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SEP Vs NEP: Deafening silence of public is disturbing

8 min read

Bhamy V. Shenoy

It is very unfortunate that when our education sector in Karnataka needs million mutinies to pull it out of ICU, attention is directed to find fault with a professionally developed progressive New Education Policy (NEP). This is like cutting the nose to spite the face.


What is even more disturbing is deafening silence on the part of the public. Even here the educationists (significantly current and retired Vice Chancellors), professional bodies representing teachers’ community, NGOs in education sector and management of private educational institutions are most part quiet.
It is shocking to learn that current VCs being state employees do not have the freedom to express their views publicly. Still I would have expected some daring, concerned and competent VCs to express their views freely.

There is absolutely no reason for the management of private educational institutions not to protest when most of them had gladly accepted NEP. There are hundreds of NGOs in educational sector. Now is the time for them to express their views. Why are they quiet?


Even when NEP was unveiled, there were far more criticism – mostly from politicians and affected vested interests – than accolades. The way they were critiquing NEP, it was clear that most had not even read it. Also they were not familiar with the ground realities of dismal state of education sector. It is no different today.

If NEP is implemented even partially, it will usher in a new era in India’s education sector. There will be no fear of one examination deciding the destiny of the student. Going to school will be enjoyable and not boring like today. Students will have far more flexibility to select courses. Rote learning will be replaced by creative thinking.

One of the biggest problems of the current system is over emphasis on examinations. Still on the pretext of giving a better education policy, there is a proposal to conduct three board examinations. NEP is actually getting rid of the current dreadful colonial system of SSLC and PUC exams. The kind of evaluation recommended in NEP is considerably less stressful semester based exams where students will not be withheld for not getting passing marks.


Let us look at often mentioned criticism of NEP to be replaced by SEP. States are not consulted, goes against the constitution and leads to centralization. Hundreds of meetings were organized by the nine member committee of experts headed by former ISRO Chairman Dr. Kasturirangan. After the draft NEP was published, committee studied 2.5 lakh feedback. NEP gives a lot of flexibility just not to the state, but even to educational institutions and students.


NEP does not give enough support to teaching in local language, promotes Hindi, it will lead to Sanskritization, students belonging to OBC/SC/ST will be hurt, promotes Hindutva, etc. These are again totally baseless charges.
NEP encourages teaching in mother tongue. Since children have tremendous ability to learn several languages, it encourages to teach two more languages and choice is left to each school.

No priority has been given to Hindi.
It is ironical and outright shameful to argue that OBC/SC/ST students will be hurt by NEP. On the other hand these are the students who will benefit the most as a result of transformative change of the public sector schools. As an advisor working closely with Pratham, I had visited hundreds of government schools in different parts of India and it pains me to see how poorly they are managed today. Where were these critics all these years?

I wonder how many of these critics have visited government schools, where there are no libraries, no lab facilities, no playground, no toilets, no drinking water, etc, and where teachers take classes for several grades if and when they come to schools.

Early childhood education gets the highest priority. This is influenced by the fact that over 85 per cent of cumulative brain development occurs prior to the age of six. The anganwadis are strengthened either as part of the school complex, where possible, or by building high-quality standalone pre-schools. States will prepare a cadre of professional educators unlike today’s caretakers, with little or no training to impart pre-schooling.

Of course there are some outstanding government schools. But most are below standards as shown repeatedly by several reports where close to 50 per cent are unable to read or do maths at second grade level.

Replacing the current 5+3+2+2 school system by 5+3+3+4 semester-based system, to prioritize pre-schooling from three years of age in fully-equipped schools, developing a scientific temper, an aesthetic sense, communication, ethical reasoning, digital literacy, knowledge of India, and knowledge of critical issues affecting the local community and the world will bring about transformative change in LKG to PU.
One of the outstanding features (there are many) is shutting down all dysfunctional, corrupt and standalone teaching schools to be replaced by four-year degree colleges which are associated with universities or autonomous colleges to provide multi-disciplinary training.

Government should allocate at least 6 per cent of GDP for education sector, currently at 3 per cent. The NEP should have discussed the key success factors for its implementation. One such factor is honest, competent, dedicated teachers and managers at all levels which though discussed could have been pointed out as critical success factor.
All “Stages” will heavily incorporate Indian and local traditions, as well as ethical reasoning, socio-emotional learning, quantitative and logical reasoning, computational thinking and digital literacy, scientific temper, languages, and communication skills.

Because of several outstanding recommendations in NEP to transform current education to world class level, even Kerala- a non BJP ruled state like Karnataka has adapted 95 per cent of NEP.

It is my hope that the new committee of experts to be formed by the ruling Congress Party will also follow Kerala model. It was in implementation, the previous BJP government failed miserably. In a hurry to implement NEP, a sound implementation plan was not developed.

While BJP government was enthusiastic to implement NEP, there was no matching announcement about steps to be taken to allocate 6 per cent of the state GDP to education sector.

It is encouraging to learn from the Higher Education Minister, M C Sudhakar that the new committee will accept what is good in NEP. More than likely the new committee will spend far more time in developing a sound implementation plan without reinventing a new SEP to replace NEP. If not it will be like cutting the nose to spite the face. Let us follow Sarvajna’s wise saying that we should not hesitate to learn from those who know more.

Dr. Bhamy V. Shenoy, an IITM graduate has MS from Illinois Institute of Technology, Ph.D from University of Houston, attended Executive Program in Business Administration at Columbia University, Energy Program at Stanford University, interacted with students in several college and high school students in different states of India and abroad, and an advisor to Pratham Mysuru.


Following are the responses that Shenoy received from former ISRO head Dr Kasturirangan and Anurag Behar, one of the members of the NEP committee and President of Azim Premji Foundation on National Education Policy.

 

From Dr. Kasturirangan to Shenoy (Sept 15, 2023)

Your article – SEP Versus NEP: Cutting the nose to spite the face is a well written article backed up with facts and figures. It took three years for us to ensure we not only identify all the critical issues of education, the problems of the earlier policies but also not overlooking the plurality and diversity of our country. Everybody who matters have been contacted whether individuals, institutions, organisations and other entities. All important ideologies have been covered, so also the religious sects. In fact the Committee is proud of the fact that we have done this not only based on our personal judgment but also sounding several scholars, academics, educationists and others who are familiar of this important sector. All through this exercise we were very conscious that what we think, what we do and what we write will have implications for the future generations which made us consult practically everybody whom we think could have say in this matter.

To treat such a serious effort done with the best of commitment and dedication from all who have participated in this exercise in a casual manner is totally unfair. I can say on behalf of all, that we have done this for the good of the country with the best of the inputs available and in a fair and objective manner. The best we
can do at this stage is to promote its implementation in letter and spirit in those States that are willing to adopt it and give them support from all angles not only financial but also in other matters, so that the true value of this system surfaces if not this year but in two to three years. To me it’s quite clear that it is only knowledgeable people who have also had the seriousness to go through the contents of the policy in its entirety and who can share their views with the rest of the society could make this transformation even if it gets delayed. To say anything more than this from my side would be justifying what we have done and we don’t have to do this in view of all that we have done so far and the conviction with which we stand by what we have done for the good of this country and its people.


From Anurag Behar, one of the members of the NEP committee and President of Azim Premji Foundation to Shenoy (Sept 17, 2023)

Your comments are a very accurate description of the situation.
In the past 3 years, I have repeatedly heard in states which currently have governments of parties that are in opposition in the parliament, that they will publicly protest against the NEP, but will try and implement most of it, because it is good for education. I hope that the situation in Karnataka is akin to that.
I feel that independent educationists, institutions, and other public figures should certainly talk about the merit of the NEP, and thus the requirement of its implementation, for the good of education — as you have done. Also, the point that you make that people protest without reading, is a very basic but important point to emphasize. For people like me (and institutions associated with us) who have been closely involved with the NEP, it may be more effective to dialogue with relevant people, but not join issue publicly, on this matter.


-Team Mysoorunews

 

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