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India’s National Education Policy

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The draft National Education Policy (DNEP), prepared by a committee chaired by Dr. K Kasturirangan and released in June 2019, is the first comprehensive policy statement on education in India since 1986. An Implementation committee has now been set up, a new report has been prepared that distils the recommendations, and phased implementation is likely in the Indian Spring 2020.

The DNEP is bold, wide-ranging and impressive. Its key recommendations are now well known but bear repeating in summative form.

The DNEP recommends a doubling of funding for public education from 10% of total public expenditure to 20% (roughly 6% of total GDP) by 2025 and links this to a major overhaul of school and university education. Most notably, DNEP proposes a new structure for school education, which includes three pre-school years as part of the formal educational system; school education becomes compulsory from ages 3 to 18.

This is linked to a series of school reforms, such as introducing breakfasts alongside the established midday meal scheme and using social workers to ensure that children participate in school.

The DNEP also suggests a new curriculum in schools, promoting especially a ‘liberal education’ encompassing creativity, collaboration, social responsibility, multilingualism, and digital learning. Distinctions between different streams of study in schools – such as Arts, Science and Commerce – would be abolished and compulsory courses would be established on topics such as ethical reasoning, and current affairs.

The existing structure of high stakes examinations in Grades 10 and 12 would be replaced by a modular system throughout grades 9 to 12. This would relieve pressure on youth and stem the growth of India’s parasitic coaching culture. Schemes of appointing temporary, part-time ‘para-teachers’ would be abandoned, and all teachers would now be required to qualify in large multidisciplinary universities rather than the small, low quality ‘B.Ed. Colleges’.

The DNEP could be a springboard for educational renewal and imaginative international partnership.

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