before that we may digress to look through some other issues. But for the trumpeting of Indian tradition and traditional knowledge which is really nothing other than saffronization of education advocated by the ruling RSS-BJP combine and packaged under the cover of such trumpeting, both the DNEP 2019 and the NEP 2020 prescribe measures-schemes-ideas which are found in ultimate analysis to be nothing but shameless copies of systems of other countries, particularly the US model. It should also be pointed out that the US model of education system is creating such a havoc in that country, that it is facing a tremendous downfall in educational-cultural-ethical standards, more so among the younger generation. The situation in American education has come to such a pass, that the USA is being compelled to allow talents from other countries to get into the USA, stay there and help it with their brilliance, sound background and perseverance. And now Indian rulers are hankering after such US models without paying any attention to the stark realities prevailing in this country.
What are the stark realities that education in India face today? In briefest term those are as follows. Government-run or government-aided educational institutions are in jitters; either they miserably lack in infrastructures including required, even sanctioned, teachers, funds etc., or are closed down in thousands on this or that pretext. Private institutions reap the harvest. Turning a deaf ear to government’s seemingly pious wishes, they take to rampant commercialization, mint money on any and every ground from the students and their guardians, at the same time press hard upon teachers and employees with tough service conditions. No Detention Policy continues to wreak havoc to school education with students merrily passing through the classes till class /grade 8 and then tumbling down to drop out and teachers losing all initiative and impetus for teaching unwilling students. Poverty coupled intimately with unemployment, debars students from coping up with ever-increasing cost of education and so they drop out in larger and larger numbers. All these above-mentioned traits lead to fast slide-down in quality and comprehension in education, with equally strong spurt in drop- out. Education tends to recede beyond the means and even dreams of overwhelming majority of the masses. The scenario is further overcast with darker omens with incessant efforts at manipulating curriculum, course content, textbooks, even day-to-day activities to orient these in tune with the particular brand of agenda of saffronization and pseudo-nationalism being propagated by the ruling combine. Obviously, these do not go well with the masses, leave aside education-loving section. To prevent them from raising protests, there are continuous attacks on dissenting voice and resentful students-teachers-employees. Autonomy of education and educational institutions are relegated to backstage.
Over and above these persisting problems, the educational scenario presently turned towards worse. With educational institutions at all levels closed for months, academic activities halted, students-teachers getting restive in the prevailing circumstances , the Union government has blown the bugle of digital technology-based online education as the only solution, as the ‘new normal’, as said above. A section of people sighed relief. But the majority asked : Would the technology –based education be best suited for our country plagued with poverty and unemployment which were sure to mount to inconceivable limit in the post-pandemic days? Can such an education substitute the time-tested formal class-room teaching, if it is sincerely desired that people of the country earn a decent effective education, man-making character-building and purposeful for living? Obviously it was expected that a national policy being dramatically unveiled before the country during the pandemic, should lead people to answers of these questions. But it went in vain!
Start from the early childhood. The Committee which drafted the DNEP2019 and the government which now approves NEP 2020, have reconfigured school education from the existing 10+2 system (for students from 6 to16 and 16 to 18 years respectively) consisting of Primary (Class/ Grade 1 to 4/5), Secondary (Class 5/6 to 10 ) and Higher Secondary (Class /Grade 11-12). The new form proposes a 5(3+2)+3+3+4 system ( from infants of 3 years to teenagers of 18 years) termed respectively Foundational ( 3 years Pre-primary + 2 years Primary), Preparatory (Class/Grade 3 to 5), Middle ( Class/Grade 6 to 8) and Secondary ( Class/ Grade 9 to 12). So, in effect, the duration of school studies is further increased. More years mean more time, more expenses, which would become a deterrent for poor and lower middle class students, forcing them to drop out. Of this span of 15 years, the first 5 years is said to follow ECCE ( Early Childhood Care and Education), a system dished out in the name of having earned acclaim internationally, which means in number of imperialist countries as a sure-shot for developing foundation of learning in growing child. It is a fun-, play-, activity- and discovery-based method requiring well-planned and well-designed gadgets and technically equipped, trained teachers. It is thus costly too for the masses. The first 3 years belong to pre-school for which, the government assigns the job to the Anganwadi workers, believe it or not! Itself faulty, Anganwadi workers were planned to look after nutrition and health issues of students and their workers are now fighting for life. They are already over-burdened, relatively less qualified, ill-paid, looked down at, insecure in job condition. And the government now dumps their blue-eyed, ‘borrowed’ project of ECCE on them. It also expresses that trained teachers ‘would be’ recruited. But it seems to be in a hurry! And then how will it ensure foundational literacy and numeracy to develop now by the Anganwadi workers. Who will be the trained teachers? The existing ones or new recruits? If it is the latter, then what will be the fate of the existing teachers? Will they have to find the job of porters in railway stations? The document pleads for voluntary service from local social workers. In the present milieu of aggressive partisanship, such social workers are in all likelihood to be derived from the ruling party, whichever it be , whatever be their testimonials, credentials or training. The government simply sets itself free from any responsibility of appointing teachers or monitoring the learning outcome. To sum up, neither will the foundation be firm-based nor the Anganwadi workers get their dues or the teachers be guaranteed of secure job, nor drop-out will lessen in the costly ECCE scheme. Have people given the government the right to throw the future of these children of the most tender age to a totally anarchic disorder and sheer uncertainty by shunting them into such a system which is copied from foreign countries, misfit for the country, ill-conceived and ill-planned or planned with hidden ill-motives? One should not miss that side by side with these ECCE centres, there will run the present ‘stand-alone pre-school’ which are nothing but private-owned nurseries, kindergardens etc. meant for moneyed people. Plus there will be Balvatikas or Ashramsalas which are institution built and run by the RSS. Taken together , these facts tell the whole story.
The brief summary of existing situation provided above speaks of the wretched condition of education at all stages of school. Particularly the Primary education has gone to shambles, thanks to the NPE’86 and later DPEP and SSA, which only stepped up privatization-commercialization causing curtailment of education for the masses. The NEP 2020 does not contain any indication of how to come out of such a devastated condition of primary education. Rather the proposals will only add fillip to that trend of rising cost at the hand of private players , the government taking less responsibilities, government-run or government-sponsored schools will be more and more deprived and finally shut down, and ultimately education will be curtailed increasingly more for general students.
Proposal of school complexes is another means for the government to shun its responsibility to school education, at the same time incorporation of voluntary social workers in teaching and administration, thus effectively increasing the pernicious influence of now prevailing aggressive political workers like the RSS to establish full control on the system.
Next, with a tottering foundation the children will enter Grades (/ Classes) 1 and 2 of the first 5 years to end at 8 years of age. The government , so concerned at the mental development of children, decides to continue the next Preparatory stage (Grades 3-5; years 8 to 11) similarly play- etc. based with light textbooks and ‘some more formal but interactive classroom learning’. So till the end of 11 years children would not have to see any subject teaching. Think of the multidisciplinary quality that can develop in such a system! Subject teaching will be introduced only at Grade 6, the beginning of the next Middle stage to run for three years ( Grades 6 to 8; years 11 to 14). A completely ridiculous proposition, the only alternative to which is to prescribe textbooks, judiciously selected for each Class/Grade right from the beginning , that is Class/ Grade 1. In any case, the school system ends with a Secondary stage including Grades 9 to 12 for students of years 14 to 18 years. In this, the present secondary and higher secondary stages will be clubbed together. It will be Semester based though Semester system has been widely criticized. Naturally, semesters will have their frequent examinations. When will the students study or the teachers teach with a bunch of examinations during the 4 years of semesters? How will the schools manage the schedules of classes and examinations? As students tend to forget the subjects covered in previous semesters they will end with a scrappy, fragmented, incomprehensive knowledge. Where will the quality be found from that? Again, as suggested in the NEP 2020, to keep up with the doctrine of multidisciplinary holistic education, Art, Humanities, Science etc., will not have any hard separation among themselves; a physics student may have a combination with fashion design if he or she pleases at that. Will such a combination do any good for learning of physics or fashion design? Will the learning be comprehensive, even as far as expected at that stage? Is a boy or girl of 14-15 years expected to have enough maturity to see through his or her coming future, what is good or bad to take up? Now look back! Education begins with fun-making, light textbooks in Grade3, subject teaching begins in Grade 6 , Semester system introduced in Grade 9; no hard separation of streams in the ‘integrated’ Secondary stage.
It would simply mean that whatever little scope is there for students to acquire a general comprehensive commensurate with the respective stages, that will be lost. If somebody had been honest in intent and sincere in trying for a better system, he /she would have tried to remove the pitfalls in the system and improve it, so that students are equipped with a more comprehensive knowledge than they get now, to move out to colleges for specialization. Instead the makers of the NEP 2020 (DNEP 2019 as well) and the government are running after copying systems from other countries, more so the USA. What benefit will a US-derived system bring to India with a widely different socio-cultural set-up?
Remember the government has not yet scrapped off the infamous No Detention Policy which has already robbed students of any urge for serious studies and teachers of their initiative to teach students without urge to learn! So there will be no examinations at the end of Classes or Grades 1,2,4,6 and 7. Yet the government must have felt the heat of countrywide pressure from teachers-guardians and even students to reintroduce examinations right from Class/Grade 1 till the Board examinations at the end of Grades10 and 12. So keeping the No Detention Policy intact, the NEP 2020 introduces examinations at the end of Grades/Classes 3,5 and 8. What result can one expect from this measure? Hapless children happy with no pass-fail system will face a hurdle at each of the three stages at the end of Grades 3,5 and 8. Will they in general be able to get through? No. Then what? They will drop-out. Those still remaining, will also face another hurdle. The 4-year Secondary stage. Once more during school studies, it means those who would have sought for job with a Secondary Examination certificate after Class/Grade 10 will have to wait for two more years with more expenses. In the present socio-economic situation many of them would tend to drop out, adding to the figure already increased. The government which pledges for curtailing drop-out rates, will instead curtail education for increasing larger sections of students. Those who will manage to get through will end with an incomprehensive, fragmented knowledge. The government offer a palliative. The NEP 2020 makes vocational education part and parcel of curriculum, integrated with academic mainstream, arguing those unable to continue with the latter will go for vocational training. This is another hoax. The economy is struck by acute recession and horrid market crisis; to cover up the rickety skeleton, the government has stopped publishing data on unemployment which is already at record mark. So where is the job or the vocation for the students? Are not people finding lots of vocationally trained students running helter-skelter for a job or for the market for their products of self-employment schemes? The fact is, however dismal the picture may be , it is this that the government wants to arrive at. With independence, the newly independent Indian capitalism inherited a system already plagued with market crisis, unemployment, poverty, illiteracy and such other malice generated from exploitation by both the foreign rulers and Indian monopoly developed strongly by that time. In the socio-economic condition there were also hangovers of feudalism reigning among the masses. So shortly after independence the Indian rulers defined their educational reforms on the premise that “We want to restrict higher education in order to minimize educated unemployed”. Thus, curtailment of education for the masses and provision of the better quality for a privileged few, became the general trend. With the economic system nose-diving into further crisis, from which it could never overcome, the premise changed, as said earlier. The government is no longer interested in educating its people. Those who have resources will go for the high quality digital technology-based new normal. For the entire remaining masses , the government cares the fig. It asks them to fend for themselves to become some mechanic or carpenter or petty shopkeepers. It brings us back to the worries and agonies that were expressed in the words of Comrade Shibdas Ghosh, the founder General Secretary of our Party where, decades back towards the middle of the last century he had repeatedly let out his apprehension that the education system is trending towards this end.
The picture does not change with the higher education issues. In the NEP 2020, proposals have been made for 4-year Honours graduate course in colleges or for 4 Year B Ed course for teachers’ training. In the first case, extension of the course will have nothing to do with genuine education, but to mean merely more time and more expenses for students, disadvantages that will lead to drop-outs, curtailing education for them. The second case will similarly extend duration, thus hampering teacher recruitment, an urgent need in the present situation. Three kinds of Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) namely research-intensive universities (RUs), teaching universities(TUs) and autonomous degree-granting colleges (ACs), will only disaggregate HEIs into a discriminatory system of privileged to left-to- fending- for- themselves types. Separation of teaching and research and making AC-s only degree-awarding colleges, will reduce teaching-learning into degree-conferring process, thus robbing it of any essence. Since these ACs will outnumber the RUs and TUs, the overwhelming majority of students coming from poorer families will thus be debarred from genuine education. The government has lamented a lot on rote-learning and degree-mongering. But itself reduces colleges, made viable with a huge student strength, into money-making degree-conferring education ‘factories’. Students coming out of these will not find any decent jobs for them and will have to opt for acting as daily wage-earners that too floating hither and thither as migrant labours. The multiple entry-exit system in colleges to provide certificate, diploma, degree, honours will also discriminate students with fractured knowledge and different utility value in their career; who among the employers will prefer a certificate holder above a degree-holder? As a result it will rather curtail higher education for many students. These measures will also create anarchy and confusion in administration on infrastructure and day-to-day running, in face of which the idea of students exiting and entering as per their choice is sure to turn into a myth only. The ill-conceived CBCS is another example of shoving students into a system which can cater only a fragmented incomprehensive knowledge, in the same way as in case of proposed secondary courses with no separation between science, humanities etc. Projects or schemes framed with high-sounding words will fall flat; the private investors will go their own way; only the poorer sections of the students, incidentally overwhelming majority will fall sad victims of the system. In nutshell. higher education will be reduced to useless farce for majority of students. It stands totally against the acclaimed truth that higher education should be of uniform in standard and access throughout the country, universal and genuine in character.
So the NEP 2020,through all its measures , will target the poorer section of students to gradually throw them out of the orbit of education system, keeping the latter reserved for students from rich families. In other words it is characterized by the measures for curtailment of education and destruction of comprehensive knowledge for the overwhelming majority of students. All the lamentation for quality, access, equity come down to crocodile’s tears.
Language and the NEP 2020
On questions of sensitive yet very important issue of language teaching-learning, jugglery with terms like home/local language/mother tongue within the framework of 3 language formula or with terms like multilingualism, development of regional languages, learning of classical languages with Sanskrit introduced all through the school span, are fraught with several dangers. First, three compulsory languages unnecessarily increase the pressure on students. This in turn will result in reality in devaluation of the English language closing the window to the modern knowledge , modern world and access to higher education. Besides, constitutionally, English is also one of the Indian languages used by a permanent community of people. At the same time, under the prevailing circumstances, this will lead to surreptitious push towards imposing Hindi in a roundabout way, which is just one of the Indian languages of the 8th Schedule, though spoken by a majority of people. On Sanskrit , one should refer to invaluable words of Rammohan Roy pronounced about two centuries back : “The Sanskrit system of education would be best calculated to keep the country in darkness… The pupils will there acquire what was known two thousand years ago, with addition of vain and empty subtleties since produced…” Is the twenty-first century national education policy meant to drag the country to medieval spiritualism which the makers of modern India fought tooth and nail against? To conclude the issue, for a country like India, only the 2-language formula with mother tongue as medium of instruction and English as the link language can be the solution.
Academic Autonomy and the NEP 2020
The concept of autonomy of educational institutions inseparably accompanied the concept of democracy since the latter evolved in the human society. It is also an integral and essential component of any modern education system without which the process of imparting education cannot be complete. It also implies freeing course, curriculum, method of teaching, examination, evaluation, degree from external control namely the clutches of religious and royal establishments and funding education by people’s, that is elected, government to ensure that freedom. It was held that education is best imparted when it is left with academicians, teachers, professors and educationists to decide on its content, span, teaching-learning methods and all the rest. That was why the courageous authority of university could roar out to the British imperialist government “You give me slavery with one hand and money with the other. I despise the offer…. Freedom first, freedom second, freedom always” (Ashutosh Mukherjee, the then VC, Calcutta University in a Senate Meeting).
In contrast to this the present Union government’s adverse attitude towards autonomy of educational institutions or the vindictive handling of any protest by students-teachers-employees were amply demonstrated during the recent past in cases of IIM Mumbai, JNU, Delhi, JU Kolkata or say, instance of Rohith Vemula and others. In the NEP 2020 too, the autonomy is referred only in connection with the debated scheme of graded autonomy already introduced by the present government and which is described by teachers and students as a step towards “privatisation and commercialisation of public-funded institutions and government’s slow withdrawal from funding higher education”. This attitude culminates in the NEP 2020 with the phrase ‘light but tight’ regulatory control, the example of which is found in the attempt to bring Higher Education under one umbrella organization, HECI abolishing UGC, AICTE or such other institutions, without any serious efforts to do away with their limitations or lapses. This is a clear indication of attempts towards bringing a highly centralized education system so that it remains tight under the grip of a central power that be. An obvious expression of this centralization of power, it is reflected more fully in the calls for one nation, one entrance examination, one curriculum etc., for a multi-nationality , multi-lingual, multi-culture country, thus steamrolling diversities into a mechanized whole under one power. And finally, the idea of RSA headed by the Prime Minister as envisaged in the DNEP 2019 facing severe criticism from all quarters, in place of it CABE has been strengthened and empowered with much greater mandate. All these clearly point to the sinister design of exercising total bureaucratic governmental control over education, that the NEP 2020 stands for, repeating the attacks more virulently that have been going on since independence.
Treacherous deceptive dangerous NEP 2020 must be thwarted
There are thousand and one dangerous trends strewn throughout the NEP 2020. To sum up this initial look at the Policy, it can be said that the NEP 2020 reflects the ruling power-that-be hurriedly trying to get their agenda through. The existing education system is fraught with defects-lapses- corruptions- and thousand and one other malice. Naturally these give birth to resentment in people. Without any concrete programme to remove the problems, the NE 2020 uses people’s resentment and make treacherous move to carry through their design. It tries to give shape to their ill-conceived design for implementing a skewed view of education which is fraught with obscurantism, bigotry, unscientific bent of mind which naturally reduces itself to blind submission from want of rationality and courage for searching the truth. It is the agenda of Hindutwavadi approach for total destruction of the kernel of education by effecting annihilation of secular, scientific, democratic education. It is the agenda of the government totally surrendering its responsibility towards educating its people with a view to giving effect to all-out corporatization of education meant for the privileged few. It is the agenda of curtailing education and robbing education of its comprehensive character which could otherwise help youth develop into rational, courageous, truth-seeking personalities equipped to find out the cause and way out from the present wretched condition to which the prevailing system has pushed common people into. And to carry through their agenda smoothly the power-that-be want a total bureaucratic governmental control on education. They use two covers. One, the verbosity in every line of the NEP 2020 which conceals the real venomous intent of the policymakers and allure uncritical minds to take it on the face-value. The second is the cover of the present unfortunate situation, which the rulers thought would help them to keep people cowed down. But democratic-minded, education loving people of this country with glorious tradition of scholasticism and knowledge cannot accept these lying low. They need to realize that the NEP 2020 does not touch upon the very root of the existing problems in the education system of the country or remove people’s resentment that has cropped up against the problems. Rather the government-policymakers-the ruling class took to the more treacherous, still more dangerous, deceptive blue-print for annihilation of modern secular scientific democratic education for the country only with a view to filling the coffer of corporate houses of the ruling monopolist class. Confronting this danger, people must rise in one voice against this heinous design of the ruling monopolists and their subservient governments and must build up greater, more and more powerful struggle on the edifice of loftier ethics-morality and culture with a common goal for making a road for genuine education universally for people.