Gist of EPW August Week 2, 2020

The Economic and Political Weekly (EPW) is an important source of study material for IAS, especially for the current affairs segment. In this section, we give you the gist of the EPW magazine every week. The important topics covered in the weekly are analysed and explained in a simple language, all from a UPSC perspective.

We will keep on updating this page with more articles for the week, so keep checking this page every day!

In the Wilderness

Context:

The Union Cabinet has approved the National education policy (NEP) 2020. The new education policy has come after a gap of 34 years. The last NEP was framed in 1986. The article analyses the various aspects of NEP in the present socio-economic context.

State of Education in India:

  • The Indian education system can be compared to a two-disc system, in which two discs are systematically placed over each other. There is a greasy buffer between the two to ensure coordination between them.
  • The lower disc, which is larger and older, represents the education framework which is in control of states. On the other hand, the upper disc is smaller and new, representing the educational framework under the central government.
  • Exam boards of states serve as a greasy buffer between the two discs.
    • State boards face higher incidences of failure in exams.
    • The Central board facilitates regional elites to move away from their social surroundings and compete in a restricted national arena.
  • To coordinate further between two discs, a supra administrative device called the Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE) was established in 1919. It still exists, and the new National Education Policy (NEP) promises to strengthen it further.
    • It should be noted that CABE does not have statutory powers.
    • Also, NEP does not present any prospects to give it statutory powers.
  • NEP proposes structural reforms to help the central government to perform diverse regulatory functions. It includes additional reforms that are intended to regulate the branches of foreign universities which will be set up in India in due course.

NEP and Pandemic:

  • NEP, which was being drafted for over the past five years, was announced amid the COVID-19 crisis.
  • The irony is that even in such circumstances, it contains a passing reference to it as if the crisis has been over now and India is well prepared to tackle any similar event in the future.
  • At the same time, the NEP does not anticipate any resource constraint amid the ongoing pandemic, even in its partial implementation.
  • It does not respond to the advisories of the UN bodies.
  • In total, the NEP does not list any pandemic related challenges. Hence, the recommendation made by late D S Kothari, 54 years ago, that the combined center-state expenditure on education must be 6% of the total GDP, should be read in the present context of likely shrinking GDP.

NEP and Primary education:

  • The NEP would adversely impact the education of children, who have been promised eight-year-long elementary education through the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act (RTE).
    • NEP has clubbed three years of pre-school education with the first two grades of primary education. By doing so, it has created hurdles in the implementation of already embattled RTE.
  • The distinction between preschool schooling and school education has already been blurred by urban creches and nurseries.
    • If anganwadis are now given a formal role and responsibility of preschool education, then it would have an adverse impact on childhood development.
  • NEP envisages that NCERT would design a curriculum to facilitate the transition from preschool to primary education. However, it is to be noted that NCERT and others have been emphasizing for decades, that premature learning is not relevant at all.
    • Such a move will further weaken the already weak primary education system.
    • The gender and caste prejudices of primary education have begun to be recognized. To remove these prejudices more has to be done apart from paying obeisance to equity.

NEP and Upper Primary education:

  • NEP goes on to propose that vocational learning would be included in the upper primary stage.
  • However, policymakers have delayed this inclusion of vocational learning till now, so as to ensure that a highly stratified social set-up is prevented from segmenting children’s life at school.

NEP and Right to education:

  • In the post-RTE period, NEP has revived the parlance of non-formal education of the 1970s in which community volunteers were involved to facilitate the minimum school curriculum. Their involvement contradicts the promise to professionalise teachers.
  • NEP further emphasizes frequent exams to check outcomes in literacy and numeracy.
  • These proposals will backtrack the comprehensive reform in elementary education which has been achieved through RTE.

NEP and Higher education system:

  • NEP envisages phasing out of existing affiliated colleges.
    • By doing so, NEP is overlooking the historical system that allowed provincial aspirations and dreams to accommodate themselves in an elite-dominated system (Upper disc).
  • NEP has set the stage for the merger of institutions and the use of technologies in various domains of higher education.
  • NEP gives further impetus to the effort of changing the educational system from British style to the one associated with the US-style.
    • Such an effort has already been tried and failed, when efforts were made to introduce a four-year bachelor’s degree in Delhi University. This move from the rigid British model to a flexible US model reflects India’s shift towards a US-style education system.
  • NEP paves the way for foreign universities to set their campuses in India, while also recognizing the importance of public universities.
    • However, the public universities in India are in a decaying stage.
    • It must be emphasized that the role of public universities is to deliver social justice, while private institutions come with primarily profit motive and serve only those who can pay.

Conclusion:

  • In 1991, when economic reforms were introduced, a Programme of Action (POA) (1992) was unveiled to anchor the 1986 NEP.
  • With the prevailing pandemic and the impact it would have on the economy, a similar POA may be required for NEP 2020.
  • However, the urgency with which POA will be introduced will be decided by the lower disc, which caters to the majority of students. In such circumstances, CABE will again prove its worth.

For more EPW articles, read “Gist of EPW”.

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