The criticisms around the NEP 2020 has been put forward since 2016 when the draft DNEP was released as excerpts in 2016. Since the days of its formulation, the underlying motive behind the policy has raised eyebrows from many Educationalists in the country for its announced intent of achieving Literacy but in educating the Students for an ever-changing world.

The doubts on the intended purpose and its implementation started when the MHRD released the draft only in Hindi and English while disregarding the requests to release them in all Scheduled Languages under VIII Schedule, and only did so after repeated delays and uproar from various States, especially TamilNadu. Organisations such as SPCSS-TN had taken the issue seriously and released the translated version of the Draft in Tamil so that the stakeholders can read, understand and create a platform for debating the various obvious flaws it contained.

At the Outset of the Policy, it is very clear that this is an exercise to usurp the power of the States in deciding on Structure of Education from Pre-Primary to Post-Doctoral Studies, which is a Constitutional right under   Article 246, Entry 32 in List 2 (State List) of Schedule 7 and Entry 25 in List 3 (Concurrent List) of Schedule 7.

This policy also contradicts the order of the Hon’ble SC in Modern Dental College Case in which the Court has said, “In fact, the State being responsible for welfare and development of the people of the State, ought to take necessary steps for welfare of its student community. The field of ‘higher education’ being one such field which directly affects the growth and development of the state, it becomes prerogative of the State to take such steps which further the welfare of the people and in particular pursuing higher education……Only the State legislation can create equal level playing field for the students who are coming out from the State Board and other streams.”

The Policy aims to destroy the Federal character of our Constitution by taking unto its ambit all power to make decisions on Education leaving the States to be a mere agent to implement it. For the overall development of the country, the Centre has to learn from the States, as well as States learn from each other. The experience of different States in achieving educational progress, in spite of various constraints, demands bringing back education to the State List. Instead, the NEP 2020 pushes education from Concurrent List to Union List by replacing the federal spirit with an authoritarian Centre dictating policy to the States, without recognizing the knowledge and progress gained by the States through the sustained struggles for universalisation of education from Pre-Primary to Post-Doctoral level. NEP 2020 also deliberately ignored the Socially and Educationally Backward Classes and the Minorities’ administered institutions.

NEP 2020 having such larger implications was not placed in the Parliament for discussion. With total disregard to Parliament, as soon as the Union Cabinet approved the NEP 2020, Press was briefed with bits and pieces of the NEP 2020 and the full Cabinet approved NEP 2020 was posted in the official website of the Union Government after a day. Total disregard to Parliamentary Democracy in announcing and implementing NEP 2020 is well demonstrated by the first step.

Instead of enabling States to set up and support research institutions, the NEP 2020 takes them all away to the National Research Foundation. There is imminent threat to institutes like International Institute of Tamil Studies, Central Institute of Classical Tamil and other such institutes established for specific purposes.

A careful reading of NEP 2020 Part II – Higher Education will make it clear that, The NEP 2020 fails to recognize the social and educational backwardness. NEP 2020 categorizes only the Socio-Economically Disadvantaged Groups (SEDGs). This is misleading and failing to recognize the need for reservation and scholarship according to the level of difficulty faced by various communities as a result of social oppression. NEP 2020 categorizes the Socio-Economically Disadvantaged Groups (SEDGs) based on identities such as Socio – Cultural, gender, disabilities, etc., and places SC, ST, OBCs, and minorities under the category of Socio-Economically disadvantaged Groups, based on socio-cultural identities. This categorization is not based on reason or anthropological scholarship. Bringing the Gender, Caste, Disability and other kinds of difficulty under one umbrella as “Social – Economically Disadvantaged Groups (SEDGs)” and naming a sub group as disadvantaged due to Social – Cultural identities and placing SC / ST / OBC / Minorities, all together, under this heading is not as per the Vision and Provisions of the Constitution of India. This will negate the spirit and mandate of the Constitution to establish a society of equals and the struggles of all the oppressed groups for the benefits they are entitled to. NEP 2020 makes no provision to assess such difficulties while tracking the progress of students.

The Reservation Policy of Tamil Nadu that provides reservation and scholarship based on social oppression without considering the economic status of the backward classes. For example, there is no creamy layer concept of reservation or grant of scholarship for BC and MBC in Tamil Nadu. NEP 2020 will undo this.

NEP 2020 establishes a National Research Foundation which places the Research Scholar under a regimen without any atmosphere of academic freedom and freedom of choice for topic. Such regimen approach would extinguish the spirit in which excellent research thrives. It will exert lot of pressure and cause stress and anxiety which is not a conducive environment for academic excellence or formation of new ideas. Under this process the most affected will be first generation research scholars coming from the socially and educationally backward classes of the society. Without academic freedom, research scholars would prefer to go abroad for excellence in research even more than presently.

NEP 2020, without any evidence of research or reasoning, introduces Four Year Degree Course with one-year Master’s Degree Course. The existing Two-Year Master’s degree Course after Three Year Undergraduate Degree Course provides opportunity for a student to have deeper study, acquire thorough knowledge in the subject and emerge as subject expert. Reducing the Master’s Degree to One year will take away this opportunity and have negative impact.

A student, who is unable to complete the course in which the student got admitted, may need emotional and psychological support apart from financial assistance. Higher Education institutions have the duty to identify the difficulty faced by each student and help the student to complete the course. NEP 2020 without any such consideration provides for the exit at any level. This will lead to heavy drop outs in Higher Education. Instead of identifying and eradicating discrimination in Higher Education Institutions due to gender bias, social oppression and other forms, these forces will further add to drop out.

NEP 2020 in the name of doing away with multiple university entrance exams provides for Common Aptitude Test as well as Common Subject Exams to be conducted by a National Testing Agency (NTA). This will be the greatest hurdle for students coming from socially and educationally backward classes. NTA score for college admission appears to be a provision to eliminate a majority of the poor and socially oppressed from ever entering the Higher Educational Institutions. Such a proposal raises suspicions of wanting to profit from obsolete, outdated tools and methods. Such a plan fails to recognize the diversity of people in India and deny the needs of Indians. Ensuring equal access to quality education at the college level for all students should be the aim of education in India today. NTA will never be able to bring quality or equality in higher education. The Government of a State which is empowered by the Constitution to incorporate and regulate university is deprived of its power to decide the qualification for admission in higher studies by taking into consideration the inequalities in opportunity for people belonging to various section of the society.

NEP 2020 treats both the Public Funded Higher Education Institutes (HEI) that is established for specific purpose based on the principles of Social Justice and the Private HEIs equally. The private HEIs are allowed to generate surplus and expand their field of operation both geographically and otherwise. Treating both Private and Public on equal foot is the condition in General Agreement on Trade in Service (GATS) under World Trade Organisation (WTO). This is to facilitate Foreign Direct Investors generate profit.

Students come to educational campuses in pursuit of knowledge and to critically examine the reasons for stagnant social order and evolve new ideas for social emancipation. NEP 2020 reduces educational institutes as places where students develop skills needed for the international market and undertake research as per the dictates of the government engaged in promoting corporate interest. Researcher will be forced to undertake research to meet only the needs and expectations of the government and the market. Education is for liberating individuals and deconstructing knowledge and for transforming the society by removing the notion of social hierarchy and wellbeing and equality of all people. This is the vision of the Constitution of India. NEP 2020 is not aimed at fulfilling this aspiration.

The Aspects of the Policy concerning school Education is also littered with Sinister ploys to take over the autonomy of the States and leaves the Children at the mercy of Market forces which only aims to enrich their profits instead of providing a holistic education which is the need of the Nation’s Young.

The SC while interpreting the Right to Education guaranteed in our constitution said,

“The right of a child should not be restricted only to free and compulsory education, but should be extended to have quality education without any discrimination on the ground of their economic, social and cultural background. “

Dr. B. R. Ambedkar while speaking in the Bombay Legislative Council on 12th March, 1927 said: “… I find that out of the total expenditure which we incur on Arts College, something like 36 percent is financed from fees; out of the expenditure that we incur on high schools, something like 31 percent is financed from fees; out of the expenditure that we incur on middle schools, something like 26 percent is derived from fees. Now, Sir, I submit that this is commercialization of education. Education is something which ought to be brought within the reach of everyone. The Education Department is not a department which can be treated on the basis of quid pro quo. Education ought to be cheapened in all ways and to the greatest methods and principles towards the uplift of the backward classes…”

With total disregard to the Constitutional Mandate for providing equitable access to quality education for all children, NEP 2020 makes provision for sustaining the present inequality in the School Education and paves way for further discrimination and negation of opportunities for the marginalized. Government of India has already committed to the World Bank (WB) and has accepted its financial assistance through the STARS Project. NEP 2020 is designed to meet the undisclosed commitments that the Government of India has given to WB and WTO-GATS.

NEP 2020 does not make provision for equitable access to quality education for all children, even up to 14 years of age. Some of the Government Schools will have all facilities; majority of the Government Schools will be sharing the resources through the School Complex. Private Schools will be allowed to function according to their capacity. There will be alternative schools, which may be a challenge to secular and scientific approach to learning. Thus, there will be no equality in provision for all children; at the same time, they will be equally assessed. The difficulty level of children studying in sharing Government Schools / low infrastructure Private Schools and the difficulty of children studying in Government Schools with all facilities / high cost recovering Private Schools will not be same. But the Learning Outcome is expected to be same. It is gross injustice and violation of Article 14 of the Constitution. NEP 2020 is based on the principle “one size fits all”, which is not suitable for country like India.

Fully State Funded Common School System based on Neighbourhood School (CSS-NS) is the time-tested system to provide equitable access to quality education for children that is followed in many countries and recommended by various education commissions in India. CSS-NS provide equitable access for all and help the child understand that discriminatory social order can be demolished, and the Constitutional vision of ensuring Justice, Social, Political and Economic can be realized. Instead of establishing CSS-NS, NEP 2020 perpetuates inequality in opportunity by encouraging multi grade school system.

Online Distance Learning (ODL) mode even for children less than fourteen years of age and provision for A, B, C certificate that will be equivalent to Grade 3, 5 & 8 secured through online assessment is to deny physical classroom experience for the child. Child will be engaged in the family occupation and will be convinced to learn through online mode. This is nothing but robbing childhood and denying Rights of the child.

NEP 2020 allows the child to get admitted in a school according to the availability of the opportunity and economic capacity, thus denying the Fundamental Right, guaranteed by Constitution of India and reiterated by the Supreme Court, to have quality education without any discrimination on the ground of their economic, social and cultural background.

NEP 2020 places output method, which is Performance based grant or incentive. Output method will not help in educational development, either for a student as an individual or society as a whole. It is nothing but quid pro quo. This method will weaken and destroy the strongly built Public Education System in Tamil Nadu based on the principles of Social Justice.

NITI Aayog imported the idea of economic viability and proposed the closure of non-viable schools and the output method to be followed in providing grant to school. It is a market concept purely based on the financial administration.

NEP 2020 proposes assessment based on performance without recognizing the difficulties due to the terrain, domicile, oppression and backwardness that the child coming from such communities admitted in a school will be struggling to overcome.

Input method is the time-tested method that ensures continuous and equitable access to education for all children irrespective of numerical strength or the ability of the child to express its knowledge at the time of assessment. Learning is not an instant result giving activity. What a child learns in primary school may help in future to articulate and understand a complex issue. Grant cannot be related to performance in the assessment test. Irrespective of the performance in any evaluation, every child throughout its schooling needs to be provided with all facilities, in reality, a child that exhibits difficulty and performs poorly in assessment test need more support and care. In fact, the School that has a greater number of children with such difficulty needs to be provided with more grant and more support. Discarding the input method, NEP 2020 relates grant to performance. Children coming from marginalized communities will be victimized.

NEP 2020 makes provision for self-declaration by every institution. Without any physical inspection and supervision, grading the institution based on self-declaration and learning outcome assessment, will encourage corruption and nepotism in private schools and will lead to weakening and closing of Government Schools. Welfare State is not expected to pursue such a policy.

NEP 2020 Para 3.5states as follows: “To facilitate learning for all students, with special emphasis on Socio-Economically Disadvantaged Groups (SEDGs), the scope of school education will be broadened to facilitate multiple pathways to learning involving both formal and non-formal education modes. Open and Distance Learning (ODL) Programmes offered by the National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS) and State Open Schools will be expanded and strengthened for meeting the learning needs of young people in India who are not able to attend a physical school. NIOS and State Open Schools will offer the following programmes in addition to the present programmes: A, B and C levels that are equivalent to Grades 3, 5, and 8 of the formal school systems; secondary education programmes that are equivalent to Grades 10 and 12; vocational education courses/programmes; and adult literacy and life-enrichment programmes.”

NEP 2020, chapter 4, Para 4.26 states,” Every student will take a fun course, during Grades 6-8, that gives a survey and hands-on experience of a sampling of important vocational crafts, such as carpentry, electric work, metal work, gardening, pottery making, etc., as decided by States and local communities and as mapped by local skilling needs.”

If the veil is lifted, the true colour and the mission of NEP 2020 and structural change to 5+3+3+4 could well be understood. To lift the veil Para 4.26 should be read with Para 3.5. Why a child aged between 11 and 13 years should be allowed to undergo a course in vocational crafts designed according to the “skilling needs” of the locality. This is nothing but forcing the child in the name of “fun course” to get interested in the traditional vocation and serve the community to fulfil the skilling needs of the community. A child having acquired a vocational skill before it completes 14 years of age, due to force of circumstances – family needs, societal pressure – will be engaging itself in the vocation in which it has acquired skill. Once a child gets involved in a vocation it will tend to lose interest in academic studies, thereby it will voluntarily opt out of school education.

NEP 2020 facilitates a 15-year-old child to move out of Physical classroom in Regular School and to serve as a semi-skilled cheap labour and if the child needs, it may pursue education through ODL. It needs to be noted that this is with special emphasis on SEDGs. SC/ST/OBC/Minorities are listed under SEDGs. This kind of a scheme will only lead to perpetuating caste related traditional occupation in the villages. Vocationalisation of School Education will become a great hurdle for the social and educational development of the Backward Classes of People.

In addition to the structural deficiencies that NEP 2020 poses, it seeks to create further burden upon the Students with its Three Language Formula.

Distinction between medium of Education and language for communication is the need of the hour. Second language is for communication and as such does not require grammatical and literary elements in its curriculum. Capacity to articulate one’s own ideas and knowledge is more important than mastery of linguistic items. Children can learn to speak to languages only in meaningful contexts.

Learning several things through mother tongue is different from learning many languages. In no part of the world a child is forced to learn two or more languages during their childhood. Compulsion always leads to aversion. Unity and integration cannot be forced or compelled. It has to be nourished with an assured feeling of equity with acceptance of diversity.

Introducing a third language in the school curriculum is an additional burden and unnecessary stress on the child. If all facilities are made for the child to learn one language that the child is familiar (Mother Tongue / State Language), through that language the child can learn any number of languages whenever and at whatever age the child wishes or needs to learn another language.

Furthermore, Choice of the Child in choosing a third language depends upon the availability of language teachers in a school. If a school could offer only a particular language teacher, child will have no option except to learn that language. Actually, it will not be choice of the child but the choice of the school. Providing teacher for only one particular language and terming that the language is choice of the student is arbitrary and abuse of process.

NEP 2020 does not place all languages of India on equal plane. It gives importance to Sanskrit and projects it as language that has contributed to the cultural development of India. This discussion on culture and language is not necessary in Education Policy. If it is really related to education, then glory and importance of all languages should have been equally discussed.

Apart from 22 languages, which include six languages recognized as classical language, listed in Schedule Eight of the Constitution of India, there are hundreds of Languages spoken by the People of India and every language has its own richness and beauty. NEP 2020 speaks about option of learning at least two years of a classical language of India in Grades 6 to 12. This option is in addition to three languages that child is required to learn from Foundational Stage. This is an additional burden and stress on the child. Two Language Policy should continue with facilities for children to learn as many languages as they wish to learn at any age.

Early Childhood care and Education (ECCE) is a Fundamental Right of Child that no welfare State could deny. Even now anganwadis under ICDS has a curriculum. Some of the States in India have improved the design and anganwadis are involved in multiple activities for ensuring ECCE and beyond. Tamil Nadu with a strong network of anganwadis, need to strengthen the anganwadis with better facilities and better pay for its employees. Even though NEP 2020 brings Pre-Primary Education into the School Education, in the Public Education System, Pre-Primary will remain in the anganwadi. Children in anganwadi will not attend School for Pre-Primary Education. There will not be any fundamental change. Grade One and Two, which will be part of Foundational Stage, will be in School. The only difference is that in these two Grades children will have no text books and note books. One section of children will be in Anganwadi for Pre-Primary Classes and another section of children will be in Schools for Pre-Primary classes. It is denial of equal opportunity. Gap between rich and poor will remain and get widened further.

NEP 2020 Para 4.40 states: “To track progress throughout the school years, – all students will take school examinations in Grades 3, 5, and 8 which will be conducted by the appropriate authority.”

It is well established that an exam will in no way help the child to improve its learning ability. Research reveals that child should be continuously and comprehensively evaluated by the teacher in the classroom by observation and interaction, which should be part of learning process for both the child and the teacher, this observation and recording the inference should be done without the child knowing that it is being evaluated. In this process the all-round development of the child is assessed and the child having certain difficulties is helped to overcome.

Resource Sharing and School Complex

NEP 2020 provides for twining of Government school with a Private School for Sharing of Resource. This is nothing but throwing open the facilities of a Government school to the Private Players. For example, under the twining scheme, a private School without play ground will use the playground of a government school and in return it may provide some financial assistance or some material. How can the students of both the school use the same playground? Ultimately the Government School, which is forced to be at the mercy of the philanthropic private school, will be demoralized and weakened.

NEP 2020 provides for Special Education Zones (SEZ). This will isolate the communities. Neighbourhood School is the real solution to bring all children to school. Equal access to education is the fundamental Right for every child. SEZ in school education is not a proper approach. Provision of more funds and other facilities for people having various forms of difficulties and disabilities is something different from segregating people in the name SEZ. We need to Invest in all schools. Every school to be a model school, if equity is to be achieved.

Conclusion:

NEP 2020 paves the way for moving Education from Concurrent List to Union List. All powers to frame policy, make laws and regulate schools will be with the Union. States will not have power even to draft a syllabus or write a text book. Text Books will be Prepared and given by the NCERT, at best, State SCERT can add few chapters relevant to the State. NEP 2020 undermines the State’s capacity to develop its own curriculum, syllabus and text book.

NEP 2020 makes States Reservation Policy infructuous, both in appointment and recruitment of teachers, as merit and performance will alone be the criteria, without any consideration for social and educational backwardness of the people, which is the result of social oppression and denial of opportunity for centuries together.

Demand of the people is to strengthen the schools by declaring every Government School as a Neighbourhood school, by mapping geographical area for each school and providing all facilities a school should have. This will ensure equitable access to education for all children.

Education Policy at the National Level in Country like India can at best provide a broad frame leaving large space for the States to adopt according to their needs. The best example is the 1968 policy which introduced 10 + 2 + 3 (10-year Schooling, 2 years Intermediate and Three years Degree Course). Tamil Nadu studied the proposal thoroughly and it took ten years for Tamil Nadu to introduce +2 as Higher Secondary Course in school to facilitate easy upward movement for all sections of the society. This Universalisation of Higher Secondary Education helped Tamil Nadu achieve 49% GER (Gross Enrolment Ratio) in Higher Education by 2018-19, placing Tamil Nadu fifteen years ahead of rest of India, NEP 2020 aims at achieving 50% GER in Higher Education by 2035. Such flexibility is needed in a National Policy of Education.

It is the Duty of the Centre as well as the States to collaborate with the Stake holders, parents, Teachers and Educationalists and arrive at a fruitful policy instead of rushing into implementation of NEP 2020. This is not to be taken as any other policy but one that will decide on the future of the Country for decades to come.

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