National Education Policy:
Critical Points Left Unspoken – SDPI

The National Education Policy 2020 declared a couple of days ago speaks a lot of innovative steps, but is silent about certain critical issues affecting the backward and minority sections of the society, stated M K Faizy, the national president of Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI). It is claimed that massive transformational reforms in education would be brought about by the Policy. The Policy appears to be one unilaterally declared by the central government without adequate involvement of stakeholders, especially the states and academicians, he said.

The Policy has totally revamped the present educational system from its 10+2 structure to 5+3+3+4 pattern; and on completion of this term, the student will be graduated. Many reforms such as inclusion of vocational studies from 6th grade, teaching in mother tongue at primary level, elimination of subject limitations for graduation, etc. are proposed in the policy. At the same time the Policy is silent about many vital elements such as RTE, reservation for the backward and minority sections, etc.

Right To Education Act 2009 (RTE), is a radical step intended to ensure free and compulsory education to all children in the age group of six to fourteen years. The Act has defined this as a Fundamental Right. This is also a constitutional provision. The Act was enacted to implement the Directive Principle suggested in Indian constitution. Access to all children is promised in the policy, but how would this be achieved is ambiguous in the document. Any child in the country must have the right to get admitted to a school which is nearest to his residence. School education should thus be compulsory, free and accessible in the immediate neighbourhood. Nonetheless, the NPE is silent about ensuring free education to the children from the underprivileged segment of the society that would have brought them to the mainstream educational arena, by implementing RTE. This silence is tantamount to denial of fundamental right to education to the poor children.

Similarly, reservation in educational institutions has been a provision envisioned by the architects of the constitution to bring the socially and educationally backward sections of the society into the mainstream. The NEP doesn’t say anything about reservation. The RSS has ever been against reservation and the eloquent silence about reservation in the document is to deny the backward classes and minorities the opportunity for equal right to education.

While there are provisions to promote the near-extinct Sanskrit; Urdu, a live language being spoken by a substantial section of the society has been totally ignored in the document. Ignoring Urdu would almost kill it. Similarly, Arabic, the mother tongue of Gulf countries where most of the Indian expats are employed, is excluded from the list of foreign languages to be taught while even Korean and Thai languages have found a place in the list.

Fields of studies such as Women’s Studies or Gender Studies, Cultural Studies, Media Studies, Dalit and Tribal Studies, Minority studies, Studies of Discrimination and Exclusion, Environmental Studies and Development Studies are not covered in the Policy.

Moreover, education being an item under the Concurrent List of the constitution, States should have been given the opportunity to take part in policy making, which in this case has not taken place properly. This is an onslaught on the right of the States and principle of federalism. Many States have complained that their suggestions to the draft NEP are not considered at all. The haste to implement such an important policy that is going to affect the future generations, amidst the pandemic without discussing it in the parliament makes one to think something fishy.

M K Faizy asked the central government to facilitate nation-wide discussions and parliament discussion before implementing the NEP.