NEP 2020 and Critical Thinking
‘Education is the manifestation of perfection already in man’
The vision of India, in the mind of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi ji and members of Sangh family is a peaceful, progressive, developed India. A nation that will lead the world and take up its destined place as ‘Vishwa Guru’. This century will be the century of India and there will be celebration of Indian civilizational ethos across the world. A civilization that categorically states the victory of good over evil, the invincibility of truth and a civilization that believed in giving than taking. But this vision to turn into reality requires the powerful engine of education, education as the harbinger of progress. The ancient seers of India realized the potential of education long before any other civilization ever existed. But their wisdom, knowledge and sagacity which once was the bedrock of our everyday life and its material existence lost its mooring in the aftermath of numerous conquest and victimization by foreign forces. However, the present government has taken numerous steps to revive the tradition and has modernized it so that the entire humanity gets the taste of the nectar of Indian knowledge tradition. The National Education Policy-2020 is an effort in the direction, albeit a baby step.
The value of education so highly extolled in the classical tradition and literature of India too has its resonance in the policy documents and planning of the post-Independent India. The Constitutional commitment under the directive principles of state policy guided much of post-independent India’s approach towards educational development and found solid legal status in the form of the Right to Education Act in 2009. However, much before things took a concrete shape educational development at least the elementary level meant in increasing access to schools, creating infrastructure, setting of educational boards and emphasizing on enrolment. Though all these things were important the most crucial dimension that was missing in these schemes of things was the comprehensive policy to include access, retention and quality in one whole. Without the necessary policy framework to unite and activate all these dimensions together it was impossible to improve the overall educational scenario in multicultural and diverse social setting of India especially in the context of increasing marginalization and social exclusion of poorer communities.
The piecemeal approach to educational development is primarily based on the assumption of ‘tickle down’ theory which has had its success in terms of structural growth and at times qualitative change is some clusters but it was largely fragmented and uneven. For example, in the case of poor, segregated, marginalized populations where education becomes a third or fourth priority much after food, clothing, shelter and health, this approach had little or no meaning. In fact, on the contrary these spasmodic and sporadic educational interventions further marginalized and excluded students from these communities in the era of stiff competition and better learning outcomes from the advantageous sections.
The case of tribal children and students from rural and tribal hinterland is a classic example of educational deprivation and exclusion despite the added spatial advantage in terms of access to educational facilities. However, the inherent structures of inequality and discrimination have their own forces to deprive these marginalized sections from the fruits of education and skills which in turn could allow them overcome the difficulties and free them from the vicious cycle of poverty, illiteracy and deprivation. It has been observed that stratification in India society is reflected in inequalities in educational attainment across caste, religion, and ethnic boundaries (Anitha 2000; Dreze and Sen 1995).
Education empowers and equips individuals with analytical capabilities, instils confidence and fortifies them with determination to achieve goal-setting competencies. It, therefore, plays a pivotal role in improving the socioeconomic condition of the nation. For any country to grow, it is imperative that it has in place a strong elementary school driven education system. Education is therefore increasingly being viewed as a fundamental right across the globe and essential for the exercise of all human rights. It is in this context the NEP-2020 must be viewed. There has been a significant gap in NEP-1986 and Programme of Action-1992 and current socio-economic and educational condition of people in India.
The increasing demand for access to education, the need to create a skilled workforce and in order to engage the youth with meaningful employment required that our education policy must geared up to face new challenges. The NEP -2020 has tried to bridge the gap. It would not be possible to discuss the entire gamut of NEP -20220 and its evaluation, therefore, an attempt has been made to highlight and examine some of its aspects.
According to the policy document, the purpose of the education systemis to develop good human beings capable of rational thought and action, possessing compassion and empathy, courage and resilience, scientific temper (National Education Policy 2020). This means that our education system must address the issue and develop a delivery mechanism through which our children will think and act rationally. For this, there has to be a learning environment where there will be combination of logic, reason, mathematical ability along with ethics. Of late, it has been found that our students are not doing well in mathematics and loosing their interest in the subject. As the failure percentage goes up, the educational administration system and the managers have to tried to simplify it and make it rudimentary. The consequences have been catastrophic as a result the students from Hong Kong, Singapore, mainland China and few European countries are doing fabulously well in mathematics while our students are languishing at an abysmal low level. A great fall for a country which gave birth to mathematics. Further, the increasing use of AI in every field of human activity and interaction and AI depends on algorithms needless to add its foundation is mathematics. The NEP -2020 tries to address the issue by focusing on functional and foundational numeracy and mathematical literacy but it has to go much beyond. The previous government established national institutions of science research to provide impetus to basic research and school education must produce talents for the same. For this, there should be introduction of coding and computational thinking at the middle school level. The emphasison conceptual understanding rather than rote learning and learning-for-exams and focus on creativity and critical thinking to encourage logical decision-making and innovation by NEP-2020 is a right step in this direction.
The NEP-2020 envisages that a good education institution is one in which every student feel swelcomed and cared for, where as afeand stimulating learning environment exists, where a wide range of learning experiences are offered, and where goodphysical infrastructure and appropriate resources conducive to learning are available to all students. Attaining these qualities must be thegoal of every educational institution. However, at the same time, theremust also be seamless integration and coordination across institution sand across all stage so feducation. This effort will make schooling an enduring and alluring experience, the education must be joyful for kids.
The most important effort and probably the ambitious one in NEP-2020 is enhanced focus on instructions through mother tongue. No doubt, it is a laudable vision because nothing can be more joyous and impactful learning when the instruction is in one’s mother tongue. But in a highly linguistically diverse society like India there will be issue of effective implementation in terms of developing curriculum, teaching learning material and imparting instruction. There are many languages and dialects which do not have scripts and then, the question of finding good teachers. Secondly, the advantage of contemporary Indian youth in an era of globalization is their comfortability in English and we should not sacrifice our comparative linguistic advantage at the altar of language games. Therefore, a suitable weaning strategy must be developed to ensure smooth and seamless transition from ethnic language to international language.
Similarly, human rights education has been introduced as well as citizenship education. But the efforts to link the core value of human rights, its theories and practices in terms of caste, class and gender discrimination in India are few are far between at least at the senior secondary level. But the process is underway and with serious and critical inputs from established academic these can be effectively reproduced at the school level thus, internalizing as localizing the multicultural education. I am sure the NEP-2020 is the instrument that will ensure the effective implementation of Right to Education Act-2009.
By Prof. (Dr.) Tapan R. Mohanty
(The author is a Professor of Sociology and views are personal, Emailemail@example.com).