A Case Of Confused Thinking: On Draft National Education Policy

By Moderator July 13, 2019 12:57

Rohit Dhankar, Professor, Azim Premji University, observes that Draft National Education Policy lacks depth and loses focus of the richness of secular democratic ideals by aiming for 21st-century skills.

Important Analysis

  • The Draft National Education Policy (NEP) 2019 recommends a restructuring of school years and the curriculum, in a wide-ranging manner. If properly implemented, many of the suggested changes may help education.
  • These include
    • Flexibility and wider scope at the secondary level,
    • Space for moral reasoning,
    • Re-emphasis on the true spirit of the three-language formula,
    • A focus on the core concepts and key ideas in subjects, vocational courses, and also a focus of assessment on understanding.
  • “The goal”, according to the draft policy, “will be to create holistic and complete individuals equipped with key 21st-century skills”.
    • This makes it quite clear what the definition of “holistic and complete individuals” means.
      • Under the heading “Curricular integration of essential subjects and skills”, it says that certain subjects and skills should be learned by all students in order to become good, successful, innovative, adaptable, and productive human beings in today’s rapidly-changing world.
      • In addition to proficiency in languages, these skills include:
        • scientific temper;
        • sense of aesthetics and art;
        • languages;
        • communication;
        • ethical reasoning;
        • digital literacy;
        • knowledge of India; and
        • knowledge of critical issues facing local communities, States, the country, and the world.
      • However, the Draft National Education Policy also recommends much that may have just the opposite effect. These are, for example,
        • 15 subjects/courses at the upper primary level,
        • Three languages in early childhood education, and confusing statements on a number of curricular issues.
        • The curriculum the Draft National Education Policy suggests at the upper primary level has a lack of a coherent vision and the curricular thinking.

Other issues

  • The policy envisions an “India centered education system that contributes directly to transforming our nation sustainably into an equitable and vibrant knowledge society”.
    • The proclaimed “India centred-ness” of education is limited to recommendations on Indian languages and a mention of Indian knowledge systems.
  • The democratic ideal is neither mentioned nor used in articulating the aims of education or curricular recommendation,
    • Though democratic values are mentioned in the list of key “skills” that are to be integrated into subjects.
  • The author observes that the broad goals are to send out “good, successful, innovative, adaptable, and productive human beings”; not a critical, democratic citizen who may want to change the situation rather than adapting to it.
    • The phrase “Evidence-based and scientific thinking” is used together everywhere implying that there can be “scientific thinking” which is not evidence based.
    • Further, he oberve that “evidence-based and scientific thinking” is supposed to help create an ethical, rational, and compassionate individual but not a “logical and problem solving” individual as they are listed separately as “skills”.
  • Further the draft policy mistakes “language acquisition when children are immersed in more than one language” with a “language teaching” situation where immersion is impossible in three languages.
    • The Draft National Education Policy rightly criticizes private pre-schools for being a downward extension of primary school and of there being formal teaching in them. But it goes on to recommend preparing children for primary by prescribing learning the alphabets of and reading in three languages (for 3-6-year olds).
    • All this in the name of “enhanced language learning abilities” of young children.
  • It prescribes teaching script and reading in three languages to three-year-old children, but writing is supposed to be taught to six-year-old children.
  • It also wants to introduce “some textbooks” only at age eight.
    • The author criticized the three-year gap between teaching reading and writing and withhold textbooks until age eight
  • The draft policy stipulates that the “mandated contents in the curriculum will be reduced… to its core, focussing on key concepts and essential ideas”. This is to “yield more space for discussion and nuanced understanding, analysis, and application of key concepts”.
    • But it goes on to block more than the space vacated by prescribing six new laundry-list subjects/courses in addition to the existing eight.
    • Some of these new courses such as “critical issues” and “moral reasoning” can be taught in a much better way in a revised curriculum of social studies as the context for both is society.
    • Social studies need more space in the upper primary curriculum.
      • The subject has to be taught in such a manner that it connects with society and can be a very good way of introducing critical issues and moral thinking.
    • Abstract moral reasoning is likely to have the same fate as so-called “moral science” that is taught in many schools.
    • Similarly, “Indian classical language” and “Indian languages” can constitute a single rich subject rather than being split into two courses.
  • The absence of discussion on socio-political life seems to be another casualty in the emphasis on a knowledge society and 21st-century skills. Social studies seem to be missing entirely as it has been mentioned once and then left out of the entire discussion on curriculum
  • The vision of the Draft National Education Policy rests on UNESCO declarations and reports rather than the Indian Constitution and development of democracy in this country; this in spite of wanting to make education India-centred.
    • Thus, in the suggested curriculum changes, socio-political life is almost invisible.
  • In last Author says that the policy lacks depth and loses focus of the richness of secular democratic ideals by aiming for 21st-century skills.

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By Moderator July 13, 2019 12:57