“Integrated and holistic approach to a child’s education with inbuilt flexibility to choose is the key to the new education policy”: Dr MK Shridhar, Member, NEP Draft Committee
   10-Jun-2019
Dr MK Shridhar, popularly known as MKS, is an inspiring Professor in Management, a teacher, researcher, institution builder and a mentor to thousands of students. He has teaching and research experience of over 40 years. He has served as Professor, Dean & Director of Department of Management Studies at Bangalore University. He was Member Secretary and Executive Director of Karnataka Knowledge Commission from 2009 to 2013. Currently he is the Member National Education Policy drafting Committee and a Member of Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE), Ministry of HRD, Government of India and Member of All India Board of Management Studies, AICTE. He was conferred with “Karnataka Rajyothsava Award” by Government of Karnataka and “General President Gold Medal” by Indian Science Congress Association. He spoke to Organiser Bureau Chief Prashanth Vaidyaraj on the guiding principles of the new education policy, challenges in the education system, India’s education heritage and the language issue.
 
What is the overall purpose of the Draft Education policy (DEP) 2019? What are its guiding principles?
Our Chairman Dr Kasturirangan has stated the purpose and guiding principles of the education policy in the preamble. However, we know that the last education policy was formulated in 1986. Since then there has been no policy changes. There were some changes made in programme of action in 1992 but the overall policy remained.Consequently, neither at the centre nor at the states education policy were changed for three plus decades. This called for new educational policy.
 
 
 
Secondly, from 1990’s onwards and especially during the last 10 years the society has undergone tremendous change in terms of globalisation, technology etc. The educational policy had to reflect these changes.
We have addressed the concept of multi-lingualism and the power of language in our policy. It is not just mother tongue but the power of language for the child. Restricting a child just to the mother tongue can always weaken our cause in the long run. We must always ensure that there is lot of space for languages in the life of a childThirdly, in the last 10+ years India too has grown and there is a realisation that we are emerging on the world stage. Moreover, the education system we have in the country originated by the British in the 1830’s. Even after independence we have not changed this system much for 70 odd years. I personally feel that in the context of these changes and factors it is high time that we have our own education policy which will dismiss this colonial system lock, stock and barrel. By doing so, we will respond to globalization on the one hand and technology on the other. This will address the gap in vision and implementation for the next 20-30 years.
 
Further, given the acceptance that Indian knowledge like Yoga, Ayurveda, etc have gained, our policy should reflect and recognise the Indian knowledge systems. Indian knowledge treasures should be introduced right from the primary school. The Bharatiya system had a comprehensive approach towards education and knowledge. Students should get a comprehensive view of all the subjects so that they can choose as per their interests later. Our policy guidelines propose a system that is comprehensive and reflects India’s knowledge system and ethos.
 
How can the education policy ensure a seamless transition from school to college education, then to professional education and later to the student’s career?
There are two principles in education. One is the integrated and holistic approach which was the missing link in our policy. Starting from school, the kind of teaching and the content was given a piecemeal treatment and given in different compartment and not in an integrated and holistic way. One very important principle we kept in our mind while framing the policy was to take a holistic view of a child's education. This means to consider from pre-school to research and beyond on one hand and general education to medical education which includes agriculture, law, technical on the other hand. Today one regulatory body controls the stream of education and operate in their own spheres without integrating with others and this is a bane of our system. We are coming out with a structure which integrates education both vertically and horizontally in various streams of education.. That is from pre-school to research and beyond.
Declaration of the draft Education Policy on a priority basis as per the announcement by PM Shri Modi after taking the oath is a welcome step. We hope education will continue to be a priority of this government — Atul Kothari Secretary, Shiksha Sanskriti Utthan NyasOur entire education system originated during the British era and works on the control and licensing system. The concept of affiliation was brought in where the university will decide everything for the college. As a result the system has become very rigid and students don’t have freedom to choose and study from a wide spectrum of choices without being restricted to one stream throughout their education. They can take any combination like Mathematics and Music, Physics and Commerce, Economics and Biology. This is based on multiple intelligence theory which states that intelligence is not based on one subject. Our policy is bringing this into practice.
 
Our ancient universities like Nalanda and Takshashila were following this multiple-intelligence method of education and hence their students used to have knowledge of a wide range of subjects. Variety is the essence of Indian education and uniformity is not our tradition. Sadly, these anomalies have crept into our system along with centralisation and control. The British had a necessity to control the education system but we continued the same even after Independence. We wish to make the system flexible so that the students can choose their subjects.
 
How will the DEP take into consideration India's rich educational heritage which gives importance to skills at a young age? Is it possible to give importance to skill development right from a young age?
If not skill development per se, the DEP aims to end the entire concept of curricular, extra-curricular and co-curricular. There is nothing like that as we believe that everything is curricular. Sports, Music, Arts along with Physics are all part of the curriculum. When this happens, we bring in a huge component of life skills into the entire domain of education. What was understood all these days was that education was something that was only cognitive and had nothing to do with our hands, heart, or legs. By ending this entire hierarchy of subject as in having some subjects as more important and some as less important, actually we are bringing that focus back.
Bharatiya Shikshan Mandal (BSM) welcomes the suggestion of instituting Rashtriya Shiksha Aayog (RSA) and to promote Bharatiya languages. The RSA would be headed by Prime Minister and have the mandate to develop, articulate, implement, evaluate and revise the vision of education on a continuous and sustained basis. It will be a game-changer and will solve many problems in designing and implementation of the Education Policy. The suggestion to rename the Ministry as Education Ministry is also acceptance of the popular demand put forth by BSM. Accreditation of school education will definitely improve quality education at primary and secondary levels. Most of the suggestions that we had made, including the one about primary education in mother tongue and popularising Indian languages have been accepted — Mukul Kanitkar, Organising Secretary, Bharatiya Shikshan Mandal Next, the entire concept of vocational education which looks after skill, etc was kept separate from school education. A separate department, separate courses, separate mechanisms, etc were there for vocational education. What we are saying is there is no difference between school education and vocational education. The entire vocational education should be part and parcel of school education both administratively and conceptually also. It is when both vocational and school education are located within the same premises only then easy mobility between the two would be possible. One can choose a vocation course as per one’s interest as part of school education and sharpen one’s skills. But today a student is forced to exit formal school education to enter into vocational training and has to exit vocational training to enter formal schooling and this is a huge risk for them. Therefore, it has to go together as part of the same system.
 
Thirdly, we have to encourage children to have their choice. Even in school they should have some limited choice. One is additional subject but what we are trying to bring is that if a child wishes to learn more in a subject, even that should be allowed. This is the kind of flexibility we are trying to bring. As a result, a very important message will be sent to the child, their parents and society too that it is not just the head that is important alone but the whole body and something beyond body too. This will also address the issue of quota-based coaching and will also bring creativity in the system.
Your views on efficacy of Right to Education (RTE). Has it become a boon or a bane by excluding huge number of minority-run schools? Will the final education policy suggest changes to the way RTE is implemented?
I will not say whether this as a boon or a bane. I can only say that RTE is a reality and we cannot go back on that. What we are suggesting is that it should be extended to address the entire issue of underprivileged children going underrepresented in our education system. RTE must be extended to pre-schools and to secondary education also that is upto 12th standard. At the same time, we are also trying to say that the very definition of school has to be extended. For e.g. Gurukulas and Madrasas are not recognised as formal schooling. In our opinion, this is not right as all these are efforts in education but we are sticking to one standard. We are trying to make education a broader concept. On one hand, Madrasas must come to the mainstream and on the other Gurukulas should also address the contemporary needs. It is not right that we are isolating ourselves from the society.
 
What is the importance given to education in mother tongue in the DEP? How can it be implemented in various states?
As per language policy, we are not making any significant changes but we are definitely for mother tongue, regional language and home language. What we have suggested is a three language formula that must be followed in letter and spirit and must be extended to pre-school too. As of now, the 3-language formula is from grade 1 to grade 8 and not beyond or before. Children in the age group of 3-4 years are extremely receptive and should be exposed to new languages from a young age. The child picks up the language from mother or father in quick time. Language learning is not just writing but also involves talking and presenting it too is learning.
 
There has to be a balance between the mother tongue, local language, classical language and international language. We have addressed the concept of multi-lingualism and the power of language in our policy. It is not just mother tongue but the power of language for the child. Restricting a child just to the mother tongue can always weaken our cause in the long run. We must always ensure that there is lot of space for languages in the life of a child. Only then they will not neglect it or ignore languages. And we must not make any language compulsory and should be left to the choice of the children.
 
There are misgivings about Hindi being forced on non-Hindi speaking states. Your comments?
This is a wrong impression that has been conveyed as there is no imposition of any one language. What we are only saying is that as per the Schedule 8 of the Constitution, we must ensure that all the 22 languages are promoted. For example, in Hindi speaking states a non-Hindi language should be promoted. If this is not done, it will become a 2-language formula with Hindi and English instead of the 3-language formula. We have suggested a scheme under which there has to be more languages including classical, international and modern languages. But we believe that no language should be made compulsory and it should be left to the choice of the students.