No amount of experimentation can ever prove me right; a single experiment can prove me wrong.
- Albert Einstein
A comprehensive education policy for India is on the anvil for the first time since 1986. After about four years in the making, the draft National Education Policy, 2019 is out in the public domain, with comments sought from all stakeholders till June 30. The hundreds-of-pages-worth document aims to reshape the education landscape in India, and will set the agenda for the years and decades to come. The core of education lies in knowledge: the nature of knowledge, whose knowledge, what knowledge is worth knowing and why. The draft policy proposes extending the Right To Education (RTE) Act, which currently applies to classes I to VIII, to the entire school system from pre-school to class XII. The K. Kasturirangan Committee’s draft National Education Policy 2019, which was submitted to the government on June 1, emphasises reinstating “Indian systems of knowledge” and alludes to “local” knowledge. Of course, there will be debates, and controversies. But, having worked for over two decades to improve the foundational skills of children, it is good to see a policy document that recognises the “severe learning crisis” and emphasises in no uncertain terms that it has to be dealt with.
A cursory glance at the draft policy makes everyone realize that the country is likely to see a complete restructuring of undergraduate programmes, including reintroduction of the four-year course, multiple entry and exit options for students and early childhood education to be overseen and regulated by the Ministry of Human Resource Development (HRD), as part of the school system, rather than the private pre-schools and anganwadis that currently cater to the 3-to-6 years age group. It also includes the whole gamut of professional education — engineering, medicine, agriculture, law, etc. There is no denying that the draft policy seeks to revamp all aspects of the sector and does not shy away from suggesting brave new ideas. The policy proposes to restructure the 10+2 education structure into a 5+3+3+4 structure so that the five years from ages three to seven or till the end of Std 2 are seen as one “foundational stage”. This is a welcome recommendation. To augment the education scenario several new institutions including the National Education Commission [Rashtriya Shiksha Aayog] to be chaired by the prime minister and to be run by executive and advisory bodies will come up. While the implications of the growth of bloated and hierarchical bureaucracy will remain, the report makes repeated assurances of ‘autonomy’ in education.
It is now accepted that the education system — public and private — has been deteriorating rapidly and has affected the quality of the country’s human resources. If this trend is not reversed, the system will fail to deliver the goods. One hopes that the new educational policy will bring a change in the scenario. Yet, it will require a huge commitment and conviction to make it happen.