The National Education Policy 2020 (NEP 2020) announced by the Ministry of Human Resource Development sets itself the goal of completing the unfinished agenda of its predecessors – the New Education Policy 1986 and as amended in 1992.
The NEP 1986 envisaged the gradual withdrawal of the state from the responsibility of providing education and replacing it with the private market forces. It also envisaged the stratification of children into ‘gifted’, ‘affordable’ and ‘vulnerable’ sections in the name of a three tier system. This goal of NEP1986 was basically achieved in the primary and secondary education and to a large extent in higher education. The NEP 2020 is committed itself to complete this process of privatization.
The NEP 2020 made usual exercise in numbers to dish out the formula of 5+3+3+4 and merged together primary and secondary education spanning age from 3 to 18 years. It is full of lofty ideals and pious wishes, of course with riders. Some of these are universalization from the age of 3 to Class 10. Mother tongue as the medium of instruction, new curriculum to include 21st century skills from Class 6, offering teaching in Sanskrit, Pali and Paakrut languages and learning foreign languages and so on and on. Almost all of them are mere repetition from the earlier policies, but failed in implementation during the last seven decades. The sincerity of their implementation is questionable given the instance of mother tongue as medium of instruction which has the rider “wherever possible”. This will only ratify the continuation of English as medium of instruction wherever it is in vogue.
The process of privatizing higher education is particularly emphasized in the NEP 2020. Some of them are: multidisciplinary universities and higher education institution clusters; rationalisatiion of about 50,000 colleges into 15,000 and closure of those having less than 3000 students; upgradation of single subject institutions like IIT, IIM, IIIT etc to multidisciplinary ones; allowing foreign institutions to open campus in India; merger of UGC and AICTE to form Higher education Regulatory Council, which will have less regulatory power and more of licensing authority.
In practice, these proposals for higher education exacerbate disparities between the states and regions and social and economic inequalities. The NEP 2020 agrees that education is a public good and profiteering should be controlled. Some fee regulations exist in certain states, but they are unable to curtail profit making. The proposed upgraded colleges will have free hand not only in deciding syllabus and conducting exams and issuing degrees but also in deciding fee structure. It also envisages philanthropic donations to be allowed for universities and HE clusters. It is every body’s knowledge the education is the biggest commercial activity with highest margins of profits with lowest investment in India today.
The NEP 2020pledged not to compromise on financial aid to students in the form of stipend and scholarships and committed to provide energy rich food with morning breakfast in addition to the existing mid-day meals. All these ambitious looking proposals are not going to be realized in implementation. The NEP 2020 proposed to raise the expenditure on education to 6% from existing 4.45% of GDP and aims to raise total (Centre+States) public expenditure on education from 10 to 20% of whole public expenditure. Such an outlay for education was recommended long back in 1950s but never reached to that level at any time in the past.
On the pretext of Covid-19 the BJP government by-passed the Parliament without placing such an important policy and infringed upon the domain of states in formulating the educational policy according to their local needs conditions. The highhandedness of the Narendra Modi’s government can be seen in its claim that it had extensive consultation with MPs from six southern states and Odisha, while there are 29 states and UTs and corresponding governments.
The Central Committee of CPI (ML) calls upon the people to oppose the rampant commercialization of education at all levels and subtle meddling of curriculum to give a communal tinge and struggle for a democratic, egalitarian and scientific education.
With revolutionary greetings,
2 August 2020.