“Education is the manifestation of perfection already in man” – Swami Vivekananda
This very celebrated and illustrious quotation of Swami Vivekanand is indicative of not only his profound understanding of the want of education but also of his thoughtfulness and perceptiveness about the objective of imparting education. The present government has very appositely weaved the aforesaid intent in to the National Education Policy Document.
Manifestation is the expression of what we know or what we can do or what we are capable of. Mere restructuring of syllabus and reorganization and reshuffling of organizations could never have let us manifest our own inherent ‘perfection’. Manifestation necessitates an environment where each and every child/individual is treated as unique and inimitable and is encouraged to express thyself, to know their strengths, to improve their intellect, and to excel in a competition where the only adversary is your own yester-self. The NEP, right from the pre-primary stage to higher education including the role of the teachers, envisions a similar environment. The drafters have fittingly worded the intent of the policy makers and have left a huge scope for the implementers to absorb the state/regional/national pulls and pressures. The aspirations of millions of people have been tapped and the goal is ascertained. The NEP has the potential to take a revolutionary quantum jump from slow paced and status quoits education norms to a globally placed yet locally rooted and a pleasantly dynamic policy.
Globalizing the Local aspirations: When the entire world is grappling with Covid-19 pandemic and is exploring its own possibilities and potentialities, Indian government has put forward a policy that envisions global aspirations of Indians. The focus on creativity, innovation, and research on matters of curriculum and pedagogy along with latest technological and infrastructural support will go a long way in making India as a global study destination. Courses and programs in subjects, such as Indology, AYUSH systems of medicine, Yoga, Music, Culture, internationally relevant curricula in the sciences, social sciences and beyond, quality residential facilities and on campus support, etc. will be fostered to attain the goal of ‘Internationalization at home’.
One of the most ambitious and striving aspect of the NEP is the proposal of encouraging high performing Indian Universities to set up campuses in other countries and inviting selected foreign universities, e.g., those from top 100 universities in the world, and facilitating them to operate in India. In the long run this one step, provided these foreign universities undergo strict scrutiny in regulatory, governance and content norms at par with other autonomous institutions of India, will prove to be a milestone in restoring India’s role as a Vishwa Guru.
Multidisciplinary Education: Holistic education envisages multidisciplinary approach towards subjects as well as skills. The purpose of education is to make a child/individual inquisitive, discover, grow from within, and to keep the flame of ‘learning more’ alight. The NEP has broken the age old stereotypes of ‘Compartmentalizing of Education’, ‘barricading cross-learning’, and ‘unease in transfer/sharing of knowledge’ by courageously proposing multidisciplinary options in schools itself. The new system will give complete freedom to curious and inherently multi-equipped adolescents to choose to study what interests them most as well as to explore other variables in association with their subject of interest. That is, the freedom to choose law along with chemistry and environment science, or to choose environment with business studies, etc. Such learning experiences enables young minds to think ‘out of box’ solutions drawn from varied disciplines, conceptions and standpoints. Not only classroom learning will be diversified but they will also be free to venture into any specialized field after school.
Gender Inclusion Fund: Girl Child education has always been the prime concern for our policy framers. But what makes NEP a path-breaking visionary document is the inclusion of transgender students in the ‘Gender Inclusion Fund’. The fund aims to equip the state governments to implement central government’s objective of providing equitable access and quality education for girls as well as transgender students. The central government has considered as critical and decisive to assisting female and transgender children in gaining access to education. Inclusion of transgender is all the more noteworthy as it supplements the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act which came into effect on 5th December, 2019. The implementation of this act, in itself, calls for an inclusive and non-discriminatory educational framework. Their inclusion in the GIF will go a long way in bringing diverse yet unique individual identities into the mainstream of education structure thus enabling them to access the space that they had desired for long and also in sensitizing other communities towards the needs and demands of transgenders.
Streamlining Indian Sign Language: The NEP has taken another lead in stating that Indian Sign Language (ISL) will be standardized across the country and efforts will be made to develop state and national curriculum material for use by students with hearing impairment. The National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS) has been assigned the responsibility of developing high quality modules to teach Indian Sign Language and also to design and develop academic modules of other basic subjects to be taught using ISL. There is also scope and possibilities for developing and teaching local sign languages depending upon their requirement and relevance. The efforts made by countries like Australia, Japan, Netherland, and Arab Countries (Pan-Arab sign language) demonstrates in great lengths that standardization of sign language might be a long process but the empowering quotient that it brings along is worth the sweat and time.
The NEP has broken the age old stereotypes of ‘Compartmentalizing of Education’, ‘barricading cross-learning’, and ‘unease in transfer/sharing of knowledge’ by courageously proposing multidisciplinary options in schools itself
The aforesaid issues along with three language formula, mathematical and numeracy training at the foundational level; focus on early childhood care and education; ascertaining 100 percent GER; multiple entry and exits in the degree courses; and the continuous focus on learning, training and upgrading the teacher’s potential will be noteworthy in attaining our goal of accessing Universal high-quality education. Though a bit late in our journey, we have finally begun to fulfill the global education development agenda, reflected in the Goal 4 (SDG 4) of the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development, adopted by India in 2015 which seeks to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all” by 2030. Such sky-scraping goal necessitated a reconfiguration of the entire education system – its goals, structure, components, and target groups – and this government has once again demonstrated the audacity to take the quantum jump.
(The author is an Assistant Professor at CCPPT/SIS, JNU)