National Education Policy (NEP)-2020 : A critical Review
- Part 5 -

Surjit S. Thokchom *

NEP 2020 promotes Privatization and Commercialization. Throughout this document, direct promotion of privatization very passionately with a lot of compassion for the rich and elites is exceedingly visible. The lines are sugar coated with words like public spirited private/philanthropic etc. It is also said that the private institutions will be regulated against commercialization.

But the recommendation speaks differently. Just to list few: Section 7.10 recommends a system called Twining where a private school will be paired with a government school to share the resources and institutionalize the practices of Private schools in Government schools (including fee structures?). This will definitely aggravate the existing condition of Government schools. (Is this not adding Salt in the wound!). Section 8.3 recommends to treat the private and public schools symmetrically.

Section 8.7 recommends to treat state government run schools exactly like a private school [this (mis)treatment to State-Government-run-schools is not applicable to Central Government fully (or partially) funded schools]. Section 8.5 forfeits the Right to intervene by State Education Department for adequate provision or recognition to State's own public institutions. And section 8.7 permits both government and private institutions to collect any amount of fees provided it is disclosed in SSSA (State School Standards Authority) web portal. It does not say anything about the upper limit except that it is not to be arbitrary.

This is the same approach in RTE act 2009 too that any fees collected whatever the amount as long as it is disclosed, is treated as legitimate and noncommercial. And the provision of non-mainstream online, open, vocational courses will further push out children from government schools. These recommendations if it is implemented successfully, government schools are bound to sink. It is just a matter of few years.

What about HEIs (Higher Education Institute)? Section 10.9 says, "Growth will be in both public and private institutions." Section 10.11 says, "Private institutions with a public-spirited commitment to high-quality equitable education will be encouraged." Section 18.13 promises that all HEIs - public and private - shall be treated on par within this regulatory regime. That means what a Private University practices (including fees structure and employment policy) will be applicable to a Government University as well.

It further gives a reassurance to Private Universities, "The regulatory regime shall encourage private philanthropic efforts in education." It further takes pro-private specific decision, "These common minimal guidelines will enable all such Acts to establish private HEIs". Section 18.14 further empowers the Private HEI by giving them the right to collect fees through a, "… Transparent mechanisms for fixing of fees with an upper limit, for different types of institutions …. so that individual institutions are not adversely affected."

So, the concern is not how much they collect, the concern is how much they need to collect so that the institutions flourishes!!" It further clarifies that this is to, "empower private HEIs to set fees for their programmes independently". The rest of rules and regulations are to be circumscribed by the above intent. In the same section, it is reiterated again that fee determining mechanism will ensure reasonable recovery of cost. What does it mean? Any HEI that plan to recover all the cost from the fees is bound to be too expensive for the common people.

Who will decide how much it costs? There is no clear line between where commercialisation begins and philanthropic ends. But there is still a provision to include "social obligation" in the cost calculation. This provision of two simple words "social obligation" can put anything under the Sun as the cost of running HEI. But the final blow is in section 26.6 which asks the Government Universities to approach to Private bodies with a begging bowl, "…any public institution can take initiatives towards raising private philanthropic funds to enhance educational experiences".

Let us also clear our doubt that private institution of neoliberal breed cannot survive in the midst of vibrant government institutions. It is necessary to destroy public institutions to the extent that public lose faith in the government institutions. It is only in an objective situation where people lose faith in public institution that Private institution of any kind from PP to PG can flourish. What a benevolent Government for the rich and elites. What about the poor and marginalised!!!

Let us go ahead on knowledge paradigm. NEP 2020 reduces education to a set of skills, deskilling traditional Indian/people's skills from pre-primary level and impoverishing the capacity to generate knowledge in the HEI. Section 11.1. defines 21st century skills and education: "... The very idea that all branches of creative human endeavour, including mathematics, science, vocational subjects, professional subjects, and soft skills should be considered 'arts', has distinctly Indian origins.

This notion of a 'knowledge of many arts' or what in modern times is often called the 'liberal arts' (i.e., a liberal notion of the arts) must be brought back to Indian education, as it is exactly the kind of education that will be required for the 21st century." Section 16.8 reads "National Skills Qualifications Framework will be detailed further for each discipline vocation and profession. Further, Indian standards will be aligned with the International Standard Classification of Occupations maintained by the International Labour Organization. This Framework will provide the basis for Recognition of Prior Learning.

Through this, dropouts from the formal system will be reintegrated by aligning their practical experience with the relevant level of the Framework. The credit-based Framework will also facilitate mobility across 'general' and vocational education."

Now Section 18.6, says, "The fourth vertical of HECI will be the General Education Council (GEC), which will frame expected learning outcomes for higher education programmes, also referred to as 'graduate attributes. A National Higher Education Qualification Framework (NHEQF) will be formulated by the GEC and it shall be in sync with the National Skills Qualifications Framework (NSQF) to ease the integration of vocational education into higher education."

If we read 18.6 in conjunction with 16.8 and 11.1 along with Ministry of Finance (Department of Economic Affairs) Notification, New Delhi, the 27th December, 2013 on National Skill Qualification Framework (NSQF), details of NSQF as it is available in website of Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, keeping the overarching emphasis to reduce education to a set of skills from Foundation level to Higher education, the following consequences are obvious:

(i) The aims and objectives of education is now narrowed down to skill development. It is complete negation of what was propounded in NPE 1968 and NPE 1986 though skills were incorporated in NPE 1986. It is not simply to narrow down to skill but further narrow down to a set of skills aligning with the global demand as per ILO at the cost of our own self-reliance and sustenance. This is very akin to what happen during the colonial period.

(ii) Though the MHRD has been changed to Ministry of Education, the Education Ministry will be subservient of Ministry of Skill development and Entrepreneurship, Ministry of Corporate Affairs and Ministry of Labour and Employment.

(iii) There will be large scale deskilling activities. This will be done with the intent of both Global Market demands (through incapacitating higher education to generate knowledge) and Hindutva's demand Hindu Rastra by promoting 21st century skills as it is stated in 11.1 of NEP 2020 through a scheme called National Mission for Foundational Literacy and Numeracy with a centralised curriculum, as it is proposed in 2.2 NEP 2020 to have total control over children during 3-8 years.

This will uproot every child from their immediate environment and sense of history. In short, they will become a ahistorical domesticated skilled labour. Further, funding including research funding will be determined on whether it falls in the identified set of skills. The worse will be the alteration of nature of knowledge. It will be skewed and Higher education will no longer engage with knowledge generation. And the consequences will be disastrous.

But there is one important challenge in front of us: how shall we restore the loss humanity of marginalised people whose humanity has been loss for centuries because of patriarchy, caste, class, race, gender & socio-political marginalisation. There is another dimension of marginalisation. We have given too much attention to partition to western border but the disastrous consequences of partition in the eastern border is overlooked for too long time.

Look to North East, there are standing socio-political challenges which I believe that these problems and challenges are ought to be our National Concern. I could not find any elements in NEP 2020 that can probably reconstruct our landscape and mindscape for a humane, vibrant and enlightened India. Too much emphasis on global standard and building castle in the air in the name of becoming a super power while right in front of our yard, humanity is slowly getting engulphed into the mumbo jumbo of knowledge society.

Why this distortion of social reality? As much as society, language and history are dialectically connected, knowledge and history are connected and mediated by hope and aspiration. Section 4.17 claims that we must rejuvenate 'Sanskrit Knowledge Systems'. Section 4.20 says that for global knowledge, we must learn foreign languages. It deconstructs the glory shown in earlier sections. If we read section 4.23 and 4.27 in conjunction with section 21.14, we can conclude that "Knowledge of India" mean Sanskrit Knowledge Systems. We know that no knowledge is absolute and no knowledge live in isolation.

ST, SC and Minorities are bloats to both Sanskrit Knowledge System and Global knowledge as it keeps challenging their credibility and validity. This may be reason why NEP 2020 create New Narrative of Indian Realties.

By removing ST and SC from the Documents, India does not become a casteless country. Likewise, by enrolling a child labour in an online or open schooling, he or she does not become a rescued and rehabilitated child.

Autonomy and Flexibility, as it is described in the NEP 2020 are rhetoric as too much centralisation is recommended. The documents as a whole is a document of contradiction. The Narratives with a tripod: SEDG, Merit based and Outcome based with heavy Dose of India's medieval knowledge system which the NEP 2020 fondly addresses as Sanskrit Knowledge System will make India a Diabolic country.


* Surjit S Thokchom is based in Shillong at present. He is a Secretariat Member of All India Forum for Right to Education (AIFRTE) and Editorial Board Member of a monthly publication of AIFRTE titled, "Reconstructing Education". He has been associating with an education project in rural khasi hills titled, "Demonstrating an Alternative Vision of Education". He was a member of Institute Advisory Board of North East Regional Institute of Education (NERIE), Shillong, a Constituent of NCERT and he was a member of Position Paper of Work and Education, NCERT. He was also official translator of National Curricular Framework, 2005(NCF 2005) into Manipuri.

* Surjit S. Thokchom wrote this article for Imphal Times
The writer can be reached through ssthochom(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on September 21 2020.

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