IMPHAL: The All Manipur Students’ Union (AMSU) has termed the National Education Policy (NEP), 2020 as anti-poor, anti-people and beyond the ethical values of Education system and stated that the saffron government needs to clarify as to why NEP, 2020 has coercively introduced a new class of people called “Social-Economically Disadvantaged Groups” instead of categorically defining the fate of SCs, STs and OBCs etc, in the year to come.
In a press release of AMSU signed by its information and publicity secretary Lhunpao Lhupheng, it stated that the recent decree dated 10.08.2020 issued by the state government to disband college teachers from speaking and writing in mass media is a glaring example of the growing attack on democratic foundations of higher education. The education department has been on a witch hunting spree against some select teachers who are academically vocal. Such witch hunting in the academic community under the cover of COVID-19 situation must be stopped, AMSU stated.
It was said that the histories of colonial education were mainly designed to project itself as a ‘civilizing mission’ with a cultural and economic claim to build up empires. The modern education in India that began under the initiative of the British East India Company was to produce qualified manpower that could lend a clerical helping hand in its empire building. Colonial education resorted to a Downward Filtration Theory’ which merely allowed a limited section of Indian upper castes to have access to education. Aptly in the words of Lord Macaulay, we must do our best to form a class who may be interpreters between us and the millions of whom we govern’. The critical question that continues to linger on is how far the education system in India has been able to move away from the colonial “filtration theory model’ as mass education for long has been mistaken for literacy. The National Education Policy (NEP), 2020, text has to be understood in the contexts with which the millions school and college going students are struggling to get access to quality and retain themselves.
The release further stated that, the NEP’s claim to control commercialization with a fee capping system, on the one hand, and to eulogize privatization, on the other hand, is self-contradictory and anti-poor. Another important point of concern is it gives too much emphasis on merit-based centralized common admission systems. Such a system is to lead to deprivation of students who hail from peripheries and disadvantaged communities as they are already out of mainstream competitive education processes.
Recent findings have shown that there exists a significant drop out rate of 4.13 percent in primary level, 4.03 percent in upper primary level and 17.06 percent in secondary level. According to the University Grants Commission (UGC), in India only 12 percent goes for post-graduation studies while a very low one percent students are Sustained in research activities. The drop out amongst scheduled caste, tribes and girl students are much higher.
It is estimated that there are 1000 universities across India. According to studies, NEP”s claim to double India’s Gross Enrolment Ratio in higher education by 2035 will require India to open one new university every week for the next 15 years. Similarly, NEP 2020 aiming to bring back 2 crore children who are out of school in another span of 15 years would be required to set up 50 schools every week. In addition to such a tall claim, the objective to achieve 6% GDP spending on education has been an unfulfilled target since 1948.
The NEP as approved by the saffron government changes by bringing in preparatory stage of learning to schooling without a democratic debate in the Parliament and a selective consultation with its feather organization is reflective of an undue advantage being taken during the global COVID-19 pandemic.
The present government seems to be almost in a hurry to induce another structural adjustment programme in the field of education in order to surrender itself to global multi-lateral capitalist agencies and their interests. NEP 2020, though talks about fee capping and discouraging commercialization, yet it leaves ample ground for foreign universities to have its market in India. It openly endorses privatization of education by eulogizing a bizarre concept of public-spirited private philanthropists’ and ‘not-for-profit’ educators.
Such a move in the name of India’s call to become a “global knowledge economy’ shall have to primarily answer as to how NEP 2020 shall correspond to the existing constitutional frameworks such as the Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009. Studies have already revealed that the majority of the existing public-spirited private philanthropists’ schools do not fulfil the mandates of 2009 education Act.
It may be noted, that countries namely China, Cuba, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and Vietnam have made commendable progress in education not because they have privatized and opened up to foreign capitalist universities but because they have dedicated significant size of GDP spending on education and health. Highly market driven capitalist economies like Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan have adopted universal education and healthcare policies. However, it must also be noted that countries like Thailand, Philippines and Malaysia have already experienced unsuccessful stories of roping in foreign universities. Thus, overhauling the education system should be internally engineered, not vice-versa. More importantly, the much battered economy of India due to the prolonged fiscal deficit and CovID-19 is for sure to take much longer time to recoil itself to lit up education in any near future, added the statement.
The ambitious texts of NEP would require a serious rethinking of the existing contexts of institutional corruptions, nepotism, colossal lack of classroom infrastructures, gender parity, high drop-out, inaccessibility and more importantly suppression of civil liberties and academic freedom. The tall claim of NEP to achieve critical thinking’ in higher education is farcical and self-contradictory in the wake of increasing repression of free speech and India’s declining democratic credentials. NEP’s claim to control commercialization with a fee capping system, on the one hand, and to eulogize privatization, on the other hand, is self-contradictory and anti-poor. Another important point of concern is it gives too much emphasis on merit-based centralized common admission systems. Such a system is to lead to deprivation of students who hail from peripheries and disadvantaged communities as they are already out of mainstream competitive education processes.
It was also further said that to talk about the proposal to ensure mother-tongue and regional language as a preferred mode of teaching till class 8 does not go well with the existing model of privatized English schooling system in India. Additionally, while Hindi is being made an optional language the NEP 2020 makes a fundamental cultural tilt to Hindu Rastra by introducing Sanskrit and traditional teaching system which ironically juxtaposes 21st century modern foundations of education. It also does not answer how the students educated in vernacular languages would finally merged with a highly Anglicized secondary and higher education system in the country. On the issue of autonomy, one of the major purposes of setting up UGC in 1956 was to create a statutory body with a maximum autonomy in governing and funding higher education in India. NEP’s structural design to supplant UGC by a Higher Education Commission of India (HECI) with four vertical institutions is to give way to political interference by separating academic governance and funding. As it is likely to have no financial power while such prerogative gets transferred to the proposed political mercy of the Ministry of Education.
NEP, 2020 is not only an ambitious project but also a highly centralizing model that leaves several conundrums to be questioned at the level of its own textual designs and what is actually confronted by common people at the ground. In view of all the grave concerns and challenges produced by National Education Policy (NEP) 2020, AMSU feels that it is high time we all rise to face the challenges confronting us. We should honour the duty that, we as the children of the soil, has towards our motherland. The students’ body firmly believes that the new NEP is anti-poor, anti-people and beyond the ethical values of the Education system.