Inclusive Education and NEP 2020: An Overview
Dr. Breehivorna Talukdar
Department of Political Science
Saraighat College, Changsari
Being a pluralistic society, the exclusion of certain social groups from mainstreamsocio-political and economic benefits is an inevitable consequence in India. However, India being a welfarist democracy the thrust on inclusivity weighs across constitutional provisions and governmental activities.In this regard, Education isan immensely influential instrument for augmenting social change and human development. The onus is on promoting inclusive education as a means to ward off social exclusion and discrimination pertinent in the country. And in this regard, in 2002 through the 86th Constitutional amendment the Right to education was introduced as a fundamental right under Article 21A .The Act was a steptowards givingthe subalterns the freedom and access to education. Although there is an obligation on the state to secure the right, the implementation has not been smooth. Our Education system itself solidifies the class division because of the different standard of education in private schools and state-run schools. Thus, there is a need to take additional measures which can offer an inclusive classroom education that could represent the diversity within the Indian state. As enunciated in the Preamble to the Constitution of India, the Indian state strives to create social equity and perception of justice, hence the government forms policies that create positive discrimination of opportunities for the marginalised through reservation in public employment and education.
The Indian reservation policy is unique as it keeps caste at the centre which is why it is criticized by the non-reserved section who finds it antithetical to institutional efficiency and merit-based incentives.
NATIONAL EDUCATION POLICY 2020:
The National Education Policy 2020 (“NEP 2020”) is the third educational policy developed after 34 years. The first education policy was announced in 1968 based on the reports and recommendations of the Kothari Commission, and the second education policy was announced in 1986. Some of the salient features incorporated in the policy are:-
- i) Ensuring Universal Access at All Levels of schooling from pre-primary school to Grade 12;
- ii) Equitable and inclusive education – Special emphasis given on Socially and Economically Disadvantaged Groups (SEDGs);
iii) Expansion of open and distance learning to increase Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER).
- iv) Holistic and Multidisciplinary Education with multiple entry/exit options
- v) No hard separations between arts and sciences, between curricular and extra-curricular activities, between vocational and academic streams;
NEP 2020 & Affirmative Actions:
The NEP 2020 helps us to understand the futuristic education policy in our country. It not only discusses concepts but identifies innovation in bringing equality in education. The NEP 2020 seeks to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all” by 2030.
It is a framework guiding the educational policy of India. The current NEP is a culmination of half decade long consultation and drafting process by the Kasturirangan-led committee. This is a comprehensive policy dealing with every aspect of education from Pre-primary to Higher education. So, this policy is very pertinent for getting the correct picture of the inclusiveness of education and the means employed by the governments for reaching that end. The policy discusses at length the need for inclusive and equitable education at all levels. It highlighted several groups terming them Socio-Economic Disadvantaged Groups (SEDGs) as the sufferers of the current educational system and recognizes the importance of affirmative actions. Though the policy has dedicated many paras highlighting the pertinence of inclusive education, it offers no strategies for making the present education system more inclusive and equitable. The policy simply omits to offer any suggestion or implementing guidelines to the governments or educational institutions which can become a means for achieving these goals. Additionally, the policy has suggested many measures in the educational system which can further alienate these SEDGs. One of the much-touted features of this policy is the introduction of a 4-year graduation program. Though it has allowed multiple exit options, the policy is silent on the financial support to these students. Further, the policy makes education more like gaining degree-certificates without emphasizing holistic development and free-thinking knowledge. The sole purpose of the degree-certificate programs seems to be securing employment and nothing else. Similarly, the policy’s emphasis on vocational education and distance learning programs would move the economically restrained students toward these courses while the policy does not provide for how vocational training be made at par with classroom education.
Secondly, the policy has opened the route of Public Philanthropic Partnership regulation of higher educational institutions. This is again something without any framework which could result in the alienation of students from marginalized sections of society as the reservation is available in the public sector only. The new policy opens the door for foreign universities to have their campus in Indiawhich can also adversely affect the quality of education in India for they would certainly be willing to provide more incentives to professors of public universities and the same would later be extorted by the students in these colleges. So, higher education at reasonable fees is a big issue that goes untouched in the current policy. The policy seems to be a bundle of hollow promises with no focus on the implementation of the policy at the grassroots level. It has long been the issue with the policies in India as they look good and promising on paper but has never been implemented in true spirit. So, the government’s focus should be on the implementation of existing policies rather than making promises again. The importance of execution is evident in the case of the suicide of an undergraduate of Lady Shree Ram College, due to their failure in granting scholarship which was further exacerbated by the digitalization of education in the wake of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. At the school level, the policy suggests the implementation of the use of local language as a medium in primary and if possible, till secondary education. This is something that had been promised long back in 1968 but is not implemented in many states. NEP 2020 has also polished the same but did not focus on the lack of language teachers in most of the schools. A similar fate is met to the policy of three language formula which meant only Hindi, English, and Sanskrit in Hindi-speaking states and Regional language, English, Hindi in other states. So, there is actually no choice available to the students especially those studying in government-run schools or budget private schools. This again furthers the class divide between the two. According to the Bologna Declaration of 1999, any social educational institution should be ‘broadly accessible’, ‘socially useful’, and ‘organizationally flexible’. But the current intake capacity of educational institutions does not commensurate with the increasing number of students which has a direct impact on the admission criteria making it difficult for ‘merit wise unsuitable’ students to get quality higher education. There can’t be any excuse for the State’s inability in providing quality education even to the ones failing to score a preferable number. Further, as Reservation is limited to state-run institutions, a greater number of the reserved class tends to be inclined towards them, making them incarcerated in what Max Weber termed iron-cage. Apart from the reservation, the Indian education system needs other appropriate affirmative actions. The students from SEDGs lack skills in co-curricular activities and thus, found themselves vulnerable in the top-notch institutions occupied with the elite students. The policy does not take into consideration the need for additional support to overcome the cultural and class difference faced by the students. Even those who get admission through reservations found themselves foreign to the competitive environment of these institutions which has even led to mental health issues and suicide. The need for integrating formal and informal systems should have been recognized so that any student could switch between them at any time.
The New Education Policy, 2020 (NEP) was launched with a vision of transforming the education system in India. The initiative taken has been hailed as a positive step in the direction of bringing necessary changes in the education system in many quarters.The need for a change in education system in India has been felt for a long time. However, this feeling became stronger during the Covid-19 pandemic when we saw how students from disadvantaged groups suffered as we moved to an online model of learning. The NEP seeks to mitigate this problem byintegrating the socially and physically disadvantaged groups along with the normal population receiving education in formal institutions for equal growth and development and removing barriers in accessibility and choice in receiving education.
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