Dear Shri Prakash Javadekar Ji,
Hon’ble Minister for Human Resource Development,
Government of India
The Draft National Educational Policy 2016 needs to be stronger.
There is a huge difference between learning and education that we first need to understand. Today’s children in India lack the ability to learn, un-learn and re-learn. We teach them rote memorization, test-taking, and to plan on entering professional, white-collar spheres. The starting levels of education itself are compromised. The atmosphere of competition in the education system cannot facilitate curiosity and learning. The best way to bring out innovation and talent in our children is to set them free, unbound by regulatory compulsions, attendance parameters, and sky-rocketing tuition fees. This is a few of the many segments where we go wrong.
The Draft National Educational Policy 2016 draws inspiration from the words of Gandhi, Swami Vivekananda and Sri Aurobindo to set right the future course of action. This is highly motivating. The Right to Education act 2009 was a victory of not only rights, but a victory of human destinies. There is no doubt that education is the corner-stone through which the future of the country is shaped.
The Draft National Educational Policy 2016 points out that in spite of national efforts, the absolute number of school children drop-outs is very high and a troubling sign. The youth literacy rate is 86.1% and the adult literacy rate is 69.3% -- by these estimates, India has the highest illiteracy rates.
Unless we correct existential problems, our educational system will continue to stagnate. Much is talked about regulating schools and colleges and bringing transparency to the table. But the draft lacks mentions about measures needed to lift India’s rank on global standards such as the Global Creativity Index, Global Talent Index and Global Technology Index, all key measures to determine the effectiveness of a nation’s educational system.
We need to enter into specifics with regard to educational diplomacy. Our government needs to understand the importance of creating scholarships for our upcoming scholars, research fellowships for established members of academia, and provide more equal educational opportunities for all. The policy needs to stress on educating teachers to remain unbiased, and a regulatory mechanism must work to support and protect students who struggle within the system.
What also needs to be explored is potentially adding more subjects in high school, or at least providing measures of flexibility to our students for them to branch out based on career interests. There is no point in packing a student’s workload with history or Sanskrit if the student has a stronger interest in biology or engineering as career options, for example.
Measures need to be taken to reduce the burden of books and the perceived necessity of tuition-based classes. We must also teach our children to leverage technology in education, such as permitting mobile phone usage after the 8th standard. We cannot on one hand talk about Digital India and on the other hand restrict children from learning and exploring on their own and communicating with people around the globe. Schools can make a provision for phones to be deposited during class hours and returned during break time. With changing cultures and spaces in the digital age, we have the opportunity to evolve our minds and those of our students.
Educational reform must also take place with teachers. Wages in education must increase and schools need to involve educators in designing curricula for the students. We cannot expect commitment with cheap labour and inflexible teaching methods or plans.The policy also lacks areas discussing the need to teach our students effective communication, networking and innovation.
On the job learning can be considered with changing family norms and proliferating market economies.
There is ample evidence which points to the fact that knowledge and skills in the workplace, if implemented well, can offer credits for future studies and keep educational costs low.
The policy should also address vacancy problems in higher education institutions. Most Government Universities and Institutions, whether central or state run, do not have regular vacancy positions and appoint staff way below normal requirements.
Addressing these gaps will take the policy to a new level. The outcomes of this if neatly implemented will be a fine generation of Indians who will be the world’s envy.
With Best wishes,
Office of Dr. Edmond Fernandes,
Member, Health Task Force,
District Disaster Management Authority, Government of Karnataka.
Member, Swacch Mangaluru Task Force,
Mangaluru City Corporation, Government of Karnataka.