NATIONAL

‘Rigorous consultations done before framing new National Education Policy’

The State governments will take a decision on the medium of instruction in schools under their jurisdiction, Education Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank says on the new National Education Policy (NEP). He expresses concern over a severe scarcity of skilled language teachers and the policy’s recommendations on governance and financing reforms.

Is the policy decision to make the mother tongue the medium of instruction till Class 5 going to be implemented mandatorily across the country, or is it optional for each State Education Department to adopt? Has the Centre taken the States’ views on board on this issue? Have any States raised concerns on implementing this?

The Ministry of Education has conducted a rigorous consultation process to ensure an inclusive, participatory and holistic approach while framing the NEP. Over two lakh suggestions from 2.5 lakh gram panchayats, 6,600 blocks, 6,000 urban local bodies (ULBs), 676 districts were received.

Most developed countries have made an earnest effort to ensure that the child studies in the mother tongue so that both parents and children participate in education in the early years of the child. Young children learn and grasp non-trivial concepts more quickly in their home language/mother tongue.

Thereby, the New Education Policy states that, “Wherever possible, the medium of instruction until at least Grade 5, but preferably till Grade 8 and beyond, will be the home language/mother tongue/ local language/ regional language.” The RTE Act 2009 also states that the medium of instruction, as far as practicable, shall be the mother tongue.

The decision regarding the medium of instruction in schools coming under their jurisdiction is to be taken by the respective State governments.

What is the timeline for implementing this decision? Are there sufficient teachers trained for this in all regional languages?

There has been a severe scarcity of skilled language teachers in India. There will be a major effort from both the Central and State governments to invest in large numbers of language teachers in all regional languages around the country, and, in particular, for all languages mentioned in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution of India. States from different regions of India may enter into bilateral agreements to hire teachers in large numbers from each other, to satisfy the three-language formula in their respective States, and also to encourage the study of Indian languages across the country.

Language teaching too must be improved to be more experiential and to focus on the ability to converse and interact in the language and not just on the literature, vocabulary, and grammar of the language. Languages must be used more extensively for conversation and for teaching-learning.

A number of initiatives will be adopted to foster languages in school as well as higher education. Strong departments and programmes in Indian languages, comparative literature, creative writing, arts, music, philosophy, etc. will be launched and developed across the country, and degrees including four-year B.Ed. dual degrees will be developed in these subjects.

Will the private and public schools affiliated to the CBSE and the ICSE be asked to mandatorily convert to teaching in the mother tongue only till Class 5? How about Kendriya Vidyalayas that are directly controlled by the Centre?

The beauty of this policy is flexibility. The intent of the policy follows the mandate given under the Right to Education Act. We will try to take everyone along in the process of making a vibrant India.

The NEP mentions traditional Indian knowledge systems to be included in the curriculum. What are some of the topics and themes you think need to be included, and who are the experts that the Centre will rope in to ensure that this is done?

We have just come out with the policy. This will be the mandate of the National Curriculum Framework Committee to decide what topics constitute traditional Indian knowledge systems.

“Knowledge of India” will include knowledge from ancient India and its contributions to modern India and its successes and challenges, and a clear sense of India’s future aspirations with regard to education, health, environment, etc. These elements will be incorporated in an accurate and scientific manner throughout the school curriculum wherever relevant.

The original NEP draft from Dr. K. Kasturirangan’s panel had proposed a Rashtriya Shiksha Aayog as an apex body to oversee all education in the country to be headed by the Prime Minister. Why was this removed from the final policy?

Upon conducting several rounds of consultations, it was decided that there is a dire need to strengthen and empower the Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE) which will have a much greater mandate and not only be a forum for widespread consultation and examination of issues relating to educational and cultural development.

The remodelled and rejuvenated CABE will be responsible for developing, articulating, evaluating, and revising the vision of education in the country on a continuous basis, in close collaboration with the Ministry of Education and the corresponding apex bodies of States. It shall also create and continuously review the institutional frameworks that shall help attain this vision.

The Higher Education Commission of India (HECI) Bill has been at the draft stage for over a year now. When will it be introduced in Parliament?

The Ministry of Education is almost ready with the Cabinet note for the same and will take approval of the government soon.

Will the proposed increase of public funding for education to 6% of GDP be sufficient to finance all the proposed reforms? If not, how does the Centre propose to raise the needed funds for implementation?

The Centre and the States will work together to increase the public investment in the education sector to reach 6% of GDP at the earliest.

In particular, financial support will be provided to various critical elements and components of education, such as ensuring universal access, learning resources, nutritional support, matters of student safety and well-being, adequate numbers of teachers and staff, teacher development, and support for all key initiatives towards equitable high-quality education for underprivileged and socio-economically disadvantaged groups.

Why was it important to change the name of the Ministry from Human Resource Development to Education?

The name shifts the focus to the core work of the Ministry. The core work is imparting education to the millions of children and youth of the country. Now every personnel working in the Ministry will have this constant vision before him to improve the education system of the country.

The Centre and the States will work together to increase the public investment in the education sector to reach 6% of GDP at the earliest

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