The New Education Policy is turning out to be quite a production. It is taking its time. Surprisingly that came after the tough new innovative part was accomplished. For once, the policymakers decided to listen to the people who actually ran education – the teachers and the administrators. The process for this started over a year ago, and ran to a tight schedule. Thousands of inputs later, the process reverted to the traditional committee format. The release of the report was delayed again and again, much like a movie that is not sure that it will make it – and rightly so. After a mildly less than dignified open declaration that the report would be leaked if it was not released by the ministry, it was suddenly a part of the public domain. Sitting like a Trishanku between an official document and the establishment, the draft New Education Policy was up for public consultation.

Since it was released we have not heard any serious comment. Roundtable discusions on this have been held by small organisations, some halfheartedly cancelled and others not even convened. To summarise: the document is a disappointment. It has clearly done its first job of listening to everybody. As it proudly declares, it went through another round of consultations with ‘experts’, and this is evident in the document that has been produced. All the things that have been repeated ad nauseum in traditional education circles and conferences are repeated faithfully. It is a document that has been heard before. It collates what it recognises as familiar and structures it in a beautifully organised whole. And yet fails to create anything ‘new’ let alone a guideline to the future which was it’s primary job.

A New Education Policy must perform three functions: (i) It must create a vision for the future of education for the country based on the context, constraints and national goals, (ii) It must create a guideline for systemic, institutional and ecosystem reforms, and, (iii) It must be the lead document that drives strategies for all the participants in the education system, whether public or private. This means it should clearly give a sense of direction to students, teachers and funders. If we do not have this grand vision that inspires us, and there is no indication of where we are headed, all the efforts will continue to remain fragmented and have low impact, as we see today. The Draft NEP (New Education Policy) does nothing to define the arc of ambition, nor create a vision that inspires, nor does it guide or drive even define a new paradigm. It does not even recognise the deep and strong force of ambition in the youth and reach out to meet their aspirations via a call to leap forward reforms in access, flexibility and global mobility.

The gaps in the draft policy are glaring. For example, there is nothing in it that indicates that ICT has moved on in the past decade, nothing about the progress in edu-tech and its consequent lessons and no indication of real goals such as Digital Pedagogies led by educators or its ability to redraw learning processes at scale. There is no connect with demographics and its challenges, no recognition of current oportunities e.g. smartphone based learning networks, no sense of future direction – and certainly no call to design a Digital Education Policy that meets education for the future. Again, there is very little on lifelong learning or on Tertiary Education which must form a strong support system going forward. Tertiary Education is essential not only because we are all likely to need to learn new skills, but also – and primarily – because there have been too many drop outs from education for decades. They form over half the population, and cannot be left behind. One could go on about the hits and misses. The NEP has tried very hard to be comprehensive, yet merely mentioning an issue does not form a policy.

The drama with the NEP continues. The draft NEP finds a place on the NUEPA (National University of Education Planning and Administration) website, but the Ministry (MHRD) website has a much tighter document that gives ‘Inputs for the Draft Education Policy 2016’. Clearly there are differences of opinion, and that can only be a good thing for rigorous policy making. Now is the time for the marketplace of ideas to work its ‘Manthan’ and create an inspiring guideline that shifts education from its current doldrums to something of real value.

This article was also published here: http://www.abplive.in/blog/scrappy-draft-education-policy-is-a-total-disappointment

August 4, 2016

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