Among all the incidents over the last week, probably over the last year, the one of the highest consequence is the launch of the New Education Policy (NEP). I don’t even need to explain why.
I cannot say I am an expert, but overall it does seem to be positive. There are some basic themes that I think I could identify.
First, it seems at the school level, we are moving towards a more American model of “elementary school”, “middle school” and “high school.” In fact, at the bottom rung there are 5 years of preschool, starting at age 3. From what I know, there is a growing consensus among experts that “Pre-K education” is crucial. As such, some formalization of the process starting from age of 3 years is welcome. At the same time, this will also make it easier for women to re-enter the workforce after giving birth.
The second theme is the abolition of distinction between “Science” and “Commerce” and “Art” streams. This is somewhat in the direction of reducing rigid distinctions in school education. But I wish they had gone further.
Let me explain. In our system, there’s a Class 9 math textbook. You finish Class 9 and get promoted to Class 10, when you read a Class 10 math textbook. And the same for every subject.
This is far too regimented. It assumes that learning ability of a child increases at the same pace in every subject. But it most certainly does not. The same kid could be at “Class 12 level” in math but only “Class 9 level” in Chemistry. By the time kids reach high school, their specialized interests begin to reveal themselves. It would have been good to have pools of courses that one could take in high school, irrespective of which year they are in. And you qualify to take the Board Exam by assembling a certain number of credits across the courses you choose.
The important thing is to get the student to pursue their interest. In the US, many kids take “Advanced Placement” or AP courses. I have come across Class 10 level kids already learning math at college level or above.
I know people often make fun of the school system in the US. But you have to see the results. The fact is America produces more innovation and entrepreneurship than anyone else on earth. We don’t need kids to load up on rote learning the capitals of states or which year so and so was born.
On higher education as well, the NEP theme seems to be one of mobility and flexibility. The Masters degree is redundant and seems to be on its way out. The Bachelors with research, lasting 4 years, is enough. Stay one year for a certificate, two years for a diploma, three years for a Bachelors and four years for a Bachelors with research from which you can roll directly into a PhD.
I absolutely loved this setup. So seamless. So smooth. So conceptually elegant.
Adding to this seamless nature is the credit bank for college. You study two years at College X and then move to College Y, transferring your college credits with you. This is what the future will be like. A young adult may not be ready for a four year commitment. Maybe because they don’t know what they want. It could even be because of financial or family situations…whatever. You do what you can when you can. Your “education credit” stays with you. You can come back and pick up where you left off. Anywhere in India. In the future, we will have older people coming back to college to reskill themselves. They will need this free flowing system as well.
Of course, the most crucial brick here is teacher education. We know this is where our system falters. When state governments have asked teachers to produce their degrees, we have sometimes seen protests. Why would they be scared to show their degrees? We know why that would be… We know there is an embarrassingly large number of teachers who clearly aren’t qualified. From what I read, they will now have to pass a teaching exam every 10 years. Let’s hope this is enough.
There is a lot to chew on and one cannot possibly address everything in one blog post. That would be silly.
But I wanted to say something funny as well. After NEP was announced, I saw loads of Twitter outrage. Some were trending that NEP is “Anti-working class”. Another said NEP is “Anti-Bahujan” and finally another group said it is “Anti-Dravidian.” You click on any one of these trends, each with thousands of tweets and you won’t find one specific objection to a policy point in NEP.
They have cartoons, memes, everything. But so far I have not seen a single specific objection anywhere.
The CPIM Politburo condemned the NEP in strongest possible terms. The only specific point they could object to is renaming the HRD Ministry as Ministry of Education. LOL!
Bear in mind that in matters of education, the CPIM is the significant party, not Congress. As part of the unwritten deal between CPM and Cong, we all know that Communists get to rule education.
And all they could come up with was why did they name it the Education Ministry?
I’m not kidding. This is their flagship issue 🙂
Seriously. At this point, the opposition to NEP is looking like this scene from Bunty aur Babli.
Come on, opposition, if you have nothing to say, don’t make a fool of yourself.