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Why not modify existing system instead of having new education policy now and then?

By NS Venkataraman* 

There is an ongoing national debate on the merits of the National Education Policy that was announced by the Government of India.
In order to give an opportunity to the stakeholders (students and teachers) to provide their views and suggestions on the subject , an All India essay competition was organized by Nandini Voice for the Deprived, a not for profit organization, based at Chennai.
There was a good response and a number of teachers and students from all over India submitted their views and suggestions.
Highlights of the views and suggestions made by students and teachers are given below:

Overall view

There is recognition and appreciation of the efforts of Government of India to enact a new education policy, keeping in view the emerging trends in different fields and with the objective of equipping the students to take up the challenges ahead in shaping their future career objectives and goals.
The objectives such as all universities and colleges should be multidisciplinary by the year 2040, admission to foreign universities, bag less days to teach vocational courses to students, teaching of three languages to the students in the basic stage are laudable.
However, some of the objectives and strategies seem to be too optimistic , considering the ground realities and various constraints.

Why repeated announcement of education policy?

In 1968, an education policy was announced. Subsequently, in 1986, another education policy was announced. Now, for the third time , a new education policy has been announced.
Does the repeated announcement of education policy mean that the earlier education policy was flawed? After a few years, will yet another education policy be announced?
There is a need for consistency in education policy ona long term basis .Can we say that the students who have studied as per the earlier education policy are outdated citizens now?

Lack of focus on moral education

In the new education policy, there is no reference to the need for imparting moral education to the students in the formative age group.
These days, due to rapid spread of social media, many young students get misinformed and fall prey to bad habits which affect their future life. Teaching students about the importance of honesty in thoughts and actions is a very necessary component in education policy. In the new education policy , this is conspicuous by it’s absence.

Is modifying the structure necessary?

The existing 10 plus 2 structure has been changed to 5+3+3+4 structure , which appears to be only a cosmetic exercise.
Earlier, there was a system of intermediate course of two year duration followed by two year degree course. Late on, this was changed to a one year pre university course and three year degree course. These changes did not bring forth any improvement in the quality of education.
Whatever the changes to be brought in the syllabus and teaching methods due to emerging developments, can be imparted to the students even in the existing structure.
It appears that the framers of the new education policy seem to get satisfaction in changing the structure, thinking that this would give a new look. On the other hand, this will be a case of old wine in a new bottle.

Need for continuity of education

In the four year bachelor degree course plan proposed in the new education policy , using a stage-wise distribution method, the new education policy counts every year of bachelor’s degree. After the first year, you receive a diploma, then an advanced diploma , then a bachelor’s degree and finally a bachelor’s degree with research concentration.
This arrangement will create more confusion and will serve no purpose. On the other hand, many disadvantages will happen.
For the students, continuity in education is necessary, instead of discontinuing midway and rejoining later. When a person rejoins a course later after a gap of being involved in an unrelated area for some time, it will be difficult for the student to catch up. Further, the so called diploma after one year or advanced diploma after second year is unlikely to be recognized by the employers for providing jobs. Ultimately, the ill conceived policy would lead to drop outs, which will not help the students or the education system in any way.

PhD after four years

At present, students can opt for PhD after 3 years of graduate course and two years of post graduate course. Now, as per the new education policy, students can opt for PhD after four years instead of five years . What is the logic of this proposal ?
Good foundation in subject knowledge is necessary for a PhD student and five years of study is certainly a need before becoming a PhD student.
Some educationists think that before joining PhD, students should go for M.Phil. after completing the post graduate course. Now, this M Phil course has been abolished. These are all counter productive measures.

Difference in learning capabilities

We have always seen that there are different learning capability between students. There is no meaningful recognition of this aspect in the new education policy.
In some countries, there is a policy with regard to the admissibility of students in higher courses after school level education, depending on the learning capability of the students. New education policy has not discussed this issue in any substantive way.

Ultimate need

While several merits can be pointed out in the new education policy, the fundamental factor is that unless there would be firm and lofty commitment on the part of the educational authorities in government, policy planners and teaching community and availability of adequately skilled teachers in large number, no system can be successfully implemented.
This is a serious issue in India today, as there is political interference in educational institutions by the politicians in power, indiscipline amongst teachers which are increasingly being reported in media all over India and lack of parental control of the young students, which lead to bad behavior by some of the students and so on.
These are fundamental issues in the education system today. Without solving them meaningfully and effectively, simply tampering the structure of education or introducing additional fields of studies will do no good. The education policy does not seem to have paid adequate attention to these critical issues.
Finally, frequent revision of education policy (three times already done in post independent India) creates a sense of uncertainty in the Indian education system.
Instead of designing and announcing a new education policy every now and then, it would have been appropriate to bring some modifications in the existing system to the extent needed and from time to time, without tampering the entire system.
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*Trustee, Nandini Voice For The Deprived, Chennai

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